Features 16 Dec 2022

MotoOnline AUS Awards: 2022

Annual feature highlighting the winners and events of the year gone by.

In the 2022 edition of the MotoOnline AUS Awards, we name the leading performers and storylines of the season past in a reflection of domestic and international competition. These are done purely for editorial purposes, pieced together from an Australian perspective via what we witnessed during the year both locally and abroad.

Image: Foremost Media.

National Rider of the Year – Aaron Tanti:
It was a breakout year on the 450 for Tanti, joining CDR Yamaha Monster Energy and winning the Penrite ProMX Championship with speed and composure when it counted – his first national title. He was also in the hunt in AUSX, winning round two at Adelaide to leave Wayville as the joint SX1 red plate-holder with Justin Brayton. A head-knock at Newcastle ultimately proved costly, but the number nine rebounded to win main event two at Wagga Wagga to close what was a successful year of racing. Outside of the domestic realm, Tanti also won an SX2 final in the World Supercross Championship finals at Marvel Stadium. Confirmed to defend his ProMX title next year with CDR and also contesting AUSX, it will be intriguing to see how Tanti can elevate in 2023.

International Rider of the Year – Eli Tomac:
2022 was arguably Tomac’s most convincing yet, showing a lightning-fast pace, strong mental fortitude and high levels of race-craft to win both 450SX and 450MX titles. Tomac managed a knee injury in the closing stages of Monster Energy AMA Supercross to add another title in the discipline to his credit and recovered to win what was a thrilling Pro Motocross battle with Chase Sexton (Team Honda HRC). Adding to his list of achievements as he debuted with Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing, Tomac was also part of Team USA’s Motocross of Nations (MXoN) winning effort at RedBud.

Off-Road Rider of the Year – Kyron Bacon:
When the topic of emerging talent in the national off-road scene is mentioned, Bacon is at the forefront of the list. The youthful ShopYamaha Off-Road Racing rider not only won the E1 category of the Yamaha Australian Off-Road Championship (AORC), but was also the Outright champion in the series. His 2022 success didn’t end there, however, storming to an outright victory in the Australian Four-Day Enduro (AD4E) and was part of Team Australia’s Junior Team that finished third in the category at the prestigious International Six-Days Enduro (ISDE).

Rookie of the Year – Dylan Wills:
Stepping up to a 450 for Australian Supercross in place of Todd Waters at Husqvarna Racing Team, Wills thoroughly impressed and was able to mix it up with the best and fight for podiums throughout the season. An impressive P2 in Newcastle’s Triple Crown was a highlight, as was his swift adaption to the larger capacity platform and relative consistency throughout the AUSX season for fourth in the final standings.

Image: Supplied.

Personality of the Year – Jett Lawrence:
We almost gave the teenage Australian the International Rider of the Year honours, but couldn’t go past Tomac in the end. Fittingly, however, Lawrence is the ideal candidate for Personality. His balance between youth and professionalism is just right, not to mention his obvious success on track. Get set, because chances are we’re going to be seeing even more of the Team Honda HRC rider over the next decade or even longer! We’re here for it. Of note also, here at home, from a total different point of view, Kyle Webster also deserved to be named here as the ultimate pro off-track and on.

Series of the Year – AMA Supercross:
The 2022 Monster Energy Supercross Championship delivered its share of action, excitement and challenges along the way, with many marquee riders debuting with new manufacturers and surrounds. The series itself saw records broken, former champions reborn and a new title-winner crowned in the form of Christian Craig in 250SX West, with many intriguing storylines unfolding across the 17-round championship. Plus, there was no denying Jett Lawrence in 250SX East and Tomac in 450SX.

Most Anticipated Motocross Model – 2023 Yamaha YZ450F:
Building on the class-leading power delivery, suspension performance and usability of the previous model, the highly-anticipated new YZ450F raises the bar with more power, less weight, a slimmer design and improved handling in an even more usable package. Traditional strong points of broad, torquey power, plush suspension and predictable handling had to be enhanced, but with a distinctly rider-centric focus for the new model with a five-pound weight reduction, increased control and improved ergonomics. With Tomac achieving immense title success on the 2022 platform, many await with bated breath to see the level of the latest model with gates drop at Anaheim 1.

