Features 17 Apr 2013

MX Hub: 15

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One down, nine to go. The 2013 Monster Energy MX Nationals have arrived! It was an incredible weekend of action, slightly tainted by a lack of 3G (aka internet) reception once the crowd rolled in, but we managed to produce content that will continue to improve from this point.

When it comes to the races, Todd Waters was by far the standout. Quick, confident and already at one with his Factory Edition KTM 450 SX-F. As we mentioned in the MotoOnline.com.au official series highlights film that was live online Monday morning, his form has fired a huge warning shot to his MX1 rivals (click here or scroll to the bottom of this feature to check it out).

It was a dream comeback for the Motorex KTM Racing Team as well, under the management of Rob Twyerould and featuring some original factory KTM faces such as Danny Apro and Johnny DiStefano, as well as some of the ex-JDR staff in Ryan Deckert and Kyle Blunden. For KTM, they couldn’t have asked for a better start under the watchful eye of general manager Jeff Leisk.

Last year, the brand held off on releasing the latest version of the 450 SX-F during the outdoors or Supercross, instead waiting for 2013 when they launched their new-look (although very familiar!) program. Just like America, KTM signed the best young talent they could and the end result is very similar – the brand is a contender.

In fact, KTM won worldwide over the weekend with Waters here in Australia, Ryan Dungey and Marvin Musquin in the US, plus Antonio Cairoli and Jeffrey Herlings in the world championship. Hard work pays off and it couldn’t happen to a better bunch of people associated within the brand.

All new to the series was the GoPro Super Pole qualifying format, where Waters blitzed the field as the lone rider beneath two minutes and taking home the five points that go with it. Before the gates even dropped, we had an early series leader, which set the tone for the weekend. It added another element of excitement to the weekend and since the riders were all rolled out in succession, it created a short, sharp spectacle.

Todd Waters put on a dominant performance for the all-new Motorex KTM team at Raymond Terrace. Image: Simon Makker/Makkreative.com.

Todd Waters put on a dominant performance for the all-new Motorex KTM team at Raymond Terrace. Image: Simon Makker/Makkreative.com.

The Super Pole actually was a determining factor between Billy Mackenzie finishing on the podium in his CDR Yamaha debut. The four extra points broke a tie between he and four-time champion Jay Marmont for the position, so teams will be closely monitoring their riders’ qualifying results over upcoming weekends.

So many people were speaking about their Super Pole prospects before the weekend, but one thing that’s just as important is qualifying inside the top five during the regular qualifying session in order to secure a Super Pole birth. Not only do the MX1 contenders have to be dialled in for their flyer, but they need to get on pace quickly in that session before the track deteriorates too far.

The practice, qualifying and Super Pole sessions were all streamed online live on MotoOnline.com.au, MXNationals.com.au and MySportLive.com.au during the weekend, for the first time ever in Australian Motocross. While the package will be refined, it was a step forward and great move in the right direction for the sport.

Saturday afternoon’s activity featured the first edition of the Thor Bench Races, featuring Kam Williams, Dan Reardon, special guest Josh Coppins and myself, which was also a nice way to kick-off the season. Also to be refined, these features add interest to the series and help create an in-depth insight for those at home and regular followers of the series. Even better, it streams worldwide.

Overall, Williams Event Management is making positive improvements and really trying to leverage to power of the internet and social media in 2013. We didn’t get to see a true reflection of our collective efforts at round one due to the internet outage, but it will generate great coverage across the board. In addition, teams, riders and sponsors are also really stepping it up, so it’s a win-win for the sport on a national level.

Another new initiative we witnessed on the weekend were the Suzuki Holeshot cheques presented after the final motos. A total of $100 per class, it added prestige to the result on the spot, as did the fact that each category had its podium following their second motos, rather than waiting to complete them all at the day’s conclusion. That’s much more similar to the AMA.

Great performances – and some disappointing ones – were had throughout the MX1, MX2 and MXD fields during the opener, which we’ll do our best to dissect through news and features both this week and next before we travel south to Murray Bridge. For now, I’ll hand this over to Makker for a recount of the weekend from his perspective…

This time last year we were all reliving the opening round of the Monster Energy MX Nationals at Conondale Queensland; an event that probably threw up more questions than it gave answers.

This year’s opener at Raymond Terrace was a polar opposite and just quietly I think it’s set a fairly good indication of where everyone is currently placed. Here are 10 facts I pulled out of the MX Nationals opener.

