Unpacking the key rider and team signings leading into season 2023.
With a number of top-level domestic contenders, returning internationals and emerging talent on the rise, the 2023 Penrite ProMX Championship is shaping up to be hugely-competitive across all the major categories. In our latest Q&A feature, we unpack some of the most topical points in the rider market as the season-opening motos at Wonthaggi fast approach.
Q: Will there be any major absentees from this year’s series?
A: While there is a wide range of capable riders in the ProMX paddock this year, there are some notable absentees. The resurgent Matt Moss has indicated that he will not compete in motocross for 2023, the former multi-time national champion switching his focus to supercross after achieving success in the discipline at home and abroad last year. Previous MX2 round winner Dylan Wills – now part of MotoOnline full-time – will not take to the gate throughout motocross this season, notably standing on the podium in his maiden SX1 campaign last year at the Newcastle round after his quarter-litre motocross season was brought to a premature end with a shoulder injury. While the length of his time on the sidelines has not been specified, Bailey Malkiewicz has confirmed he will miss at least the opening round at Wonthaggi after failing to fully recover from foot and leg injuries sustained at Marvel Stadium last year. He was set for a 450 debut amidst a return to the WBR Bulk Nutrients Yamaha team, where a replacement has not been announced yet, nor the future of last year’s WBR MX2 rider Levi Rogers. Another absent from the series will be Jayden Rykers. The Western Australian was not in a position to be able to commit to adequately training and preparing for the complete series this year, but has not ruled out part-time appearances throughout the season.
Q: With a highly competitive field in MX2, who has changed teams for 2023?
A: The 2023 MX2 title chase is shaping up to be stacked this year, with Honda Racing’s Wilson Todd to defend his title in red. But who has changed teams? MX3 champion Kayden Minear will step up from the KTM Junior Racing Team to the KTM Racing Team and partner outfit regular Nathan Crawford in MX2. Last year’s runner-up Rhys Budd has transferred from Yamalube Yamaha Racing to join Jesse Dobson at Serco Yamaha, while Jayce Cosford will move into the Yamalube outfit full-time next year alongside the returning Alex Larwood. Filling in for the injured Blake Fox in the final rounds of last year’s ProMX and the Australian Supercross Championship, Noah Ferguson is set to contest a complete campaign with the GasGas Racing Team, while it is highly expected that Fox will switch to Husqvarna’s new-look factory-backed effort. New Zealand’s Brodie Connolly caught the eye of Honda Racing team owner Yarrive Konsky at last year’s Motocross of Nations (MXoN) and he will partner Todd in the championship-winning outfit on a CRF250R.
Q: Who is returning from overseas to compete in ProMX?
A: A big one here is Jed Beaton, who makes a homecoming in 2023 with Honda Racing following an extended stint in the MXGP World Championship paddock. After spending four years in the MX2 category and scoring multiple podiums alongside a moto win, Beaton aged out of the category and graduated to MXGP last season with F&H Kawasaki. A strong start to the year saw the 24-year-old finish P6 at Matterley Basin, however, a shoulder injury sustained at Mantova plagued much of his 2022 campaign. The former MX2 national champion now eyes national MX1 success in Australia and has labelled the transition ‘easy’ so far with Honda Racing. Competing in the opening two rounds of 250SX West with Fire Power Honda in the US, reigning national champion Todd will return home in search of a fourth title national in the MX2 ranks. It is expected he will juggle his Australian MX2 commitments with racing Supercross internationally. After a stint in the Women’s Motocross World Championship where she finished inside the top 10 overall for three consecutive years, Tahlia O’Hare will return to domestic competition and compete for the national MXW crown with Honda Racing.
Q: Is Empire Kawasaki focusing on the 250 classes this season?
A: Empire Kawasaki will again be present in the 2023 Penrite ProMX paddock, however, will drop its MX1 effort with the focus on MX2. Team regulars Jai Constantinou and the fast-starting, Japanese talent Haruki Yokoyama will spearhead Kawasaki’s 250 class assault domestically, with the KX250 riders looking to build on the podium finishes notched throughout last season. In addition, the Victorian team has recruited Cambell Williams for MX3 and Taylah McCutcheon, both who have transferred across from Honda.
Q: Can you explain the shift in Husqvarna Racing Team’s management this year?
A: Husqvarna will outsource its official motocross and supercross efforts from 2023, with former MX1 champion Todd Waters to manage the brand’s new-look team through Raceline Performance. A staple in the sport at a national level, Raceline Performance led KTM’s official team through 2019 and 2020 – also operating as the official MXD program before that – with an illustrious background under the ownership of John Tisdale. Last year Waters became a joint owner of Raceline Performance – also a Gold Coast-based WP Suspension dealership – and set the wheels in motion for the new team partnership with Husqvarna Motorcycles Australia. Waters was set to manage Husqvarna’s motocross effort in 2020, himself riding in MX1 with Regan Duffy at the helm in MX2 to form the Berry Sweet Husqvarna team, before the MX Nationals were cancelled altogether that season due to the pandemic. Husky then reverted to in-house management for its factory operations across the last two seasons. Now in charge once more of managing Husqvarna’s factory motocross and supercross effort, Waters will continue to compete in MX1. While it has not been announced, it is expected that Fox will be the MX2 rider for the outfit.
Q: Dean Ferris, out of retirement! How did that come about and what will his infrastructure look like?
A: Arguably the most out of the ordinary revelation during the ProMX off-season was the shock return of three-time Australian MX1 champion Dean Ferris, following retirement for a second time in his career. Ferris surfaced late last year aboard a Yamaha amid widespread speculation that he would make a return to national competition and has since officially confirmed he will return to ProMX in 2023 aboard Yamaha’s new generation YZ450F in partnership with Brisbane Motorcycles. His structure for 2023 is a high contrast to the factory Honda organisation of Yarrive Konsky that he was part of last season, effectively enabling him to line-up with his preferred products and a range of personal partnerships. Refreshed and having a tailored program to suit both his and his family’s needs, it would not be surprising to see Ferris in the title frame once more come Coolum’s final round this year.
Q: What’s happening with Regan Duffy and his return?
A: Likeable Western Australian Reegan Duffy is set to make his return to national competition with the GasGas Racing Team. In 2021 as a rookie in the premier class with KTM, Duffy stunned onlookers by claiming the opening-round victory at Wonthaggi and finished the shortened season in a close-fought second-place result overall. Duffy’s career was placed on hold after sustaining life-threatening injuries in a state-based motocross event in October 2021, forcing him out of the 2022 season altogether while he prepared in the background with the goal of coming back in 2023. Making a welcome return to MX1 class for the upcoming campaign, Duffy arrives in place of Hayden Mellross, whose future is still up in the air.
Q: Who is staying put in MX1 this year that is not mentioned above?
A: While there are some changes in the rider market, there are key contenders staying put for season 2023. CDR Yamaha Monster Energy’s Aaron Tanti will defend his title in blue, with former champion Luke Clout to return to action with the outfit. In the KTM Racing Team camp, Kirk Gibbs will compete once more on the 450 SX-F, while it is expected that Brett Metcalfe will remain KTM-mounted with his own GO24 team. Another premier-class race-winner that is staying put is Kyle Webster, with the talented number 96 once again part of what is a formidable Honda Racing line-up.