Photos by Jeff Kardas and Michael Antonovich
Each year the Monster Energy Supercross series breaks out their passports and heads north for the lone international round, which takes place in Toronto, Canada. The Ontario capitol is a welcome stop and despite the challenges it takes to get there, it is worth the hassle once one takes a walk through downtown. Fans come from across the north to catch the action and Saturday was attended by a mix of Canadian and American visitors.
On Friday night word spread that Chad Reed would make an “announcement” of some kind, but the details were vague at best. Discussions and rumors ranged from a change in bike brands to the signing of a new rider to retirement, but all of these possibilites were far off the mark. Reed instead stated that he will undergo a small surgery on Tuesday to have the knee he injured in Dallas last season rescoped and will possible miss Houston.
The Rogers Centre, located in the shadow of the CN Tower, is one of Canada's premier venues. It is occupied year-round with the CFL, MLB, and concert tours that take place with the retractable roof opened.
Attendance in the Rogers Centre has consistently grown over the years, but the size of the stadium makes the overall number look small. Almost every available seat in the lower and middle bowls were occupied (the portion of the stands under the screen is under construction) and the crowd came alive during the main event.
Fans funneled into the stadium from the moment the gates opened at 12:30 and didn't leave until well after the final lap was over. This could be due to a number of things, but odds are it's because this was the lone round of AMA racing north of the border.
The Rogers Centre floor is easily the largest on the tour and Dirt Wurx is free to build a massive course. Lap times were just a few seconds higher than the Supercross norm (57-1:00 range), but the running order was much the same.
Concerns were raised on Friday night about the longest whoop section's original size and spacing and lead to the rollers being plowed and rebuilt on Saturday morning. This is not to say they were easier, because riders struggled through them all day and into the night. The number of bikes and laps run over them flattened the rollers down tremendously and created one main line through the section.
Toronto has quickly become notorious for the quality of its dirt. In the early years of the event, it was brought to the stadium frozen and thawed inside, which created a soft and rocky course that nearly every racer despised. The ruts were so treacherous in 2009 that many were unable to launch the standard triples by the latter portion of the race. That has changed with time, knowledge, and dedicated efforts by the track crew. The rocks have been sifted out of the soil and Dirt Wurx has mixed in massive amounts of lime in order to dry it. And we mean lime the mineral, not the fruit. There was some confusion on our Instagram this weekend regarding the topic.
Sand has become a staple of this year's layouts and Toronto was no different. Round 12's beach was left flat and unaltered, but this did not last long thanks to the power of the four-stroke machines. By night's end, there were countless lines ripped into the straightaway.
Once the top crust of the track was cracked, there was no stopping the soil from breaking down to powder. While it offered abundant traction in some areas, such as the many loose berms, the flat sections of the track that was throttled hard had worn down to the bare concrete.
No length is too great for a premier race team. The Yoshimura crew came to track walk with air (white device on the right) and soil thermometers to properly note the stadium's environment.
Seeing as the race takes place on foreign soil, it only makes sense that a local governing organization has a say in the event. Toronto is co-run by the AMA and CMA, which are both local branches of the worldwide FIM ruling body.
The image of this many jumps in a row is enough to make the average person's palms sweat. Now think about having a foot come off the pegs on the face of one and still going for it.
Is this a mistake that we didn't catch earlier in the year or is it a sign of things to come? The JDR/J-Star/KTM team is still set to cease operations at the end of the Supercross season and from what we gather, neither Joey Savatgy or Malcolm Stewart have rides in line for the summer. Mookie told us that there is a very good chance he is a full privateer for the Nationals.
Nearly every major team set up their compounds across the street from the stadium and worked from their rigs like normal, but the privateers and small outfits were brought into the tunnels of the stadium, which lead to some cramped quarters.
Those seated in what will be the outfield bleachers come spring had a unique look at the what happens during the night show between riders and teams.
Just days after winning the AMSOIL Arenacross West Coast Lites championship, Maxx Malatia signed up for the Toronto round. The Illinois privateer timed 33rd quickest and ended his night with a ninth place ride in the LCQ. And check out his custom barpad.
It was a good thing that this fence was in place to separate the fans from the haulers and teams. Getting in during the day required a credential and security had every opening guarded, but post-race was a frenzy of people hoping to meet the riders.
Having numerous riders on one team makes pitting inside the trailer impossible. Andrew Short and Matt Goerke's bikes were maintained underneath the trailer's gate in the just above freezing temps.
Quite a few teams have a canvas setup such as this to extend their work area to under the trailer's gate.
