Features 26 Jan 2017

Q&A: Australians taking on MXGP

Strong host of youthful talent heading to Europe for 2017.

Following the recent announcement confirming Jay Wilson as part of the i-Fly JK Yamaha Racing Team for 2017 in the MX2 World Championship, we’re now seeing an even stronger Australian contingent take on the upcoming series. With six fulltime entrants spread across three categories with Wilson, Caleb Ward and Hunter Lawrence in MX2, Jed Beaton and Caleb Grothues in EMX250 and Maddi Brown in WMX, we’ve decided to answer a selection of the burning questions ahead of the season-opener in Qatar on 25 February.

Source: Supplied.

Q: Are we seeing the next wave of Australian international talent coming through?

A: We certainly are seeing a new crop of Australian talent making their way to the world stage and it’s exciting to see! Following the exit of both Todd Waters and Dean Ferris from the MXGP series at the end of 2015, it was just Lawrence in the EMX250 category and Brown in the WMX category flying the flag for our country for much of last year. Now with five Australian contenders spread across three categories for 2017, it’s quite a strong resurgence for our country and hopefully signs of more great things to come.

Q: Who will be the standout performer in 2017?

A: It’s hard to predict who will be the strongest Australian contender throughout the 2017 MXGP series as there are a lot of variables in play, but our pick would have to be Lawrence. Now part of the factory Team Suzuki World MX2 squad in a multi-year deal, he achieved success in the EMX250 class with a round win in 2016 before suffering an unfortunate knee injury. After relocating with his family to Europe for 2016, he has the most GP experience to date and the performances to match, but with a new team and a tougher field of riders, it’s going to be a whole new situation for the Queenslander.

Q: Will the growing crop of Aussie MXGP riders open doors for fellow home-country hopefuls?

A: It’s already happening, as more Australian riders are seeing doors open in the series thanks to the added Australian attention in recent years. Ferris and Waters put together a number of strong performances and now with riders such as Lawrence making waves amongst the MXGP paddock, it’s definitely allowing more young Australians the opportunity to take their shot on the world stage. Yes, we’re losing strong top-level talent domestically, but let’s hope this trend continues and motivates the current junior front-runners to push harder within Australia and raise the bar locally on their way to possible GP dream spots.

Image: Chonnie McCosh.

Q: Are we expecting to see more Australians make their way into MXGP?

A: As always, more Australian riders making their way to MXGP in the near future would be great to see – both Ferris and Kirk Gibbs are eager to get over there in 2018 at least. We can confirm Proformance Yamaha’s Aaron Tanti will contest the MXGP of Indonesia on 5 March in Pangkal Pinang. The New South Wales racer scored a wildcard entry into the event after earning the slot contesting the Indonesian motocross series in 2016. Although confirmed to ride with the Yamaha satellite squad for 2017 here in Australia, Tanti will race a Husqvarna FC 250 in the MX2 category.

Q: How many rounds will Beaton, Grothues and Brown be at in 2017?

A: With Beaton and Grothues contesting the EMX250 series and Brown in WMX, we won’t see these Australians at each and every event on the 19-round schedule. The current Motul MX Nationals MX2 champion Beaton and young gun Grothues will appear at the 10 scheduled EXM250 events throughout the series and Brown will race the seven WMX events as she plans to run her program from Australia, travelling back and forth between rounds.

Q: What does this large selection of GP riders mean for our 2017 Motocross of Nations squad?

A: This one is hard to answer, but if previous years are anything to go by, we may just see one of these riders take the MX2 slot, because we’ve got a serious line-up of talent based out of Europe to take on that position. Both Beaton and Wilson are MX2 title holders, Ward was a huge threat to that title in 2016, Lawrence has great pace and plenty of European experience. It’s up to the Team Australia selectors, but don’t be surprised if you see one of these guys represent Australia for the first time in their careers at the biggest motocross race of the year. Both Beaton and Wilson missed their chances due to injury, so it would be an ideal chance to redeem themselves!