Renewed faith in a racing community

Behind the scenes of a racing community


Facciotti and Alessi climbing a hill in a race.

Alessi was fast. When Facciotti crashed in the second moto, Alessi put his head down and checked out. — Jim Muir photo

The German philosopher Fredriech Nietzsche wrote a book called The Will To Power. It is essentially about the central importance of the human will to all endeavour and achievement. I believe Nietzsche was on to something. Life, it seems, is often about finding, developing and nurturing the will to succeed.

This weekend past I had the best time I've had at the motocross races in a long time—at least a year, probably more. In fact, it was one of those weekends that I know will stay with me forever, and I will retell the story of this weekend a thousand times before I die. It speaks to the human will and what can be achieved when the will is there. Plus, it was just great.

This weekend was the culmination of several things finally resolving themselves, a coming together of events that were a long time coming. I talk a lot about the motocross community, and these recent events have once again confirmed that for me it is all about community—in this case the Vancouver Island motocross community, the Canadian motocross community, and my own personal, tighter-knit community of friends and the R.E. Cycle/Seehorse team. The sequence of events not only shows what the human will can do, but what the combined will of a community is capable of. And how good it feels when it all comes to fruition.

There have been troubles in paradise of late. Like there often is. I'm not going to get into the troubles, except to say that our harmonious little MX  family was disrupted. The island motocross community, though, appears to have prevailed. I mark this as a triumph of the will, and it makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. It started at last year's Nationals in Nanaimo, and it pretty much ended there this year. The chain of events appears to have solidified and strengthened the community, as in what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and this weekend I sensed the warm inner glow of comfort and satisfaction beaming from my friends at the track. This is the feeling I've grown used to feeling at the track, and the feeling that I was missing for a while. This weekend the sense of community was back, and I spent some time thinking about it and some time basking in it. There is a backstory, and a sort of fairy tale ending.

The opening round of the Nationals took place in Nanaimo two weeks ago. The racing was great—you can read about it all over the Internet. Colton Facciotti is doing Canada proud against the big name American imports like Mike Alessi and Josh Grant. But that's not the part of the event that made the biggest impression on me over the weekend. What went on behind the scenes was where the drama was.

The Canadian Motorcycle Racing Club (CMRC) not only sanctions and plays a leading role in putting on our National Championships, but they also sanction and support (to a greater or lesser extent) most of the amateur racing in Canada. They do a great job with our National series. Attracting Mike Alessi and the MotoConcepts team to race the series, for example, could shift the whole dynamic of the series if it becomes a trend. Canadian teams regularly hire and import fast American name riders, but this is the first time (to the best of my knowledge) that a big brand name team has come up to race. And they have been saying lots of nice things about the experience. If other teams are convinced it's a good idea to come up here (and there is good reason to), the Canadian national series could become a high level farm system for the AMA Pro series. This would likely be a good thing for Canadian motocross. This is all, indirectly, because the CMRC puts on such a good event. And, by the way, I still think Colton Facciotti can beat all comers in his own country on similar equipment.

What became obvious to me this weekend, though, was that try as they might, the CMRC is not nearly as efficient or competent, and perhaps is less concerned, with the vagaries of running local races across the country. For this there needs to be a strong local community, and the CMRC needs to support and work with that community or they risk crumbling from the bottom up. Racing is not the same from place to place across Canada, and so the national body (CMRC) has to be flexible within each district. They have to be attentive to local racing. It's what top level national racing grows out of and is fed by.

This year the Pro National race was on Saturday and the amateur racing was Sunday. After the pro race day, the track was destroyed. It looked like a scene from the muddy battlefields of the First World War. CMRC is responsible for the track on pro weekend amateur days, so they drove the Cat around the track once, knocked off some of the high spots, and called it done. The track was virtually unridable by amateur standards. Some of the 50cc and 65cc bikes might not have even made it around the track, and the faster classes would have been swapping and crashing all over the place. The track was nasty rutted, with the tops of the bumps scraped off in some places.

When it became apparent that the CMRC crew had done all they were going to do, the Island community jumped into action. Combined willpower was rallied, and Big Stu, Hansen Jr., Daddy Bradley, Old Man Nikirk, Talboys and too many others to mention all put their big-boy rubber boots on and went to work watering, ripping and back-blading the track. They worked well into the night, and did the best they could under the circumstances.

The track was pretty damn good on Sunday.

There were a lot of accidents, as it turned out, and some were quick to blame the track. One CMRC crew alteration possibly played a role in a bad crash, but most of the accidents were not particularly track related. In reality, there was just  a bad vibe in the air.

People were already feeling disappointed in the CMRC about the track maintenance (or lack thereof), which was compounded with each subsequent ambulance call. So when it came time for trophy presentation, it was something more than disappointing to learn everyone involved from the CMRC had already gone home. Our kids wouldn't get a trophy from Gauldy this year. It was beginning to feel like the CMRC didn't care about us.

Once again the local community jumped into action. Good ol' Blabbermouth jumped up on the podium to present the awards the CMRC people had left behind for us to deal with. Some were bordering on furious with the CMRC, and I was feeling pretty let down at that point, but it had been that kind of a day. There had been a lot going on behind the scenes. Enough to drive any VIMX, NMA or CMRC board member to insanity.