Trekking to Canada in March means salted roads and grimy cars. To make matters worse, the weather was less than ideal on the drive up. Some of the rigs were missing their typical polish and shine.
There are few people better for a rookie to learn from than Mike LaRocco. The GEICO Honda team manager is known for his straight-forward demeanor and is someone that every racer could learn a tip from. Many have commented on how opposite LaRocco and Zach Bell's riding styles are and speculate on Iron Mike's reaction to the numerous crashes, but it should be noted that Bell has a dedication that is similar to his mentor's. Bell crashed during the day's practice and sat out the night show with injured ribs and a sore shoulder.
The pairing of Mike Webb and James Stewart seems to be a solid one. The two appear to have a good rapport with each other and are in constant communication throughout the day. On a separate note, we dig those Nike/Seven jackets.
We spotted GEICO Honda mechanic Grant Hutcheson running this brace on his wrist, the result of a Cahuilla Creek crash. This injury is similar to the one keeping his racer, Justin Bogle, on the sidelines in the Supercross season. With the massive amount of downtime on his hand, Hutcheson has built two shop bikes and gotten everything ready for Bogle's National comeback.
There truly is an app for everything. We were perplexed when "Scuba" Steve Westfal lined his iPhone up with Davi Millsaps' bars and levers until he told us that he was using a level app to make sure that all was in line to the 18's liking.
The bulk of the rocks may have been removed from the dirt, but there were still some stragglers in the mix. Handguards were bolted onto Blake Wharton's Rockstar Energy Racing 250.
A number of racers had soft and hard chest protectors on beneath their jerseys, including Ryan Dungey, but with the slim build of the protective gear and the cut of the jersey, it is nearly impossible to tell.
Trey Canard sat out the weekend due to the lingering effects of the concussion he suffered in the Indianapolis main event. The Team Honda Muscle Milk rider dropped out of the air after a scrub over the finish line went wrong and the impact left Canard with a "stinger" in his arm.
Mike Tomlin wrapped Justin Barcia's Showa SFF Air Forks in carbon guards to keep the ultra-expensive units protected from rocks. Good call, since these things are just a few months old and worth more than a lot of us make in a year.
Justin Barcia had the Toronto track figured out from the moment he first rolled out and was near the top of the pack in the first two sessions, but numerous issues kept him from being a factor in the main event.
What do Munn Racing KTM and P. Diddy have in common? Both rep Aqua Hydrate water. We've seen the bottled water brand in the team's pit area and on Puffy's Instagram and are looking for places to see what all of the hype is about.
That makes it a little less awkward.
100% launched their Spring line late last week and their team riders debuted the latest colorways in Toronto. The offered colors range from standard silver to this purple, red, and white look.
Young and independently funded racers have taken over the 250 East Coast class. Kyle Peters and Cole Thompson are just two of the very successful privateers logging in career-best finishes, as both have landed well within the top-10 on numerous occasions.
Speaking of Thompson, the Canadian was welcomed home with open arms are overwhelming support by his fellow Canucks on Saturday night. Thompson put in a stellar ride in the main event to catch fifth place Vince Friese on the final lap and the two literally smashed their way across the finish line together. Friese was awarded the spot at the finish, but it was Thompson who earned a victory lap around the Rogers Centre.
If chasing the tour is a costly venture for even the biggest team, imagine how the privateer racers are getting by. AJ Catanzaro hopes to raise additional funds for his racing efforts by a T-shirt line with Amped Apparel.
Sounds like a Deathcore band…
Chad Reed fans need not worry about the TwoTwo Motorsports' team owners plans to retire. Reed stated in "How Was Your Weekend?" that he feels young and still has the passion to race.
Reedy was stoked on the Specialized mountain bike that was kept in the TwoTwo rig. Reed is optimistic that his knee will recover from the minor surgery quickly and be back on the track by Houston, as well as this new ride.
Mitch Payton must be counting down the days to summer. The iconic Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team is currently in a slump, once that is multiplied by the fact that the team has never suffered a downturn of this magnitude. With Darryn Durham unable to race with an Achilles' tendon injury and Dean Wilson on the sidelines after that vicious Indy crash, all East Coast hope was placed on Justin Hill. The rookie was riding well in Toronto but was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time in the main event; while Hill was coming down from being in the air, Vince Friese was on his way up and the privateer slammed Hill's helmet. Hill immediately lost control, crashed on the ground, and was hit by a number of riders. When he walked off of the track under the assistance of the Asterisk Medical crew, his jersey was in shreds. His back and shoulders were ripped apart by tires and there is concern over the possibility of broken bones, but no word on his status has been announced.
