I’ve been going to various practice pits in the hood, thanks to our unseasonably mild winter, and there sure seems to be a lot of guys out getting prepared for the season.
We’ve got a new Championship Series format on Vancouver Island this season, and Port McNeill is back on the Vancouver Island Motocross Association (VIMX)-Canadian Motosport Racing Corp. (CMRC) schedule, giving us four CMRC tracks on the Island to race at again this year. There is also a new series being run primarily on the B.C. Mainland (it has one race on the Island) by Future West Promotions. They’re calling it the BC Championships, but since nine of the 10 rounds are on the Mainland, I find that title at least a little contentious—speaking as an Islander! Regardless, all indicators suggest this is going to be a great year for motocross in B.C.!
A new format
The VIMX-CMRC has elected to run the Island Championship as one long series with 16 rounds rather than run a Spring/Fall series. I presume the hope here is that making the fall races part of the Championship will encourage contenders to continue riding in the fall. This idea has been suggested before and I’ve always been kind of lukewarm on it, but since the decision has been made—I'm all in! Having one long series (with two throw-away rounds) will pretty much ensure that the fastest guy wins and give riders lots of time to improve their standing as the season wears on. I look forward to seeing how it goes, and hope it has the desired effect in the fall.
Ryan will be ready
Ryan Lalonde has become our shining star on the Island. He apparently picked up a couple spanking new Honda CRFs from his sponsor SG Power and has been riding the wheels off them over the winter. Lalonde will carry the number 98 plate in the Pro class this year and has made plans to ride at least the Western rounds of the Nationals. Lalonde scored National points last year as an Intermediate, but he should score considerably more this year. People who have seen him ride recently assure me he’s raised his game to yet another level!
Look for him to toy with top 10 finishes at the Nationals and realistically finish in the top half regularly. I’ll predict right now that he will cut his National number in half this year—barring incident! Um, there’s been an incident. Lalonde has contracted mononucleosis and will be out for the first four to six weeks of the season. This is a bummer of a setback, but I have no doubt he will overcome it. Get well Lalonde!
New contenders, new team
We had a super-competitive Junior field on the Island last year, and this year the class welcomes several top-flight mini riders into the ranks. B.C. 85-cc 12 to 16 Champ, Joe Nikirk, made his Junior debut in the Fall series last year and pretty much stomped the class. He will remain in Junior this season and should not only clean up on the Island, but also be a Provincial, Western and even National contender in the class against the likes of Mainlander Wyatt Waddell. Yes, I’ve thrown down the gauntlet! Nikirk won the opening round of the Island Championship, but not without a battle.
Last year's Junior Champion, Alex Haley, is riding Junior again this year and he beat Nikirk in the first moto, and pretty much matched his lap times all day. He and other top Juniors returning from last year—such as Nathan Donohue, Stephen Weme, Adam Smith and Jacey Wissman—should make this series interesting.
Also joining the Junior ranks this spring are Harrison Bradley and Wyatt Scheres from the mini ranks. Both of these boys have proven themselves as mini riders and will be instant contenders in the Junior class riding as part of the new R.E.Cycle/Seehorse Dirt Division Team. Other members of the new R.E.Cycle team include the other two Bradley boys, Cameron and David, along with Wyatt Youland, Steven MacDonald and Tanner Meyland. The R.E.Cycle team won 65-cc, 85-cc 7 to 11, 85-cc 12 to 16, and swept the top five positions in Supermini at the opening round of the Island Championship.
Another new development on the team front has taken place at Cycle North in Prince George, B.C. Aside from the large contingent of mini riders and Junior riders, like Wyatt Waddell, that they support, Cycle North will be sponsoring Brad Nauditt for the Pro National Series this year. It’s a big undertaking for a bike shop to sponsor a Pro rider and also a sizable financial commitment. My hat’s off to Cycle North for taking on this formidable task.
The first race
The first Vancouver Island race of the season kicked off at Westshore MX in Victoria on March 24, 2013. This race was part of the Future West series but it did give us a great start to the season and a glimpse of what’s to come.
There were many fast Mainland riders in attendance and the total entry numbers were impressive. A few things in particular grabbed my attention. I anticipated Graham Scott would be fast in his first year as an Intermediate, but he surpassed even my highest expectations. Granted, it was his home track, but he beat Dylan Hansen—who was one of the fastest Intermediates on the Island by the end of last season, and kept two very fast Pros in sight. This guy should be fun to watch as the season wears on.