Top Team – Honda Racing:
Yarrive Konsky’s Honda Racing team has been a constant presence at the pinnacle of Australian domestic competition and 2022 was no exception. From a quarter-litre perspective in the pro ranks, the outfit was virtually untouchable with Wilson Todd dominating on his way to a third MX2 crown and Max Anstie achieving a near-perfect SX2 season to capture the title. In MX1, Dean Ferris won on multiple occasions throughout the year and was in the championship hunt right down the final moto, with Webster also taking the chequered flag first throughout the season. In AUSX, Brayton won the SX1 title for a record fifth-consecutive time with the organisation. Also, on the global stage, Konsky’s Honda Genuine Honda Racing won the pilot World Supercross Championship (WSX) with Ken Roczen.

Best Event – Motocross of Nations at RedBud:
After many key nations were forced to miss MXoN in recent years due to the pandemic, the bid for the coveted Chamberlain Trophy returned to normality, with many hungry nations vying for the coveted title. The atmosphere at RedBud was electric and racing didn’t disappoint, with plenty of anticipation surrounding the debut of Jett Lawrence on a 450. With Team USA victorious thanks to the efforts of Eli Tomac (MXGP), Justin Cooper (MX2) and Chase Sexton (Team Honda HRC), Team Australia returned to the podium and secured third place behind Team France, as Mitch Evans (MXGP), Hunter Lawrence (MX2) and Jett Lawrence (Open) did Team Australia proud. Jett Lawrence notably won the Open class in his CRF450R debut.

Image: Octopi Media.

Hottest Topic – WSX emerges:
The arrival of the SX Global-led World Supercross Championship (WSX) provided its share of both anticipation and challenges, with its two-round ‘pilot’ season taking place across Wales and Australia. It cannot be questioned that a group of the most high-profile athletes in the sport lined up in WSX, such as Tomac as a wildcard at round one, along with new 450 champion Roczen, Joey Savatgy (Rick Ware Racing), Dean Wilson (Honda Genuine Fire Power Honda Racing), Brayton (MotoConcepts Racing) and SX2 title-winner Shane McElrath (Rick Ware Racing) – to mention some – across both rounds, as did the legendary Chad Reed out of retirement before injury struck. However, the depth of competition didn’t rival that of AMA Supercross and we’re not sure if it will anytime soon. Still, let’s give it some time and see where things head over the next 24 months or so.

Greatest Disappointment – Daniel Sanders crashes out of Dakar:
After a near-perfect opening week to the Dakar Rally, GasGas Factory Racing’s Daniel ‘Chucky’ Sanders was looking promising for a top three finish in the brutal two-week event. The 27-year-old Australian had won two of the six stages in the Saudi Arabian desert and was sitting in third overall, just over five minutes behind the leader, but then disaster struck when he crashed into a freeway curb while en-route to the start of the seventh stage. The bizarre crash broke his elbow, cracked his ribs, and lacerated his kidney. It was a devastating way to go out while in such a strong position, but he’s ready to make amends in two weeks time when he lines up for the 2023 edition.

Most Surprising Moment – Dean Ferris back into retirement:
After previously retiring ahead of the 2021 season following spinal injury over two years ago, Dean Ferris returned for what was ultimately a single season at Honda Racing. Competing throughout 2022, the triple one showed he still has what it takes to challenge for championship glory at the highest level and won more MX1 races than any other rider in ProMX, and announced that his full-time racing career would come to a close following Coolum’s finals. That said, the three-time Australian MX1 champion surfaced earlier this month aboard a Yamaha amidst widespread speculation that he will make a shock return to the Penrite ProMX Championship in 2023.

Social Standout – CDR Yamaha Monster Energy Team:
With immaculate presentation, a great job behind the scenes and a mix of commercial features, CDR Yamaha Monster Energy excel in this category. From a social media perspective, its content is sharp and engaging, with its riders this year Luke Clout, Tanti and Josh Hill also team manager Craig Dack punctual and professional when portraying themselves to the media and engaging with various stakeholders at the track.

Special mention – A mix of winners:
Not forgotten, it’s difficult to draw a line in these awards and there are a number that we had to reference. Firstly, Jett Lawrence on his double championships in the US, Wil Ruprecht as EnduroGP champion, Lyndon Snodgrass for his success in GNCC and, on a local note, we couldn’t go past the exceptional performances of Yamalube Yamaha Racing’s Charli Cannon in ProMX, along with the spectacular late form of Matt Moss as the Prince of Paris and in AUSX to win two of the four SX1 main events, plus Kayden Minear’s titles across national MX3 and his Australian Junior Motocross Championship double. Of course, there are plenty more deserving champions who have been crowned in 2022 and what a year it’s been!