Features 21 Apr 2016

Countdown: Emerging MXN rivalries

Counting down seven of the hottest 2016 Motul MX Nationals rivalries.

Every year fascinating rivalries are spawned on the race-track as the riders seem to consistently find themselves fighting for the same piece of real estate as another rider. With so much at stake and with this year’s Motul MX Nationals holding one of the most talented rider line-ups in decades, it’s only natural that rivalries will grow and fester as the series wears on. We’re only two rounds deep, but we’ve already noticed seven mini-battles starting to emerge that we think you need to keep an eye on as the championship unfolds.

Image: MXN.

Image: MXN.

7. Jordan Hill vs Connor Tierney vs Mitch Evans:
Yamalube Yamaha MXD team-mates Jordan Hill and Mitch Evans might’ve had a nightmare opening round at Horsham that allowed Husqvarna-mounted Connor Tierney to open up a points gap early on, but trio could barely be separated in the points at Appin. While Evans and Hill won a race each on Sunday, Tierney was always slotted in second, ensuring any points he lost was minimal. The MXD has suffered from a slight lack of media exposure in recent years but we have a feeling that that’ll change as this three-way battle heats up. On top of that, Cooper Pozniak, who had a great opening round at Horsham, will always be lurking in the background ready to capitalise on any mistakes.

6. Jay Wilson vs Dylan Long:
Crankt Protein Honda’s new rider line-up of 2015 MX2 champion Jay Wilson and fan favourite Dylan Long is a fascinating one. At this stage they’re good mates and there’s no sign of any real fierce rivalry, but these two guys are so evenly matched in speed and aggression that they’ve regularly found themselves jockeying for position over the first two rounds. As you read this Longy is eighth in the points and Wilson is ninth with just six points between them. Over time team dynamics and pressures can quickly escalate if team-mates rub too much plastic (remember Kade Mosig and Dan Reardon last year?) and being professional athletes, there’s always the desire to be the number one rider under the awning. We’ll be keeping tabs on this as the season progresses to see how it shapes up.

5. Matt Moss vs Dan Reardon:
During last year’s Australian Supercross Championship the fierce rivalry between Matt Moss and Dan Reardon dominated headlines, captured imaginations and generated a huge amount of interest from the fans and industry alike. While they’re yet to find each other on track this year (there was some heat at Horsham though), nothing has changed and that tension still exists, just waiting for some little spark to set it off again. With Mossy seeming to revel with his new National Pump Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team set-up (his results on Sunday were due to a viral illness) and Reardon entering 2016 fresh off winning the 2015 supercross championship, it’s really only a matter of time before these two find each other on the track again… and we can’t wait.

4. Dean Ferris vs Todd Waters:
CDR Yamaha’s current championship leader Dean Ferris and Wilson Coolair Motul Factory Suzuki’s Todd Waters have an existing rivalry that harks back to their years racing against each other prior to and in the MXGP championship. There was a touch of irony, then, that both of them would return to their homeland in the same year to fight for the same championship. Off-track Todd and Dean are amicable enough, but there’re no friends once the gate drops and with both of them consistently featuring at the pointy end of the field, the tension will surely build between them as the season wears on. Remember, neither of these guys have won a MX1 Australian Motocross Championship so there’s plenty on the line to fight for.

Image: MXN.

Image: MXN.

3. Caleb Ward vs Jake Moss vs Wilson Todd vs Nathan Crawford:
The MX2 class always throws up a tonne of fascinating battles, but this year’s championship hunt is shaping up to be something special as two manufacturers – KTM and Kawasaki – return to the class with factory-backed riders. As a result, you could throw a tea-towel over the top eight at the moment (third to eighth are only separated by just six points!) and the racing is so unpredictable. Caleb Ward holds the upper hand at the moment, but with Jake Moss dropping back to MX2 and proving he’s a genuine threat, Nathan Crawford proving to be one of the most consistent, frontrunners on the track and Serco Yamaha’s Wilson Todd displaying some searing speed early on, we’re looking at one of the most hotly contested championships we’ve seen in years. And that’s without taking into account Luke Arbon, Kale Makeham and Jed Beaton, who’re all proving to be viable title contenders this year.

2. Matt Moss vs Kirk Gibbs:
Back in 2014, new KTM racer Kirk Gibbs discovered the c-word – consistency – and as a result became a thorn in the side of eventual champ Matt Moss all year long. After Moss’s horrible 2015 – and Gibbs’s breakthrough series victory – the pair both have plenty to prove and only 10 weekends to do so. Moss probably has the upper-hand when it comes to outright speed, but man, Gibbs very rarely finishes off the podium and even then he’s almost always in the top five. It’s a fascinating match-up as these guys clearly have history as well as mutual respect for each other. We can’t think of any instances where their on-track beef has spilt into the pits and the racing between them has always been clean, but as long as both Mossy and Gibbs are racing professionally, they’ll always be fierce on-track rivals.

1. Dean Ferris vs Kirk Gibbs:
When a defending champion meets a worthy heir to the throne, sparks are bound to fly sooner or later. Fortunately for race fans, the feud between Kirk Gibbs and Dean Ferris has started early after some intense racing between the two of them at Appin. In the opening MX1 race Ferris made an aggressive last-lap pass on the South Australian by jumping into the same rut as him to claim the win, but Gibbsy was less than impressed. In the KTM press release he said “Ferris decided to jump on me on the last lap and I have the tyre mark on my back and side to prove it”. In his Race Recap interview with us on Tuesday, Deano apologised with a qualifying “we didn’t go down so that’s the main thing”. With them currently locking up the top two positions on the MX1 points’ chase, Gibbs always up front and Ferris renowned for his starting ability, it’s a given that there’ll be plenty more head-butting over the next eight rounds.