Features 25 Jun 2015

Q&A: MX Nationals second half

What we expect when the gates drop from 2015 round six.

Next weekend the screws will begin to turn and the pressure ramp up as the 2015 MX Nationals heads to Raymond Terrace to commence the second half of the championship. With team shuffles, injured riders returning and everyone wanting to finish the season on a high, there’re plenty of reasons to be excited. In this edition of Q&A we unwrap some of the big questions as we prepare for the second stanza.

Image: Jeff Crow.

Image: Jeff Crow.

Q: Why did Dylan Long get drafted into NPS Monster Energy Kawasaki?

A: NPS Monster Energy Kawasaki’s regular rider Jake Moss was expected to make his return from a broken leg next weekend, but his horror run of luck continued when he crashed practicing several weeks ago and sustained another yet another broken leg, ruling him out for the season. With Kiwi recruit Johnny Phillips not delivering the goods as hoped, team boss Troy Carroll has enlisted Victorian privateer Dylan Long to commence duties. Long is a fan favourite with his stylish bike skills and his results this year have been outstanding as he currently sits in seventh overall in the MX1 class. With some serious factory backing, Long could be a legitimate podium contender from here on out.

Q: Can Kirk Gibbs win the MX1 title?

A: Absolutely. Even though we’re only halfway through the series, the championship is the Mr Gibbs’ to lose. His consistency, fitness and buttery smooth riding style has served him incredibly well until now and seen him rack up a comfortable 52-point buffer over his sparring partner Luke Styke. Barring something untoward happening, there’s no reason to doubt that Gibbsy is the hot favourite for the crown.

Q: What can we expect from Matt Moss?

A: That’s the million-dollar question, really. The two-time defending champion might be well and truly out of the championship picture, but Mossy will have a fire in his jocks to make things as difficult as possible for everyone else on the gate. Moss is a champion through-and-through and hates losing more than anything. That motivation is going to be a scary thing for every MX1 rider, especially those with the most at risk. We expect Moss to definitely win races and probably rounds from here on out.

Q: What’s the battle to keep an eye on?

A: There’s a fascinating battle already starting to rage behind Kirk Gibbs in the MX1 hunt, and for ours, that’s going to be a big talking point over the next few months. You could throw a tea-cosy over Luke Styke, Adam Monea, Lawson Bopping and Kade Mosig, who are only currently separated by a meagre eight points. All four of these guys are deserving of a podium result, but last time we checked four doesn’t go into two very easily. If they all stay injury-free and in their current form, fireworks are going to fly. And while Dan Reardon isn’t up there in the points, he too will feature in the mix for podiums.

Image: Jeff Crow.

Image: Jeff Crow.

Q: Who’s carrying momentum?

A: With dominant performances at the last two MX2 rounds at Murray Bridge and Coolum, Queenslander Caleb Ward is carrying an avalanche of momentum and confidence into round six. While he’s known as a sand rider, Ward is more than capable on the harder surfaces such as Raymond Terrace. Sure the championship might be out of reach after missing two rounds with a knee injury, but the friendly kid is making all sorts of mischief in the points chase. In the MX1 class, DPH Motorsport’s Lawson Bopping is coming off a momentous win in the Coolum sand and will enter round six with a heightened level of confidence and belief he can chalk up more of them.

Q: Will Luke Clout and Jed Beaton be ready for round six?

A: Heck yes. Both Serco Yamaha riders might’ve had a rough shake of the injury dice after killing it over the first three rounds, but both Luke (thumb) and Jed (collarbone) are back riding and fighting fit for next weekend. Clouty’s championship lead has been decimated and Beaton might’ve tumbled down the leaderboard, but now that they’re healthy again, expect to see the pair running back up front.

Q: What are the unknown factors?

A: The second half of the championship is going to see two new tracks appear with Nowra and Shepparton added for the first time. Both are hard-pack tracks, but how they hold up to the brutal demands of 100 top racers has yet to be determined. It’s also going to be interesting to see how well Kirk Gibbs and Luke Styke gel with the 2016 KTM 450 SX-Fs that they’ll be repping for the remaining five rounds. No doubt the team has done a tonne of testing and ironed out most of the kinks, but hopping aboard a different bike halfway through the championship could throw an interesting twist to the mix. On top of that, we’ve yet to hear confirmation of exactly how many races Ben Townley is going to front up for this year. BT shocked everyone with a race win and third overall at Coolum and we’d heard he was going to line up for more motos this year. Time will tell.