Wright Out of the Gate – Sand Del Lee The series finally brought me back to my home town track – Sand Del Lee. It’s the place where I’ve grown up riding and racing. There is a comfort zone there knowing you’ve turned thousands of practice and race laps before the gate drops. But when the pro nationals come, any racer will tell you that the track builders always have a few surprises in store, changing up the track a little here and there and adding new sections (like hell’s kitchen) to challenge the pros a little more. The track was closed the entire week before the nationals. I dropped by a couple of times to see how the track was shaping up even though we weren’t allowed to ride it. MX101 did a great job with the facility, clearing out some of the brush so spectators could see more of the track. When I showed up on Saturday morning to watch the amateur races, I crossed paths with Chris Pomeroy, a well-known former MX pro, turned 50cc dad and now editor of MXP Magazine. As we greeted one another, he handed me a couple of copies of the new August edition of MXP Magazine. At a glance, I noticed my name and picture on the front cover. I mean … what an honour to be on the cover of Canada’s only printed motocross magazine. It was cool to think that they would have a rookie on the cover and that they picked me. I don’t know what to say other than thanks so much MXP! What a confidence builder just before the next day’s race. Sand Del Lee is the one track where I expected to have great fan support. And boy … were there lots of people wishing me well. I can’t thank everyone enough for coming out and cheering me on. I don’t know how many posters, hats and magazines I signed but it was lots. I’m still trying to get used to the idea of having so many people line up to see me. With all that support, Sand Del Lee also became the place where I really didn’t want to disappoint. There were no hotels before race day. I got to sleep in my own bed. There were no restaurants either. I got home cooked meals. That might not seem like a big deal, but after traveling out West for a month, I really came to appreciate things like that. I guess that’s why we invited a couple racers over to our house for dinner. Kyle Swanson (fellow MX2 racer from Texas), his buddy Canyon, and Ryan Millar (an MX1 racer from Manitoba) shared a pasta dinner with us, along with lots of stories and laughs. It was a fun, relaxing way to spend the night before race day. By 9:30 p.m. the guys were on their way back to their trailer and we all headed for a good night’s sleep before the races. I woke up to a bright sunny day and knew the track would be in mint condition. I was pumped and feeling confident about the day ahead. It got nice and hot, perfect conditions to test out the new FOX vented gear. (Thanks Jay!) So … how did the racing go? Well … it was both good and bad. Qualifying practice earned me a 4th gate pick. I have to admit that it was a great confidence booster. I got a decent start in moto 1 coming out among the top 10 rounding the first corner. I felt smooth and fast on the track. Racers will understand when I say that I “found my flow”. I was feeling really good when I found myself behind fellow Yamaha racer Shawn Maffenbeier who went wide on the corner before the front table top and I boldly seized the opportunity to make an aggressive pass. I was pumped when the pass stuck and I found myself in front of such a great opponent. It felt great to get a top 5 finish in front of the home town crowd. I was so stoked and was fueled by the cheers from the crowd as I took the checkers. I lined up for moto 2 with the belief that I really could run with the top guys! As I came around corner 1 in about 14th place, I passed a bunch of riders until I found myself behind fellow Sand Del Lee rider Jeremy Medaglia. Extra adrenaline rushed through my veins as I considered my strategy for trying to pass a guy who knew this track as well or better than I did and would not care to let anyone pass him to take away 3rd. In the turn before the Advantage Painting jump, I picked a line that would force Jeremy to the rougher inside line leading into the turn before the front table top. It was a slower line and I twisted the throttle to beat him to the corner. Well … I guess I got a little too ambitious. While my front tire did inch ahead of his a little, I then proceeded to wash out the front end of my bike and went down. Jeremy made the turn and retained the 3rd spot. I quickly jumped back on my bike, losing a few positions but knowing that I was still in the top 10 with enough time to work my way back up a few more spots before the end of the moto. I put my head down and pushed hard but my motor would give up and I would DNF in the next lap or so. There are no words to describe how angry and frustrated I was. I could almost taste a podium finish. But … it wasn’t meant to be. I’m really proud of the way I raced at Sand Del Lee. It was really nice to see messages like MXP tweets saying things like: “Rookie Wright just made a veteran pass on Maffenbeier for 7th” and “Dylan Wright went from 9th to 5th in one lap. Lap of the year.” Here’s hoping I can hit that podium at Deschambault! See you at the races!