A two-stroke mounted Kale Makeham celebrates his third overall MX2 debut with some Ronnie Mac inspired style. Image: Simon Makker/Makkreative.com.

A two-stroke mounted Kale Makeham celebrates his third overall MX2 debut with some Ronnie Mac inspired style. Image: Simon Makker/Makkreative.com.

1. The Superpole is going to have its fair share of critics. Just ask Jay Marmont, who might have ended the day on the podium if Billy Mackenzie’s extra four qualifying points didn’t exist.

2. Todd Waters is looking ominously fast and smooth on board the new Motorex KTM team. And by ominous I mean ‘Jupiter-sized problem for everyone else in the class’.

3. Riding consistently in every race is going to be a huge championship key in a MX1 field brimming with talent.

4. Cody Cooper has the pace and fitness to give Waters a run for his money… as long as he gets a good start.

5. The MX2 title is Luke Styke’s to lose. He’s as fit as hell, doesn’t know how to let off the gas and has stamina to burn.

6. Two-strokes can still compete against 250Fs. MX2 rookie Kale Makeham shocked everyone with a third overall in the class on his KTM-backed 250SX.

7. Ripping a track nice and deep doesn’t help if it’s over-watered.

8. The new juniors coming through are fast. None of the top six MXD riders contested the series last year.

9. Carlton Dry Honda Racing’s new recruit Dan McCoy has work to do. A 13th overall is well below what a factory team would expect.

10. MotoOnline is lifting the level of quality race coverage this year. You won’t receive results, updates, photos and videos faster anywhere than what you’ll find on this site on a Sunday afternoon.

That’s me for this week. Take it away, Spence!

The long-awaited 2013 Monster Energy MX Nationals season opener is finally in the books, and what great event it was! Although the track was super-sloppy during qualifying and internet coverage was almost non-existent throughout the day, what happened out on the track was definitely awesome.

The crowd was rolling in (along with the sizzling heat) and you could feel a buzz in the air as the riders hit the track for the first time. It was exciting from a fan perspective to check out everyone’s fresh setups and see what the teams were bringing to the table for the 2013 season…. Carlton Dry Honda Racing and the Zero Seven Motorsports crew were definitely standing out in their Hi-Vis colour ways that’s for sure!

With stacked fields this year, you better have your starts dialled. Image: Simon Makker/Makkreative.com.

With stacked fields this year, you better have your starts dialled. Image: Simon Makker/Makkreative.com.

Now I must admit that I’m never one to throw down a prediction with complete confidence, but I have to say I was pretty pumped to see my choices from our latest ‘The Point’ feature come through with the goods (click here to check that out). But in saying that, was it really that hard to predict that both Todd Waters and Luke Styke would come out swinging and take out their respective classes?

I think these two riders were fairly safe picks, and they both had great pre-seasons, undoubtedly putting in the hard work they are known for. It became evident throughout the day that both Waters and Styke are really pushing it to the next level. Coincidentally both of these riders also are looking to take their careers to Europe in the very near future – interesting.

Styke’s Serco Yamaha teammate Luke Clout made his MX2 debut at Raymond Terrace, locking in a solid second place finish in moto one before finding himself buried in the pack during moto two. Clout finished up his maiden MX2 outing with a very respective fourth overall from a 2-8 moto scorecard – that eighth may have been avoidable if he had not tangled with a lapped rider in moto two whilst in fifth.

Now what was the one thing that kept being brought up today during a conversation? Starts. Clout suffered from poor starts during the day, but his teammate Styke blasted out of the gate and found himself in the lead very early in the race once making his way by the holeshot bandit, Josh Cachia.

We saw this exact same problem with Kade Mosig in the MX2 class, we all know he has winning speed, but poor starts and poor choices early in the race hindered his chances of showing his full potential. I think now more than ever, starts will be the key to success this season – with such stacked fields in all-three classes it’s certainly no easy task to make your way from 20th to the lead.

Now some riders might be dreading the fact that these classes are filled deep with talent, but I’m sure the fans of the sport are pumped to see intense battles with talented riders happening throughout the field. I found myself watching crazy battles back in 10th place and I was loving it.

With deep fields of talent in all of our classes this season, improved coverage of the racing throughout the online outlets and fresh venues heading our way, it’s shaping up to be a great season.

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