Features 31 Mar 2022

Q&A: What we learned from Wonthaggi

Dissecting results following the opening round of ProMX 2022.

After a lengthy nine-month off-season, the 2022 Penrite ProMX Championship got off to a cracking start at Wonthaggi on Sunday. MotoOnline answers some of the key questions that arose from an eventful day of racing in this edition of Q&A.

Image: Foremost Media.

Q: Was Luke Clout that much better than everyone else?

A: CDR Yamaha Monster Energy’s defending champion was certainly impressive at Wonthaggi and his riding was noticeably even smoother and more clinical that what we saw last year when he had an unfortunate start to the championship. The opening MX1 moto saw him well positioned to capitalise on Kyle Webster’s (Honda Racing) crash from P1, but it was his second race win that would’ve sounded alarm bells for the rest of the field. Clout didn’t get the best jump off the gate and was as low as seventh during the opening lap, but steadily chipped away at anyone he laid eyes on. Then, when Webster again crashed out of the lead, Clout was right there ready to pounce and stride away with a double moto victory. Some might argue that Webster had more raw speed around his home circuit, but few would slate the intelligent and ruthless approach that Clout took to start his title defence off on the perfect footing.

Q: Who would be most disappointed with their performance?

A: There are a few racers who will be undertaking some honest self-reflections over the next two weeks before Mackay. Honda Racing’s Dean Ferris had a really disappointing start to his racing return, with a 13th overall in MX1, even accounting for the fact he’s had limited bike time as he recovers from a broken collarbone. The first race in particular was a tough affair after he dropped from fifth to 27th after an on-track incident, recovering to finish 17th. A ninth in the second race was an improvement, but he’s admitted there’s plenty to improve on. In MX2, rookie Blake Fox (GasGas Racing Team) had a day he would’ve liked to forget with two bad starts and a 13-14 scorecard, and Rhys Budd (Yamalube Yamaha Racing) had dramas in moto one to finish 12th, before he bounced back to P6 in the second moto, so expect results to be far better in future rounds.

Q: Kyle Webster finished fourth overall after entering as a favourite. What happened?

A: Untimely crashes spoilt a day that started off so promising for the young Honda Racing MX1 rookie. Webster was widely acknowledged as the round favourite, seeing as Wonthaggi is his local stomping ground, and he soon lived up to that title with fastest times in qualifying and the Top 10 Shootout. Webster then started both MX1 motos on a high with a pair of near-perfect holeshots and began building leads. However, it then turned pear-shaped for the Western Australian, as he fell twice in the opening race but incredibly still finished second. The second race held a similar storyline, as he controlled the majority of the race before a big crash in a rutted turn saw him drop to fifth position and fourth overall for the day. It was a disappointing way to open Webster’s MX1 campaign, but some invaluable lessons were learnt at the same time.

Image: Foremost Media.

Q: Is the MX2 title Wilson Todd’s to lose?

A: Entering 2022, Terrafirma Honda Racing’s Wilson Todd was the red-hot favourite to claim a third MX2 championship, and his form and pace on Sunday did little to cast any doubt on those expectations. Sure, he was pushed in both motos by a flying Alex Larwood (Yamalube Yamaha Racing), who was predictably fast at what is his local track, but Todd set the fastest qualifying time and was able to control both races from the front. He reflected afterwards he made it hard for himself with some arm-pump and fatigue late in the races, but it was clear that Todd’s experience on beaten-up European tracks set him in good stead around a circuit that threw everything at the competitors. The pace of the two front-runners was so hot that they beat third place home by more than 20 seconds in both motos. So, to answer the question, while Todd’s certainly not a shoe-in for the MX2 title, he’s still the heavy favourite.

Q: Who performed better than expectations?

A: The obvious answer here is CDR Yamaha Monster Energy Team’s Aaron Tanti, who claimed his first-ever MX1 podium and helped his new team to a memorable 1-2 round result. All of the pre-season signs had been pointing to the fact that Tanti was enjoying a real turn of pace and form, but to see it crystalise on Australia’s biggest motocross stage would’ve been vindicating for both himself and the team. In the MX2 class, Alex Larwood showed more of the same pace he displayed at the same opening round last year, proving his 2021 Wonthaggi podium wasn’t a fluke. At the same time, we’ve got to tip our hat to WBR Yamaha’s Ryder Kingsford, who earned himself a solid top five in his debut in the MX2 class. Kingsford, who finished runner-up in the MX3 championship last year, was consistent all day and his 6-5 results proved he wasn’t daunted by his first foray into the senior ranks.

Q: Were there any major casualties from the opening round?

A: We’re happy to report there were no big DNFs or injuries at Wonthaggi, which was reasonably surprising considering the technical, varying nature of the Wonthaggi track and the sheer number of mistakes we saw from racers across all the classes. It’s an exciting prospect to have all three divisions still packed with title contenders as we head into the second round at Mackay next weekend. Mackay’s Gum Valley track is generally known as a hard-pack circuit, and its variety of fast, flat sections and technical off-camber hillsides will throw a different set of challenges and conditions at the racers. As a result, it’ll be interesting to see if a new group of riders emerge as potential title contenders.