Jake Weimer's woes followed him to Canada, as a practice crash knocked the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider out of the last session of the day. Weimer's body as been through hell since January (a bout of pneumonia and busted ribs), but he continues on.
2013 has not gone the way Justin Brayton and the rest of the JGRMX team had envisioned. Brayton has struggled with a thumb injury since the early part of the season and the continuous strain of racing has kept it from healing. Brayton's mechanic, Patrick Barker, has sliced off a portion of the grip’s flange to minimize the irritation.
Much was made early in Blake Wharton's career regarding his rather unorthodox riding style, but he looks like a much different rider at this point in time. His relaxed off the bike temperament is swapped for a more aggressive and intense mindset that attacks the track. The heat race bout between he and Vince Friese proved that he is not afraid to throw in a close pass when needed.
Vince Friese's 2013 season has turned the heads of many fans and industry members. The Slaton Racing rider made numerous 450 main events on the West Coast and has been a consistent top-10 finisher in the 250 East Coast division, an accomplishment for anyone. But these rides may not be enough to sway the view many teams have of the aggressive tactics that he is known for, since many of their riders have been on the receiving end of block pass/take out move.
Josh Hill feels that he is starting to build the speed needed to be competitive and consistent in the 450 class, but it comes with only five rounds remaining in the season. The RCH Suzuki rider missed a decent chunk of the year with an injury but hopes to continue on through the summer with possible support from the team and its sponsors.
The time Broc Tickle has spent in Florida under the guidance of Ricky Carmichael has paid off. Tickle has been in Tallahasse since just after the St. Louis stop and used Carmichael’s legendary farm alongside Ryan Dungey, Les Smith, and Jeremy Martin. Tickle latched on to new practice partner Dungey in their heat race and followed the Red Bull KTM rider’s charge to the front of the pack before the two were separated.
Saturday night was success for the N-Fab/Ti-Lube/Yamaha team, because all three of their riders, Chris Blose (84)/Bobby Kiniry (39)/Phil Nicoletti (49), made the main event via their heat races.
Saturday's 450 main event was one we have dreamed about all season. Five of the sport's fastest riders in history were running at the front of the pack and passed one another numerous times before the order settled in. Reed handled the early part of the main before Millsaps jumped by, who was nudged out by eventual race winner Ryan Villopoto. Ryan Dungey climbed into the top-three with his typical consistency and appeared to close on the front two before he missed jumping a triple. James Stewart ran in fifth for the majority of the main event before stalling in a hairpin turn and dropping to seventh.
The pit boards displayed to the top-three racers were all similar during the main event, as all three kept tabs on one another. After watching countless GoPro videos, we must assume it's damn near impossible for the riders to read the board when they fly by.
Even though it was his seventh victory of the season, Villopoto celebrated a bit more than normal after crossing the line. A camera angle played on the in-stadium screen showed the emotion in the defending champion's eyes.
Is anyone surprised by Wil Hahn's season? The GEICO Honda rider has always had the speed and skill needed to run at the front of the pack, but injuries have halted the progress. With just three races to go, Hahn is in control of the 250 East Coast title thanks to his pair of wins and numerous podium finishes.
If Marvin Musquin takes a title this season, we bet that his technique will be on the curriculum at riding schools nationwide. Musquin is known for the liberal amount of body English (French?) he uses to put his Red Bull KTM anywhere on the track he pleases.
Toronto is an extremely diverse community and they took a liking to Musquin. Had the race of taken place in the French-Canadian part of the country, Musquin could have given his podium speech in his native tongue. The win was even more impressive when Musquin’s practice crash is taking into consideration. The Red Bull KTM rider had a vicious get-off and said that he nearly blacked out on impact. He regrouped in time for the final session and the night show to lead a flawless 15 laps.
Jimmy Decotis may be the luckest vulture in the world, and we mean that as a compliment. He missed his final year on the GEICO Honda team with a torn ACL and is on his own for 2013, but that could change in the coming weeks. Rumor is that Decotis could take yet another fill-in spot at Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki since the team’s original line-up has been destroyed by injuries.
EKS Brand/Beer Optics/Pulp MX's Steve Matthes bribed Jimmy Albertson to make the main f--kin' event with the Coors Light-edition Beer Goggles. Sadly, Top Jimmy crashed on the start of the LCQ and was unable to put these to use.
Houston, here we come.