A strong surge down the home stretch almost gave Honda Canada GDR's Colton Facciotti another Rockstar Energy Drink Motocross national championship.
The 2014 MX1 champion won six of his last 10 motos, and the final three overalls in the 10-round Rockstar Energy Drink national series.
"He (Facciotti) definitely got on a roll by the end of the season," said Derek Schuster, Honda Canada GDR (Gopher Dunes Racing) team owner/manager.
"At one point, I think he was around 30 points back. Going into the final moto (Walton – August 16th) it was 10. And he closed that down to a six-point gap at the end."
Californian Matt Goerke, fourth overall at Walton, won the 2015 title with 527 points, edging out Facciotti's 521 points. Third place went to another Californian, Brett Metcalfe, at 482.
Goerke, who went 3rd-3rd-4th down the stretch as Facciotti, from the St. Thomas/Aylmer area, was winning his three straight overalls, was consistently at or near the top from the May 31st opener until Round 7 in Deschambault.
"I think we had a pretty big deficit to make up at the halfway point," admitted Schuster, recalling a fourth overall during Round 5 at Gopher Dunes, their home track south of Courtland, on July 12th.
At that point Facciotti, who had been struggling with some injuries, had earned everything from 2nd to 6th, but the top of the podium proved to be elusive.
"At that point it felt like it was starting to slip away from us," said Schuster. "Then things started to turn around a bit and he started winning."
Facciotti won the first Round 6 moto at Sand Del Lee one week after Gopher Dunes. Then he won the first moto at Deschambault, Quebec.
"Everybody felt like we were getting on a big roll, and it was like 'keep working hard, try to make up as many points as we could.' It seemed like each weekend started getting better and better and better."
It was a bit disappointing to come so close, he said, to take second overall. But not that disappointing.
"We would have liked to have won, sure, but it's not like it was the end of the world to us because we were pretty happy where he finished compared to where he was at the halfway point. I think that made everybody feel pretty good about it. I think our sponsors were super happy with it."
Gopher Dunes may have been the turning point.
"It's our home race, but Gopher Dunes isn't necessarily his best track. So we thought, 'get through that day the best we can, then really start concentrating on winning races one at a time, and just pick away at that points lead. That's kind of what we did – just worried about it one race at a time."
It wasn't just a Goerke-Facciotti show down the stretch. Metcalfe was also very much in the picture.
"Metcalfe was exceptionally fast as well. We knew that winning races was going to be tough because we had two tough competitors. Sometimes you can beat one, but you might not get the other one."
The object became trying to beat the Californians and grabbing points. Facciotti did both.
In the two motos that he didn't win during the final five rounds, he had won one moto and crashed in the second. On both occasions when he crashed he was at or near the front (1st and 2nd).
2015 was GDR's second full season as a factory team, and a learning season for the 2014 manager of the year.
"Last year things went really smoothly. It didn't feel like we had a lot of adversity to battle. I mean... we had really good competition, but it seemed like we had a lot of stuff going our way all the time.
"This year we had to battle a lot of adversity. We had changes that we made to the bike partway through the season, which are always tough. Colton was injured prior to the season, and he also got banged up during the season.
"We had some tough days," he said, recalling one round when they had to swap out an engine just before the race. "We battled through it. I feel like that helped – we went through a lot of adversity together and we all battled through it as a group. I think that kept morale high on the team. Everybody was working hard at it, nobody wanted to be the weak link so everybody kept plugging away at it as hard as they could. I think that's a big reason why Colton got on such a big roll at the end of the season, because everybody was working so hard at it.
"I guess that's the biggest thing I probably learned this year... working on how the whole team's handling it as a group."
In the MX2 division, Honda Canada GDR's Jeremy Medaglia had a tough day at Walton finishing 12th overall, slipping to third in the overall final MX2 standings behind Kaven Benoit and Jimmy Decotis.
"Jeremy had the same thing – he had a little bit of adversity to battle through," said Schuster, noting Medaglia's back and neck injuries picked up in the off season. "It was something that flared up a bit in Walton."
Neither Medaglia, 2nd overall going into the final round after a big win at Ulverton, Quebec, nor Decotis had any chance of catching front-runner Benoit, but 2nd and 3rd were still on the line.
"It was a really solid season for him," said Schuster. "It was a rebound year after a tough year in 2014. He definitely wanted to win the championship going in, but we're still pretty happy with those results."
US Pro Nationals
Honda Canada GDR added to their international experience last weekend during the final round of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross National Series in Crawfordsville, Indiana.
"It was an 'experience' thing for the whole crew," said Schuster. "I wanted to take everybody down there and let them do one of those races. I wanted to take our whole rig and do it as a group."
Facciotti, who jarred his back during a practice round, has raced in the series before, but not with the Honda Canada GDR team.
Honda Canada GDR MX1 support rider Kyle Keast, who was 8th in the Rockstar Energy Drink Motocross National Series, also joined the team in the Indianapolis suburb.
"Jeremy's back injury flared up in practice so had to sit out the race. Colton ended up getting 11th overall and Keast got 25th overall," said Schuster, summing up the Augst 22nd 'Ironman National.' "That was Kyle's first AMA Pro Motocross Nationals – there's 100 guys entered, so it's a quite a process to even get into the Top 40."