Challenging night for Goerke and Epstein at AX Tour opener in Abbotsford

In what essentially turned out to be an indoor mud race at Round 1 of the Rockstar Energy Triple Crown Series in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Team Rockstar Energy/OTSFF/Yamaha’s Matt Goerke and Dillan Epstein battled hard for podium finishes on Saturday night. Unfortunately, their six/seven results in the final did not reflect the efforts they put into the task aboard their potent Yamaha YZ450Fs.

Due to track building scheduling, numerous truckloads of dirt – compromised by rain and snow – weren’t dumped inside the Abbotsford Center Arena until Friday morning. This led to the inaugural AX Tour of the series to not exactly be what anyone expects from an indoor race. Thanks to diligent work by the track crew, however, adding lime and cement to dry out the sloppy mud as well as could be achieved, all but the Clash for Cash races went ahead: At least for those who didn’t have to deal with clutch burnouts or clogged radiators.

In their heat race, which saw both Goerke and Epstein line up together behind the starting gate, Goerke became an early casualty of the sticky mud. Like quite a few other riders throughout the night’s races, he found himself the victim of a mud-induced technical issue. Fortunately, Epstein fared a lot better than his teammate. He started around third place and would finish there while a hapless Goerke watched from the sidelines.

To save the track and do some extra maintenance, officials decided not to run a 450 LCQ, which meant Goerke got a berth on the starting gate for the final, albeit from the second row. While Goerke had to claw his way through traffic, Epstein started around mid-pack. It was a dire situation to be in for both riders on the tight technical track, which basically demanded a holeshot or at least a top three start to have a realistic chance at taking the win.

After turn one, Epstein managed to quickly install himself in fourth place, where he ran for a number of laps. But rather than push the envelope and risk taking himself or his bike out of the equation, he ended up settling for sixth place on the slick track. For his part, Goerke was unable to penetrate the top five despite pouring on the gas. Like Epstein he eventually opted to ride for points and took the checkered in seventh place.

“The results aren’t what we figured on getting. That’s for sure. It wasn’t exactly a good weekend for us, but it’s not like we’re out of anything. We got points and it’s going to be a long season to have a say in the championship,” team manager Steve Simms said. “You have to expect some downs with the ups. The first race of the season is important in more ways than just top results. We learned some valuable lessons. And

we’re thankful Matt’s DNF was in the heat race and not in the final.”

The Rockstar Energy Triple Crown Series continues with a double-header Round 2 of the AX Tour at the Agrium Event Center in Calgary, Alberta on the weekend of March 16/17.

450 AX Results-Round 1 of 4

1. Colton Facciotti (Hon)

2. Cole Thompson (KTM)

3. Tyler Medaglia (Kaw)

4. Carson Brown (Hon)

5. Keylan Meston (Husq)

6. Dillan Epstein (Yam) 

7. Matt Goerke (Yam) 

8. Karl Normand (KTM)

9. Ryan Lockhart (Kaw)

10. Brock Leitner (Kaw)

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