Features 23 Mar 2023

Q&A: What we learned from Appin

Further breaking down the weekend's round of ProMX 2023.

After the 2023 Penrite ProMX Championship opener was unfortunately cut short at round one, the series recommenced in its return to Appin 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: Is the MX1 class as stacked as we expected?

A: Yes, and probably even more-so. Every season we say the premier class is brimming with potential winners, but with Boost Mobile Honda Racing’s Jed Beaton returning home after years racing the MXGP series, Brisbane Motorcycles Yamaha’s Dean Ferris deciding he wasn’t ready for retirement after all, and Regan Duffy (GasGas Racing Team) completing his fairytale return to racing, the talent runs as deep as it ever has this year. Then of course you’ve got CDR Yamaha Monster Energy pairing of Luke Clout and defending champion Aaron Tanti, who will be difficult to stop, and Boost Mobile Honda Racing’s Kyle Webster ready to take scalps in MX1. On top of that, Kirk Gibbs (KTM Racing Team) looked strong at Appin, Todd Waters (Raceline Husqvarna Berry Sweet Racing) will only get faster as he continues healing from his shoulder injury, and Brett Metcalfe (GO24 KTM) can’t ever be discounted for wins. We have a real who’s who of top-level competition in 2023.

Q: How much of a factor was the scorching heat at Appin?

A: It certainly played a big role, especially at the end of the day during the MX1 back-to-back races when the mercury was nudging 40 degrees. During the 10-minute ‘rest’ between those sprint races, the racers had to do whatever they could to get their heart rates and body temperatures down before recommencing battle. The heatwave also placed the Macarthur Motorcycle Club in the difficult position of having to absolutely drench the track early in the day to try and get as much moisture as possible into the hardpack circuit. That meant the MX2, the YZ65 Cup and first group of MX3 riders struggled with ultra-muddy conditions during their practice and qualifying sessions. Even with the over-watering, the track still baked in the afternoon and there were certainly dusty sections.

Q: Aaron Tanti and Dean Ferris tied on points at the end of the day, with Tanti winning on count-back. Who was actually faster?

A: For the most part Ferris was on another level above the rest of the MX1 field all day. He snatched the fastest qualifying time from Beaton in the Shootout, ripped three perfect starts and comfortably won two of the three races – the first by around 33 seconds over second-placed  Gibbs. The only weak moment was early in the first of the back-to-back sprint races when he crashed awkwardly and had to charge through the pack from 13th to fifth. At the same time, Tanti was exceptionally solid all day, he made sure he was always in the right place to capitalise on errors, had great starts and put in a mature ride that ensured he got the job done and left Appin with the red plate still attached to the front of his Yamaha. Put simply, it was a champion-type performance in tough conditions.

Q: What will become of the rivalry between Wilson Todd and Nathan Crawford?

A: After Wonthaggi, Terrafirma Honda Racing’s MX2 leader Wilson Todd was quite outspoken against KTM Racing Team’s Nathan Crawford for some of his on-track actions. Crawford has never directly responded in kind, but definitely made a statement on the track at Appin, with two convincing moto wins – the second one beginning with a storming ride through the pack. Todd, who’s currently managing a broken rib after Wonthaggi, was content to play the championship long game with two P2 results and extended his championship points lead over teammate Brodie Connolly. Crawford’s sweep has seen him jump from the bottom of the MX2 table into third, and if that trajectory continues, we could see a real battle brew between himself and Todd as the ProMX championship further unfolds.

Image: Foremost Media.

Q: Who would be most disappointed with their performance?

A: In MX1, Webster endured a tough day on his way to seventh overall. A first-turn crash in moto one saw him come from the rear of the pack to 10th then he finished 4-7 in the back-to-back races. Metcalfe would’ve been hoping to finish further up the round points than eighth overall, while Duffy, who simply wanted to get through the round incident-free and was carrying some fresh injuries from a bicycle crash, will now look to build on his P20 overall result at the next round. In the MX2 class, Serco Yamaha’s Jesse Dobson came into Appin sitting second in the points after a promising start at Wonthaggi, but bad starts had him trying to claw his way through the pack all day at Appin. There’s no doubt his speed was there, as he muscled his way from outside the top 10 to P6 in the opening moto, then from 23rd to 11th in the second race, which saw him finish the day seventh overall. Elsewhere in the MX2 class, Kiwi legend Cody Cooper (Empire Kawasaki) struggled in the oppressive heat to a 14-18 scorecard, while WBR Yamaha’s Ryder Kingsford won’t be satisfied with his 14th overall performance.

Q: Luke Clout finished fifth. Surely he won’t be happy with that?

A: On paper, the overall result of CDR Yamaha Monster Energy’s 2021 champion does seem a little disappointing, but a lot of that undoing was due to a first-turn crash when he and Webster went down. Clout put in a good charge to finish P9 in that race, then he finished runner-up to his team-mate Tanti in the first of the back-to-back races, before a fourth-place finish in the second. There won’t be any alarm bells ringing and he showed plenty of pace, he should be right in contention for this title as the series progresses.

Q: Who exceeded expectations, then?

A: Ferris is the clear stand-out here, but at the same time, Matt Moss was relatively impressive aboard his temporary WBR Yamaha ride. Considering he’s spent practically all his time focusing on supercross since August last year, he put in a great ride in the opening MX1 moto. He hung onto second place for the first five laps before giving up some positions to finish seventh. A crash in the first of the back-to-back races jarred his wrist and he then opted to call it a day. We expect him to remain with the WBR team for Wodonga and Maitland, and with more time getting the bike – including Ohlins suspension – and himself dialled into the outdoors, he could be a real dark horse over these upcoming rounds. In MX2, Polyflor Honda Racing’s Connolly has shown that his race-craft and pace have come in leaps and bounds since he contested the first two rounds last year, backing up his P5 result at Wonthaggi with his first Australian podium result in the Appin heat.