The wait is finally over as the first gate drop of the CMRC-sanctioned 2017 Rockstar Energy Drink Motocross Nationals, presented by Motovan is on Sunday, June 4. For the third year in a row, Round 1 will take place at Whispering Pines Raceway in Kamloops, British Columbia, located on the banks of the Thompson River. The racetrack, surrounded by the Monashee mountain range, is full of man-made obstacles and has a sand base mixed with loamy black earth that gets very rough and choppy as the day progresses. The track will be raced in the opposite direction it was last year, which is how it was run in 2015.
Rockstar Husqvarna’s Christophe Pourcel of France will make his highly anticipated Canadian National debut, and like Davi Millsaps last year, race fans are divided on how he will perform. Some put him at a disadvantage because he has no knowledge of the tracks, plus they wonder about his commitment. Pourcel has an international resume better than any previous rider to compete in Canada, but there are lingering questions about his health. Christophe is on the same factory race bike that is winning races south of the border and has proven in the past that he can adapt to different track conditions. Look for the former World Champion to be a title contender, and don’t be surprised if he is on the top step of the podium this weekend.
Finishing second in each of the last two seasons at the opening round, Rockstar Energy OTSFF Yamaha’s Matt Goerke will be looking to win this weekend on a track he rides well. Goerke is always strong on really rough racetracks, and smooth lines are not easy to find at Whispering Pines. Matt won the season opening moto last year and will be looking for a repeat performance on Sunday as he begins his quest for his third National title.
KTM Canada Thor Racing Team’s Kaven Benoit will no longer be a rookie in MX1, as he kicks off his second season in the class. In his first race in the Premier class, Benoit finished fourth last year in Kamloops, but comes into 2017 with not as much preparation after injuring his ankle during the winter. Kaven won a lot of races during his career in MX2, but is still looking for his first victory at Whispering Pines.
The combination of a better motor and better suspension should help Monster Energy Alpinestars Kawasaki’s Mike Alessi reach the top step of the podium again. Alessi was fifth at last year’s season opener and will be looking to find the magic he had in 2014 when he won five times and finished second in the series.
One of the biggest question marks coming into 2017 is Honda Canada Racing Fox GDR’s Colton Facciotti, who will be going after his fifth National title. Facciotti has not raced in 10 months after suffering an injury at Round 8 last summer. Colton finished on the podium in Kamloops last year and won there in 2014.
Nova Scotia’s Tyler Medaglia changed teams for 2017 and joined the newly formed Royal Distributing Motovan Pillers Race Team aboard a Honda. Medaglia has finished on the podium twice as an MX1 pilot in Kamloops and will have to adapt to his new bike and team quickly if he wants to be on the box this weekend.
Redemption Racing’s Cade Clason is coming off his best season to date in Supercross and will be lining up this weekend still hunting for his first podium finish in Canada. Canadian Keylan Meston will be sporting a single digit on his number plate this year after finishing eighth in the series in 2016. The talented Calgarian will be back on a Yamaha under the RM Motorsports tent.
After filling in for the injured Brett Metcalfe last season, Quebecer Tim Tremblay will be racing for Rockstar Energy OTSFF Yamaha in 2017. Tremblay is well known to Canadian race fans and notched two top five finishes in the MX1 class last season, while competing in only three races.
American Kyle Chisholm and Canada’s Nathan Bles will also be a part of the Royal Distributing Motovan Pillers Team. Chisholm is no stranger to racing in Canada and finished 5th in the MX1 class in 2014, which included a win in Quebec. Bles has multiple top 10 finishes in both classes at the National level.
KTM Canada Thor Racing Cole Thompson’s run to the championship last season was really impressive. Thompson topped the podium in 7 of the 10 rounds, however not in Kamloops, although he did win the second moto there. Cole is clearly the favourite coming into Round 1 and will have a target on his back. The only major change in his program for 2017 is a new mechanic, as the talented 23-year-old Canadian attempts to win back to back championships.
Last year’s MX2 winner in Kamloops Shawn Maffenbeier has switched over to the MX101 FXR Yamaha team for 2017 and feels that he has found those few missing pieces from last year. Shawn appears to have made a quick transition to his new team, and comes into Round 1 well prepared and looking quite comfortable on his Yamaha.
In one of the biggest off-season signings, 19-year-old Dylan Wright joined the Honda Canada Racing Fox GDR Team. Wright had a breakout season in 2016 and it all started with a win in the first moto at Whispering Pines. Race fans have been waiting with anticipation to see how Dylan will perform on his new bike, and if he has what it takes to compete for the title.
British Columbia native Jess Pettis is back with the MX101 FXR Yamaha Team and hopes to get off to a good start like he did last year in Kamloops. Pettis finished third in last season’s opening moto and was close to finishing on the podium in Moto 2 before suffering a mechanical breakdown. Jess will also be motivated knowing that Round 2 this year is in his home town of Prince George.
Monster Energy Alpinestars Kawasaki Team’s Jacob Hayes will have to clear his head of any bad memories he has from last year’s opener in Kamloops. Hayes suffered a season ending injury in the first moto, so Canadian race fans did not get a chance to see this talented American race in 2016. Jacob has to be looking to get through Round 1 clean, as many people believe he could be the biggest threat to Cole Thompson repeating as Champion.
For more information about the Canadian National Championships go to www.mxnationals.ca