Features 12 Apr 2018

The Point: MX Nationals anticipation

Industry regulars on the upcoming Australian motocross championship.

We’re just three days out from the opening round of the 2018 Pirelli MX Nationals at Newry in Victoria, and the anticipation and excitement levels are really starting to build. With fresh venues, a new-look calendar, full classes, some real dark horses, unfinished business between rivals and old battle-lines threatening to be redrawn, this year is shaping up to be something special. We hit up a range of industry regulars to get their thoughts on what they’re looking forward to most this year.

Image: Jeff Crow.

Kevin Williams – WEM director:
I’m looking forward to this weekend and getting 2018 under way. The weather’s looking good, and rider entries have blown us away across the classes. We’ve got 52 entrants in MXD, 41 in MX2 and 31 in MX1. We know there’re about 10-15 riders who won’t be there because of injuries, so numbers are looking really good for this year. I think the depth of riders and talent in MX2 will make for some fierce competition this year, and in MXD there’re a few great riders coming up from juniors who’ll put on a good show. In MX1 it’ll be interesting to see if Dean Ferris can be beaten, but there’s no doubt Kirk Gibbs will be bringing a high level of confidence after taking out the New Zealand championship a few weeks ago. Combine that with a few new factory and support teams, some new faces, a few new Kiwis coming across, an improved, higher-quality livestream and a move to MyLaps timing, and I’m really looking forward to getting things under way. It’s promising to be a great championship.

Luke Clout – KTM Motocross Racing Team MX1 contender:
I’m looking forward to this year’s season, mainly because I get to go racing with my new team. I believe the KTM team is the best in the pits and it’s going to be an awesome experience working with such a high caliber bunch of people. It’s going to be an exciting season and I’m looking forward to just getting back out there and putting all the hard work I’ve been doing to the test, and to battling and racing with everyone again. It’s going to be a tough, long year but I can’t wait to get stuck into it.

Ben Townley – 2004 MX2 world champion:
The thing I’m looking forward to the most is to see how Hamish Harwood does in MX2. I believe he’s riding the best he’s ever ridden in his career right now, and with him deciding to focus on one class instead of two, it’ll be interesting to see if he can get the job done. He has all the attributes to do it and I don’t believe Australia’s seen him ride at the level he rode here during the New Zealand championship. To win every moto bar one in the MX2 class is pretty impressive, and to back that up with podium positions against some of the top MX1 racers at the same day shows just how physically and mentally strong he is now. If he can carry that form into MX2 he’ll be extremely competitive.

Lee Hogan – BCP Pro Circuit Honda Junior Development Team manager:
I’m so pumped for the series to start. I put a Facebook post up earlier this week saying I’m like a kid in a candy store!! I’m mostly looking forward to seeing who will be on their A-game in all three classes. Obviously the MX1 category is the big one and the rivalry between Ferris, Metcalfe and Gibbs with Mosig and Clout being the wildcards has got everyone excited. But the MX2 category is stacked with guns as well. To be honest though, I’m the most excited to watch the MXD class. Most of the top guns in this class have left juniors over the last couple of years, and running the Honda junior team means that I know most of these young stars and have watched them come through the ranks – and there’s some bloody good talent in that MXD class for 2018. The tracks are always gnarly and rutted which means the technical riders will generally rise to the top.

Image: Wilkinson Photography.

Rhys Carter – Complete Parts Kawasaki Racing MX1 contender:
I’m looking forward to returning to Australia for some racing – I haven’t raced there since 2014 and I’m excited to be back and to ride some tracks I’ve never ridden before. It’ll also be great to race some new guys in the MX1 class that I’ve never lined up beside. I think the racing this year will be fun and close, and having back-to-back rounds will add to the excitement as well. I’ve got some goals I want to achieve and I’m looking forward to achieving them.

Johnny McLean – Lusty Industries managing director:
I’m stoked to see the racing in both MX1 and MX2 classes this year. I think there’re some unsettled beefs in the MX2 class between Egan Mastin and Wilson Todd, and with Egan now on full factory equipment, that battle is shaping up to be a good one. It’ll also be great to see some familiar faces like Kale Makeham and Nathan Crawford, as well as some of the young rookies coming up from MXD. MX1 is going to be a cracker and I think this’ll be a season to get the crowd on their feet. Kirk Gibbs is in a great place coming into the season with a New Zealand championship under his belt, but Dean Ferris has been quiet and can’t be ruled out. If he starts strong he’s hard to beat, along with Brett Metcalfe. There are also the guys who work their hump out and maybe it’s time for the likes of Kade Mosig, Dylan Long and Luke Clout to shine. I’d love to see the profile of the MX Nationals lifted, and have more bums on seats and riders on track – our sport, athletes and teams all deserve it.

Simon Makker – MotoOnline.com.au contributor:
Personally, the thing I’m looking forward to the most is how the new back-to-back rounds at Wonthaggi and Maitland pan out. I think these have the potential to be the most pivotal rounds in the championship and could have a massive bearing on who’s bringing home the bacon after Coolum. Why? Well fitness will play a big role, particularly at Wonthaggi, which can become brutally rough at the best of times. All well and good to survive one day in the black sand there, but to then back it up with no recovery time is going to really test the fitness of these guys. There’s also the prospect of having to play it safe on the Saturday’s racing for fear of crashing and banging yourself up. No-one wants to line up again for a full day’s racing less than 24 hours after a big bingle and again, the lack of recovery time could really throw a cat among the pigeons from a championship point of view.

Jeremy Hammer – MotoOnline.com.au contributor:
We hear it every year when riders say they feel the best they ever had, only to exit round one with their tail between their legs and the usual ‘going to back to drawing board’ statement. However, this season, I believe there’s a selection of riders who have truly put in an amazing pre-season, which is why I’m incredibly excited for the series to kick off this weekend. Both the MX1 and MX2 categories are littered with talented athletes, and with a few shifts between teams and manufacturers, it looks like a lot of the regular front-runners have great support behind them, which is only going to result in an interesting series of racing. As some of the legends above me have mentioned, I’m hoping for a strong a season that will boost the profile of the sport with close racing and some interesting storylines along the way.