One to go for Mackay-Smith and Rose
You can bet Merritt’s Matt Mackay-Smith and former resident Derek Rose have the Sept. 24 and 25 weekend firmly circled on their calendars. That’s the date of the fifth and final stop on the Canadian Motorcycle Drag Racing Association’s 2016 series — scheduled for the Mission Raceway in the Fraser Valley.
Both Mackay-Smith and Rose currently lead their respective CMDRA classes, and solid performances in Mission will all but lock up the individual points titles.
Mackay-Smith is number one in the country in the prestigious Pro-Mod division, where flat-out racing is the name of the game — first across the line wins. Speeds can reach up to 200 miles per hour for the quarter mile.
Rose presently tops a field of over 25 competitors in the CMDRA Super Bike class. This is bracket racing at its best, with riders trying to achieve superlative reaction times at the start, and match as closely as possible their ‘dialed-in’ time down the straightaway.
On the Aug. 20 weekend, both Mackay-Smith and Rose, who now lives in Strathmore, Alta. were in Medicine Hat — competing at the Badlands Nationals, the second-to-last event in this year’s racing series.
Mackay-Smith continued his remarkable run of consistency, winning the Pro-Mod for the second time in a row this season, and recording his fourth-straight top-two finish.
In third place following the qualification rounds, Mackay-Smith proceeded to knock off three fierce competitors in the eliminations to take the Badlands title. They included many-time champion Gary Christopher from Hope, B.C. and Penhold, Alta.’s Spencer Johnson.
In his first elimination run, Christopher looked to have set a couple of new Canadian records, only to have them denied by the CMDRA.
“Gary topped out at 227.28 miles per hour and 6.981 seconds, but he catwalked (rode with the front wheel in the air) the entire quarter mile, and his wheels didn’t register properly at the finish line traps,” explained Mackay-Smith.
When the veteran Christopher and Mackay-Smith went head-to-head in the second round of eliminations, it was the young gun from the Nicola Valley who prevailed, laying down an elapsed time (ET) of 7.339 seconds and a top-end speed of 186.68 mph.
“I was fairly fortunate in that Gary had problems with his transmission,” said Mackay-Smith. “His bike launched in third gear, which is high gear, and didn’t work at all.”
In the final, Mackay-Smith faced Johnson for the second racing weekend in a row, and beat him again. The Merritt racer had Lady Luck riding with him once more.
“Spencer actually had me at the start but damaged his engine late in the pass.”
Mackay-Smith had his own engine problems at Medicine Hat that made for a late night on Saturday.
“There were some things we didn’t like during qualifying, so I did a complete engine replacement,” said Mackay-Smith. “I was very fortunate to have Nick Richards as part of my crew, along with my dad. Nick used to work with me at Murray GM in Merritt. He’s now the shop foreman at another GM dealership in Medicine Hat. Whenever I race there, he comes out to help. He was a big part of getting that motor done.”
Mackay-Smith has a 73-point lead over Johnson going into Mission, and concedes it would take a perfect storm to take the title away from him.
“I did the math, and the only way [Spencer] can win is if he qualifies number one, I don’t pick up any qualifying points, I go out in the first round of eliminations and he wins the finals. I don’t like to read too much into the numbers, but we’re definitely in a good spot going into the last race.”
Things are considerably tighter for Rose in the Super Bike standings with one race date to go. No fewer than five racers have a legitimate shot at the title, with Rose holding a 41-point lead over the Hat’s Riley Toth in second.
It was Toth who edged out Rose in the finals at Medicine Hat in their most recent showdown. Rose’s superior start (0.068 versus 0.135 seconds) was negated at the finish line as Toth registered a near-perfect ET (just five-thousandths of a second outside his dial-in time).
Mackay-Smith said that he is mighty impressed with what his good friend, Rose, has accomplished this season.
“What Derek’s been able to achieve in his class, including reaching the final three weekends in a row, is far harder in my mind than what I’ve accomplished. In bracket racing, you have to be completely on your game every pass.”
Also competing in the Super Bike class were Merritt’s Roger Bouchard (Mackay-Smith’s father-in-law) and former Nicola Valley resident Dale Rose (no relation to Derek). The former went deep into the eliminations at Medicine Hat, while the latter continued a run of consistency that has seen him race multiple rounds every weekend this season. Rose currently sits in eighth place in the Super Bike standings, while the rookie Bouchard is in tenth.
Mackay-Smith said that he and Derek Rose shared a humorous moment just before Rose’s third elimination round.
“I was coming back to the pits as Derek was leaving. I said to him, ‘You may as well keep winning,’ and he looked at me kinda funny. I didn’t realize that his next race was against my wife Nicole’s dad.”
Things are shaping up for a great finale at Mission with all four Nicola Valley-connected racers scheduled to be in attendance. Merritt racing fans are encouraged to make their way down to the Lower Mainland city to catch some of the action. Qualifications on Saturday, Sept. 24 start at 12:30 p.m. Elimination rounds commence on the Sunday at the same time.