WRIGHT OUT OF THE GATE: LOTS TO LEARN

As I write this blog, the month of September is well underway. The Rockstar Energy Drink Motocross Nationals are done. The MMRS national has come and gone. And for the first time in over a decade … I’m not getting ready to hop on a yellow school bus to make my way to school. It feels really weird!

I graduated high school last June but, unlike many of my friends, I’m not going to college or university (at least not right away). A few years ago, I promised myself I would put in the time, the effort and the commitment to take a real shot at making motocross racing a career. After having to juggle school work, training and riding for so long, it’s incredible to think that I’ve already got two pro seasons under my belt and that … for the first time ever … I can focus entirely on training and racing!

This week, I celebrate my 18th birthday. For me, September 23rd, 2015 will not be just another day; it will mark a new beginning.  From that day forward, my parents will no longer have to sign a waiver for me to race because I’m no longer a minor. I can cross the Canada/US border without a letter of consent. I’ll be able to vote for the first time next month. I’ll be able to sign contracts on my own that will be legally binding. Turning 18 brings with it an incredible sense of freedom that is also accompanied by the weight of responsibility and knowing that I’m more accountable than ever for the choices that I make.

So to everyone who’s asked me or has been tempted to ask me “What now?” With a big smile I answer: “I’m a racer! I’m going to race!” While I don’t have to hit the books right now, that doesn’t mean I don’t have lots to learn.

As many of you know, motocross is my passion and #1 focus. I love racing outdoors! As I look back on 2015, I’m really proud of the progress I made from year 1 to year 2 of my pro career. I believe my hard work paid off and that my 4-stroke technique has greatly improved. Thanks to my mechanic Cale Foster and some great parts and equipment from the many sponsors who helped us out, my Yamaha YZ 250F was dialed right in for me! I only suffered one DNF all season long. Other than the concussion that kept me out of the Moncton round, I’m 100% healthy. I finished on the podium in a few motos, achieved 2 podium overall finishes, hovered in the top 5 throughout the season, and finished 6th overall in the MX2 class in 2015. Not too shabby.

So as the Canadian pro nationals came to an end, the world around me seemed to be speaking in stereo with the following three key questions on the tip of their lips:

  1. What about next year? Will you be racing in the MX2 or the MX1 class?
  2. What are you going to do in the off-season? which inevitably leads to question 3 …
  3. Will you be racing arenacross and supercross?

So here are the answers to those questions.

My goals for 2016 are to continue to chase that elusive moto win and 1st overall finish. I intend to keep working my butt off with the intent to be a championship contender in the MX2 class. I’ll be in the gym, on the road, lining up at the gate and pounding laps over and over and over again until I manage to shave a few more seconds off my lap times and get better starts. Combine that with improved patience and strategy on the track and I’m confident the next Canadian motocross season will be a memorable one.

So I guess my answer about the off-season is not very original. Like many of my competitors, I’ll be training and racing. I’ll be staying in Canada until the weather gets too cold and the ground gets too hard to train and race here. Then I plan to travel to the South of the Border training facility in South Carolina and to spend some time training in Florida. This approach worked really well for me last year. As my dad would say: “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke” (LOL). The only difference now is that, because I’m out of high school, I get to go South and begin my off-season training sooner.

So what kind of racing will I be doing? It’s no secret that while I’m gunning to be the next Canadian MX2 motocross champion, I eventually want to be a contender in the AMA motocross series and try my hand at supercross. So … I’m really excited to confirm that I’ll be lining up to race arenacross this year. I’m all signed up to participate in the eastern rounds of the AX Tour organized by the Thompsons. I’m looking forward to traveling to London, Ontario next week to line up and race in both pro classes.

For those of you who are wondering if arenacross requires different training and bike set up than for motocross, the answer is yes! Thanks to the Canada’s Motorcycle FXR Yamaha race team, MX101 arranged for me to have my first ever supercross suspension. (My sponsors really are incredible!) Getting used to a new, stiffer suspension for the bigger jumps, nasty rhythm sections and tighter turns has been an interesting challenge. When I received my new SSS suspension, the question became where to go to learn and practice. Amazingly a friend who lives nearby invited Kevin Tyler from MX101 to build an arenacross track on his property for me to practice on. (Incredible right?!!!Thanks so much Kevin and Todd!!!)

Quite honestly, part of me was super excited about trying my hand at arenacross while another part of me was dreading it a little. It wasn’t the big jumps and tight turns that made me a little wary, but the series of nasty whoops that are essentially about a dozen stiff peaks that are simply unforgiving if you don’t get them right. It brought back memories of riding up to that big double or triple for the first time and knowing that you either do it or you don’t. You can’t hesitate. You go round and round the track until you build up enough nerve to “just do it”! Unfortunately, I didn’t have someone to watch or follow through the obstacles. In true dirt bike fashion, the wisdom to help me face the challenge and succeed were these three little words:  “Twist the throttle.”  That’s right folks. The trick was go fast or crash. Simple, right?

Turns out … I’m getting the hang of it! Remember the thrill of successfully completing that first big jump or tricky section of a track (or for non-racers that difficult thing you just weren’t sure you’d be able to do)? It’s that feeling of adrenaline rushing through your veins and that uncontrollable urge to scream “WooHoo!” at the top of your lungs and bust out a huge fist pump because “you did it!” Well, that was me a few days ago! What a relief to learn that I just might have what it takes to succeed. I have a few more days to practice and build up my confidence before I get to put that practice to the test!

So because I’m racing arenacross, does that mean I’ll be racing supercross? The answer is … maybe. We’ll see how things go. I think it would be awesome to line up and try to qualify for a main. If I did race, I would likely do some East Coast rounds and use the South of the Border training facility as my home base. With any luck, Jimmy D will be there too and he can give me a few pointers. (Hint! Hint! Jimmy!)

So for me, that’s the plan. If I feel I’ve acquired the right technique, have enough speed, do OK in AX, and believe that I have an honest shot at making the main in SX, then you just might see me line up. For now, I’m committed to motocross, learning the art of racing supercross, and will try my hand at arenacross.

Wish me luck and hope to see you at the races!