The key factors, issues and storylines after two rounds of competition.
We might only be two rounds into the 2021 Penrite ProMX Championship, but the storylines are already flowing thick and fast as trends begin to emerge. MotoOnline looks at the Top 10 talking points on and off the track after an eventful two rounds of racing.
1. Regan Duffy rises:
When KTM Racing Team announced they’d signed teenager Regan Duffy to represent them in MX1, a few eyebrows were raised since he is a rookie and has effectively moved from MXD directly into the premier class, but he has delivered so far. At Wonthaggi he answered questions whether he was up to the task with a breakthrough round win, then at Canberra he finished on the podium and retained the red plate. His latest performance, in particular, has gone a long way to shutting down the critics who expected the young Western Australian to have a chink in his armour on hard-pack tracks. The two circuits were ultra-different from a soil perspective, but Duffy has excelled on both.
2. Domination of Kyle Webster:
Pre-season, Kyle Webster was widely tipped as the next in line to the Pirelli MX2 throne with 2019 champion Wilson Todd chasing glory in Europe. Two rounds in, the Honda Racing rider has lived up to the hype, with a perfect four-from-four scorecard after two rounds. In fact, Webster has scarcely put a foot wrong apart from a minor tip-over while holding a very comfortable lead at Wonthaggi. Webster has started at or near the front of every moto and has been too fast, too strong for the rest of the MX2 field. The warning signs are already there and his rivals are going to need to find an extra gear quick-smart if they want to stop the bleeding.
3. Return of the masses:
Whether it’s the result of an increased, concerted marketing spend or the fact that Australians are making the most of their ability to attend mass gatherings, the two rounds of the ProMX Championship we’ve seen so far have been well attended and supported by the public. Canberra, in particular, saw thousands come through the gates, and combined with warm sunny weather, provided a real festival-like atmosphere in the pits that we’re more used to seeing at the series finale at Coolum. Racers, too, have returned in bulk – we’ve seen pretty much full gates in every class so far, including a healthy number of locals and privateers eager to gate-up alongside the country’s best. It’s early days, but it feels like we’re witnessing a sudden renaissance in Australian motocross. Long may it continue.
4. Live coverage on point:
While we’ve been able to watch livestreams of the racing in years past, this year’s ProMX offering is leagues ahead in terms of quality and presentation. Motorcycling Australia has also made good on its promises to have the championship aired live on TV across Australia and Asia, with both SBS and Fox Sports airing the action live. The presenters – Lee Hogan, Danny Ham and Riana Crehan – work well together and showcase the sport in a professional way, which should in turn, hopefully attract new fans and sponsors to the sport.
5. Luke Clout the man to beat:
It’s purely speculation, but it’s fair to say that CDR Yamaha Monster Energy Team’s Luke Clout would be at the front of the Thor MX1 championship if his YZ450F hadn’t experienced a shock malfunction while sitting in second place at Wonthaggi. Having chalked up that early DNF, Clout came out swinging at Canberra, winning two of the three races in the mixed-format outing, and finishing second to Kirk Gibbs in the final sprint moto after a spirited battle. His strong showing on the hard-baked ACT circuit has seen him rise to fourth in the standings, 13 points shy of Duffy, but the confidence he’ll bring into Gillman will see him enter the third round as the favourite.
6. Double DNFs for Matt Moss:
After two scoreless rounds, Matt Moss’s much-anticipated return to racing has been a nightmare. You’d have to say that unless there’s some sort of miracle, his hopes of returning to glory as the 2021 MX1 champion have all but evaporated. A crash on the first lap of the first MX1 race at Wonthaggi saw him leave the track with a banged-up shoulder, but then he was knocked out of contention in similar circumstances at Canberra – a crash early in the opening race saw him record his second DNF-DNS in as many races. We haven’t heard any word on how he’s faring after Canberra, aside from possibly having a foot injury, but do know he went to hospital to get checked out on Sunday night.
7. Hayden Mellross returns to form:
CDR Yamaha Monster Energy’s Hayden Mellross appears to have put his injury demons behind him this year, as he stormed to a well-deserved second overall at his home round at Canberra. So far, 2021 is signalling a welcome return to form for the talented racer, who opened his campaign account with a fifth overall (courtesy of 6-4 race results) at Wonthaggi. Mellross’s podium at the hard-pack ACT track also gave CDR a perfect 1-2 result for the day and saw him slide up the points standings to third behind Duffy and defending champion Todd Waters. With a string of harder tracks ahead on the schedule, Mellross will be looking at the prospect of further top three results in the near future.
8. Jesse Dobson’s heroics:
If there was an Ironman award, Sunshine Coast’s Jesse Dobson must surely be in the running after a gritty performance at Canberra. Just two weeks prior, the Serco Yamaha racer crashed and broke his collarbone at the Coolum round of the Sunshine State MX Series, and only got it plated 10 days before the gate dropped at round two. After finishing third equal on MX2 points at Wonthaggi (fourth on countback), Dobson rolled into the rutted, unforgiving Canberra circuit with the intention of seeing how his gooey collarbone felt in practice before making a call as to whether he’d race. Dobson ended the day an impressive fifth overall and has risen to third on the championship ladder, just two points behind Yamalube Yamaha Racing’s Rhys Budd.
9. Honda duo re-energised:
Kyle Webster isn’t the only Honda Racing team rider making a statement this year. Brett Metcalfe started 2021 strongly by hunting down Luke Clout to take the first MX1 race victory of the season at Wonthaggi, and finished the day second overall. At Canberra, team newcomer Kirk Gibbs caught fire in the second of the back-to-back sprint races and held off a spirited attack from Clout to take his first race win of the season. On top of that, the two South Australians engaged in a frenetic battle early in the opening race, that Gibbs ultimately won. On a side-note, it’s neat seeing the Yarrive Konsky-run team thinking outside the box for sponsors this year instead of an overall naming rights’ sponsor, each of the team’s racers has a personal naming-rights backer.
10. bLU cRU teenagers:
Almost every season we see a couple of young bucks make a real mark on the senior ranks and this year you don’t have to look any further than Yamalube Yamaha Racing’s new signing Rhys Budd and WBR Yamaha Bulk Nutrients Racing teenager Alex Larwood. Budd has been in impressive form, both in the loamy sand of Wonthaggi and the hard-pack of Canberra, and currently sits second in the championship. He began his season with an attention-grabbing third position at Wonthaggi, then backed it up with consistent 5-4 placings at Canberra. Meanwhile, Larwood burst onto the scene at Wonthaggi with a second overall at his first-ever senior race day, but a tough day at Canberra saw him crash out of the second race after an incident-filled opening moto. He’s now racing the clock to overcome a shoulder injury before his home round at Gillman.