The 2016 AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championsip season got underway at the Daytona Flat Track with a doubleheader on March 10-11. Among the 50-plus riders in GNC1 and the 80-plus in GNC2, six Canadians were on hand to try their luck on the slick short track.
AMA regular Doug Lawrence started strong on opening night in GNC1 as he took a direct transfer from his heat after finishing third. Running as high as 6th in the final, Lawrence eventually settled for 8th at the line (a personal best at Daytona) as he held off a handful of aggressive riders. Night two was not to be for Lawrence however as he struggled throughout the day and didn’t make the final.
Don Taylor had some bad luck on night one as he battled the tough track. While running in a transfer position, Taylor hit a rut and went down, sending him to a semi. In the semi Taylor once again lost a fight with the track and saw his first night end as a spectator. The second night Taylor put on a great ride in his heat race as he charged from the second row to grab a transfer into the final. When the final was over, Taylor had finished a respectable 12th battling a slick track and some of the best short trackers in North America.
Joining Taylor on this night in the final was Mike Labelle. After failing to qualify for the main the night before, Labelle had his work cut out for him on this night. With an 8th in his heat, Labelle had to start on the second row of his semi. Labelle rode hard grabbing a third in the semi which put him into the final where he finished 18th after taking a bit of a soil sample.
The GNC2 class had an astounding 81 entries, all trying to qualify in the top 48 in order to make it to the heat races. AMA rookie Tyler Seguin qualified 21st on night one, putting him on row two for his heat. Perhaps showing some nerves, Seguin got caught creeping at the start and got sent back to row four. Putting on an impressive ride, Seguin finished his heat in 7th which allowed him to start on the front row of his semi. The semi was all Seguin as he led from start to finish and punched his ticket into the final. In the final Seguin was once again hit by some bad luck as he hit another rider in turn one off the start and went down in a tangle of bikes. Shaking off the dust, Seguin took the restart and ended up 15th.
Night two didn’t go Seguin’s way. Once again forced into a semi, Seguin looked like he was well on his way to another semi victory until the race was red flagged. Once the race restarted, Seguin slipped back and never made it into the main event.
Young Brodie Buchan was also making his AMA debut and struggled a bit on night one. A lover of pea gravel half-miles, Buchan, like many others, had trouble figuring out the short track and failed to qualify for the evening program. The second night saw Buchan make the program in dramatic fashion as he took the 48th and final qualifying spot. Starting in last place in his heat, Buchan finished 13th which sent him to a semi where he ended up 17th after hitting the ground.
Clayton Isherwood was also trying his luck in GNC2 but didn’t qualify for the program on either night.
– By Todd Vallee