As expected, Harrison Bradley was the fastest Island Supermini rider, but he was soundly beaten by Jacob Piccolo—on his 65-cc bike! I will address Piccolo a bit more under the heading Canadians Among the Best!
Wyatt Youland was stunningly fast, and it was great to see him competing against fast Mainlanders, like Devon Sache. Youland won the 85-cc 12 to 15 class against all those fast Mainlanders.
The Junior class was all the buzz because Rachel Springman—yes, a girl—won both motos. She demonstrated that anything a boy can do, a girl can do better! The girl can ride. I look forward to seeing how she does against the fastest women in the country at the Women’s Nationals—she has to be right up there now.
The other big news was the attendance of Canadian Pro moto icons Ryan Lockhart and Lee Coutes. Lockhart set a track record on his first visit to the track and showed the locals just how fast the track can be navigated. Coutes was not far behind looking stylish as ever.
First Island Championship race
The VIMX-CMRC Island Championship got off to a great start in Campbell River. Entry numbers were strong, especially in the mini classes. The 50-cc class has about doubled from many races last year, and 65-cc Peewee has just about tripled! The day was full of fantastic racing and unfortunately some bad accidents. Races were won and bones were broken.
Wyatt Youland and Tanner Meyland engaged in two moto-long epic duels that ended up with a swapping of half finishes, but with Youland winning by a matter of feet at the end of the second moto. Last year’s Junior Champion, Alex Haley, came out and showed he isn’t about to let last year’s 85-cc B.C. Champion, Joe Nikirk, run away with the Junior class. Haley beat Nikirk in the first moto and kept close to him all the way through the second. It was another half swap with Nikirk coming out on top.
The Intermediate class was also very full, and very fast. Coleton Maclean, arguably the fastest “local” racing Pro, was out front setting the pace all day, but behind him a swarm of Intermediate talent swarmed for top honours. In the end, Daniel Vanderbasch, who should be cleared to ride in a month or two, won both Youth and Intermediate MX2. A whole host of fast Intermediates showed they are here to compete though. Connor Barnes, Blaine Morrow, Dylan Hansen, Bryce Currie, Carter Pugh, Ryan Bachinski and a couple others all demonstrated the speed to run at the front of this pack. Jason Abernethy and Graham Scott missed this race because they are training in California, but you can bet both of these guys will run at the front.
All in all, it looks like it's going to be a fast summer on the Island! Especially when Lalonde returns, which could be as early as this weekend in Nanaimo.
A new arenacross champion
Since I attended several rounds of the series, I’d like to take the opportunity to congratulate Canada’s new Arenacross Champion, Spencer Knowles!
Spenny, as he’s affectionately referred to, is a B.C. boy who often frequented the Island to race his dirt scoot as he came up through the ranks. We all feel like we watched him grow up at the races, and now he’s an Arenacross Champion and a legitimate threat to win a National Outdoor title. He’s also the cover boy on the most recent issue of Canada’s premier motocross magazine, MXP. Way to rock it Spenny!
Canadians among the best
One final newsworthy note to mention. I’ve gone on at great lengths in previous articles to express how overwhelmingly impressed I am with local mini sensation Jacob Piccolo, and have also stated that Casey Keast is probably the fastest mini rider in the country now. Turns out there’s a good reason I feel this way.
These two riders threw the dice this month and headed down to Nevada for the World Mini Grand Prix. I want to make clear that these large American National Amateur events attract the fastest riders from all over America and around the world. They are where guys like Ricky Carmichael, James Stewart and Ryan Villopoto sharpened their teeth to become the Champions they are.
Not only did our boys hold their own, but they ran right with the front of the pack! Jacob Piccolo actually won his first 65 Stock moto then came from way back to fourth in the second moto to wind up third overall, then he topped that with a second overall in 65 Modified! This result puts him in some very elite air.
Casey Keast was similarly impressive, taking fourth overall in the super competitive 85/150 Open class. These boys can now legitimately say they are among the best in the world—and we can say that they are born and bred in B.C.! So proud of these two kids.
For the complete VIMX-CMRC Island Championship: Round 1 report and more photos from the race, go to the Seehorse Creative Media blog.