Rockstar Energy OTSFF Yamaha’s Phil Nicoletti kicked off the opening round of the Rockstar Energy Triple Crown AX Tour in Abbotsford, BC this past weekend with a noteworthy fourth place finish in the 450 Pro final. His teammate Shawn Maffenbeier, who moved up from the 250 Pro class to 450 Pro this season, faired less well with a ninth place finish.
Unfortunately, not unlike last year’s season opener at the Abbotsford Center Arena, soil issues marred the proceedings, which made racing conditions more challenging and generally increasing the lap times. Adding to the dilemma was a problem with the live lap timing, which had team staff scrambling to keep up with what was going on the track.
Only one qualifier session was held, with the second session getting canceled because of the transponder issues that plagued most of the event. The inferior quality dirt used to build the race track required extensive repairs after each session, contributing further to the stress and frustration that trickled down to everyone concerned.
In Heat 1 racing action, Nicoletti snared a second place start. He quickly made a pass for the lead and never looked back on his way to the win. It was definitely an auspicious beginning for the New York native and anticipation was high for him to put his YZ450F on the box in the final.
Heat 2 saw Maffenbeier grab a third place start only to hit Cole Thompson in the second corner as they battled for position. Maffenbeier explained that he hadn’t expected Thompson to come back down in the corner and was unable to avoid him. While Thompson managed to stay upright and continue the race, Maffenbeier went down pretty hard. Fortunately, he wasn’t hurt badly but he had to resume the race on a damaged bike, which he nursed into a fifth place finish.
Finishing fifth in his heat race meant that Maffenbeier had to resort to the LCQ for a shot at the main. This proved to be no problem for the 2018 AX Tour Champion, as he nailed the holeshot to then ride a solid race and ensure himself a position on the starting line for the final.
In the Clash for Cash, Nicoletti flew out of the starting gate to grab the holeshot and lead for most of the race, until he made two small but costly mistakes that allowed Thompson and Matt Goerke to get by him. Maffenbeier didn’t qualify in his heat race for the Clash, so he ended up being a spectator for this one.
Nicoletti, intent on getting another top start, did exactly that when he rounded the corner at the head of the pack, after the gate dropped for the main event. He kept the lead going into the whoops section, when Goerke hit Nicoletti late in the corner. The incident nearly took both of them out and cost them valuable positions. Although Nicoletti recovered to make his way into third place, and an almost certain podium finish, a small error on his part allowed Collin Jurin to get by him towards the end of the race.
Maffenbeier, meanwhile, started on the inside back row and managed to come around the first lap in third place. He lost balance slightly on a just face, which caused him to land on a turf block and experience his second get-off for the night. The Saskatchewan native was able to remount but any hopes of finishing top five was no longer in the cards for him, having to settle for ninth at the checkered flag.
“Abbotsford wasn’t the day we were looking for. We showed up expecting a good event but arrived to super soft dirt again, which was disappointing to say the least. The transponder problems just added to the overall effect. On top of all that Phil and Shawn had some issues of their own to contend with, but at least they left Abbotsford in one piece and are eager to rectify things in Calgary this weekend,” team manager Steve Simms said.
Rd 1 – 450 Arenacross Results
1. Cole Thompson (KTM)
2. Matt Goerke (Kaw)
3. Collin Jurin (Kaw)
4. Phil Nicoletti (Yam)
5. Cade Clason (Husq)
6. Ryder Floyd (Yam)
7. Nick Schmidt (Hon)
8. Brock Leitner (Kaw)
9. Shawn Maffenbeier (Yam)
10. Blake Osatchuck (Husq)
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