Features 15 Apr 2014

Q&A: MX Nationals early-season indications

Two rounds into season 2014 and we're starting to see trends unfold.

We’re just two rounds deep into the 10-round 2014 Monster Energy MX Nationals and already there are some hot topics raging around the pits.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to attend either round and want the inside word on what’s been happening, you’ve come to the right place.

MotoOnline.com.au has collected some of the biggest questions that have been posed so far, and we’ve done our best to provide you guys the answers.

Image: Jeff Crow.

Image: Jeff Crow.

Q: Is Yamaha’s new 250F good enough to fend off the two-strokes?

A: It depends on the track conditions. There’s no doubt Yamaha’s new EFI machine is a step up from what Luke Styke won the MX2 title on last year, and the slick hard-pack tracks we saw at Broadford and Appin somewhat suited the smoother, more pliable power of the four-strokes. However, now that we’re about to hit a string of loam/sand tracks at Wonthaggi, Murray Bridge and Wanneroo leading up to the mid-season break, it is possible the extra ponies of the two-strokes will come to the fore as more and more top-level riders opt for them. So far we’ve seen the new Yamaha YZ250F win a round each of the MXD and MX2 categories, while KTM/Husqvarna two-strokes won the others – they’ve been hard to split so far!

Q: Has Matt Moss stepped it up since Coolum last year?

A: You betcha. While his results at the end of last year held similar 1-1s as the Team Motul Suzuki racer is racking up now, Mossy is riding a tsunami of momentum and confidence at the moment. Spending time scrapping some of the world’s best during the opening six rounds of the American Supercross Championship and opting to stay put with the close-knit team that helped him to two national titles in 2013 have certainly not hindered his cause at the moment. Mossy already has a 20-point lead in the championship and it’s going to take something special from one of the MX1 front-runners to stop this freight-train.

Q: Is the live streaming working in 2014?

A: While it’s an amazing concept, the My Sport Live live streaming of practice/qualifying and the final moto of the day at each round is currently a bit of a work in progress. At Broadford there were issues with internet connectivity to relay the broadcast, but at Appin they experimented with outgoing signals and the streaming ran smoothly; even when most people’s phones struggled to find signals. That’s a promising step forward!

Q: Are the new North and South Privateer Cups helping beef up rider numbers?

A: Tentatively speaking, this new initiative to attract privateers seems to be working, especially in the MX2 ranks, where privateers can opt to race a more wallet-friendly and competitive 250cc two-stroke. As a result, MX2 has seen full gates at both rounds; 41 riders turned up at Broadford and 43 at Appin. The premier MX1 class… not so much. After a respectable 29-rider gate at Broadford, only 22 450s roared off the start at Appin, which is traditionally one of the strongest rounds of the year. Here’s hoping we see more privateers vie for these extra regional titles on offer as the season wears on.

Image: Jeff Crow.

Image: Jeff Crow.

Q: Who have been the big surprises early on?

A: In MX1 there have been a few notable eyebrow raisers already this year; both Jake Moss and Adam Monea are looking fast and comfortable on their NPS Monster Energy Kawasakis and look able to match the pace of Matt Moss, while KTM’s Kirk Gibbs has landed podium performances at both rounds despite still recovering from a busted knuckle. The likes of rising talent Jacob Wright and Hayden Mellross have also been making names for themselves. Rhys Carter deserves a mention too, slotting in alongside Matt Moss at Suzuki and already grabbing a top five overall. In MX2, Kayne Lamont blindsided everyone with his pace at Broadford, Brenden Harrison has already won a moto in his comeback, plus rookies Hamish Harwood (second in the championship) and Jay Wilson (who won the second moto at Appin) have stepped up their game big-time since leaving MXD last year. From a privateer perspective, Queenslander Wade Hunter and a rejuvenated Errol Willis have impressed many with their speed and ability to run near the front of the pack. As we saw at Appin, the big thing for these guys will be being able to deliver each weekend.

Q: Have the crowds been any good so far?

A: Without having access to official numbers, we believe crowd support is definitely up on last year. Williams Event Management (WEM) have said Broadford boasted the biggest crowd they’ve had to an opening round of the MX Nationals, which saw the series take off on the right foot. The week of rain leading up to Appin disappeared for race day and failed to keep the public away; crowd attendance at the marquee round was encouraging once again. The next round at Wonthaggi generally attracts a strong attendance too, especially if the sun turns out.

Q: Is the new structure of Super Pole an improvement?

A: The Super Pole feature has returned for 2014, but the points’ structure has been modified slightly. Riders will still earn championship points for being among the top five fastest qualifiers, but these points will only count towards the championship and not the round results. Last year the Super Pole points were added to riders’ scores at the end of the day, causing regular drama as guys were shuffled on and off the podium despite logging solid race results. This year the Super Pole points are still worth fighting hard for, but are effectively added after the podium presentations have taken place and that’s definitely a better alternative.