The situation with a few individuals went beyond crazy. I later I learned that Mark Stallybrass, the Big Kahuna in the CMRC, really went to bat for our little community during the weekend, and may have played a key role in setting some people straight and settling this ongoing dilemma. He apparently went on a tirade and threatened to suspend some CMRC licenses, effectively preventing a few people from racing, if the silliness didn't stop. Executives from all the relevant boards and associations did all the right things in the ensuing days, and the issue appears to be resolved.

This combined series of events, with the CMRC both disappointing and impressing me, left me conflicted. In the end I'm left believing what I have pretty much always believed. It's important to have a sanctioning body like the CMRC there to organize and govern things on a national level, and they can step in and be very helpful at times, but it is perhaps even more important to have a great group of people working to support racing on a local level. I've really seen our local racing community come together over the past year, and it all seemed to culminate at this year's Nationals.

Which brings me to this weekend past. I already knew on practice day that something good was in the air. I could just feel it. I even posted a pre-emptive post on Facebook just so I could look back and prove that I felt it before it happened. The track was really good and the kids were having fun and gaining confidence as they hit more and more of the jumps. I was feeling like all of our troubles were behind us. I even had several little conversations about it with a few other people.

I talked about the Steel City Riders back in the day in Ontario, and how strong that community was, and how important it was to build that grassroots motocross community. I felt like once again there were a whole bunch of people pulling in the same direction. The evil curse has been lifted, and I was able to focus on racing again.

By the last couple laps of practice Tanner Meyland, my son, had figured out the track and all the jumps. He was even doing the step-down he had never done before. He was riding as good as I've seen him ride. But as he was riding his last lap, steam started billowing off his bike. Not the good kind of steam that follows you off a puddle, but the bad kind, that follows the bike like a white cloud—and is growing. Tanner's bike had lost all the coolant and some of the oil.

By 10 pm that night, after several misdiagnoses, I finally determined that the cylinder head was cracked. In most instances this would have been a game-over situation, but I had the resources of R.E. Cycle at my disposal (I hoped). It struck me that this was my community within a community within a community. I called Rob and dragged him off the couch. He found the cylinder head off the stock RM85 we have on the lot and set it up on the lathe in the shop. I drove in with the modified, cracked head off Tanner's bike, and Rob set to work modifying the stock head to match it. It was a tricky and interesting process.

During this process, while I was working with Rob's son Russell (who was in his pajamas) on a means of using liquid to measure the head's dome volume, it occurred to me that this was what racing was all about. I was actually having fun. I was working with my friends, problem solving, pooling our energy and willpower, and I was visualizing how this could all work out. I was even visualizing Tanner winning the race in the fast approaching morning. It only seemed like a fitting end. I told Russell this to provide inspiration, and more evidence that I felt something special in the air all weekend. I recognized that this struggle is what makes it meaningful. I didn't mind being up until 2 a.m. getting the engine back together, and I even decided at that point to change the rear tire. I believe the new GoldenTyre ended up being one key to Tanner's success. I went to bed at 3 and set my alarm for 6, when there was only the air filter and engine oil left to do. Routine stuff.

My alarm went off at 6 a.m. It was Father's Day. I quickly packed the truck as Donna put together some snacks. We were on the road just after 7 a.m. and hit the track just before the riders' meeting. I'm not sure I've ever felt so sure of destiny, or fate, or whatever it is. The goodwill that had started early on practice day, that stemmed from a general sense of relief generated by the series of events Mr. Stallybrass had instigated, had infected me, flourished through the night, fed by the generous will of my boss Rob while we worked on Tanner's bike, and was now pouring out of me and infecting Tanner. He had all the pieces of the puzzle in his head, and I just felt like he was going to figure out how to put them together come race time.

Tanner got a horrible jump out of the hole and was about eighth into the first corner, but got up into second place within a lap or two. He wasn't messing around. His charge to the front was aided when Joey Parks, the current points leader, went down.  Nobody likes to gain advantage this way, but it happens and you take it with a nod. Tanner was about ten seconds behind Brandon Johnson when he got into second, and I really didn't think there was much likelihood of catching him.

Tanner Meyland on his 112cc Supermini.

Meyland willed his way to the win in Nanaimo, two weeks after the Nationals. — Jim Muir photo

But Tanner had a vision and put his will to work. He put his head down, and within another lap and a half he was on Brandon's back wheel. The two had a great battle for several laps. Tanner put his bike ahead of Brandon's with a couple of nice block pass manoeuvres, but Brandon took some chances and came back each time. Brandon ultimately won, and Tanner followed him over the line. There was a big fist pump between the two as they exited the track.

In the second moto Brandon went down early, and Joey Parkes was sore enough to  concede the race to Tanner. I saw Joey nod and wave Tanner by, and heard Tanner shout back, "Thanks!" It was a touching moment after an exhausting and stressful weekend.

Tanner Meyland with his father Jim Muir at the winners podium.

R.E. Cycle really did save our ride. Then Tanner rode the wheels off it to win the supermini class. — Jim Muir photo

Tanner rode on to a largely uncontested win. I have to admit I had tears in my eyes as Tanner cruised the track on his last lap to victory. It was his first overall win of the season, but I felt he was capable of it almost from the beginning. All he had been lacking was the will, and this weekend he found it. I'm so, so proud of him. This is what motocross is all about, and why we keep our kids in it.

Thank you, Vancouver Island motocross community. You've restored my faith in humanity.

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