Features 12 Apr 2023

Countdown: Early ProMX trends

What's emerging in the opening rounds of the 2023 championship.

Following the first two rounds of the 2023 Penrite ProMX Championship, MotoOnline looks at eight storylines of interest in this Countdown feature as the series moves to Wodonga for its next motos this Sunday.

Image: Foremost Media.

8. Capable MX1 contenders ready to strike:
The MX1 field is stacked full of talent in 2023, with emerging young talent rising to meet seasoned, proven champions. As a result, there is a number of highly-capable premier class contenders ready to strike. Former champion Kirk Gibbs (KTM Racing Team) was second in the opening moto at Appin and is currently fourth in the points. He also showed solid form at the recent Sunshine State MX Series to finish P2 overall and fought for race victories against a selection of top national MX1 racers in attendance. After an injury-plagued 2022 season, 2021 MX1 champion Luke Clout (CDR Yamaha Monster Energy) is fifth in the MX1 standings, notably fastest in the initial qualifying at Wonthaggi. Clout is proven fast on a variety of surfaces and it is expected he will build and progress as the season unfolds, still very much in contention after the opening two motos of the season. P6 overall at Appin was a ‘good starting point’ for Todd Waters and the newly-formed Raceline Husqvarna Berry Sweet Racing team, as the former national champion admitted he is still in the process of building onboard the 2023 Husqvarna FC 450. Third in last year’s ProMX Championship, Waters was later injured while representing Team Australia during the International Six Days Enduro (ISDE) in France, which forced him to the sidelines while he recovered and limited his preparations ahead of the 2023 Penrite ProMX Championship. Showing lighting-fast speed last year as he stepped to MX1, Kyle Webster proved he could run at the front of MX1 before and after the injuries he sustained in the build-up to round three that ruled him out of title contention. An eventful outing at Appin marked a troubled round two of 2023 ProMX for the Boost Mobile Honda Racing rider, where he rejoined moto one from the back of the field following an opening corner crash and was able to reach 10th. Part one of moto two saw the number 96 hold P4 for the majority of the outing, ultimately taking the chequered flag in that position, before he recovered to P7 in part two of the encounter after his holeshot device disengaged early. In short, his potential is far greater than the seventh overall he achieved at Appin. Also, Brett Metcalfe can never be counted out and competing in his Penrite Go24 outfit, he is currently ninth in the standings onboard the KTM 450 SX-F. The experienced longtime international has shown year in, year out, he can be ready to fight for victory on his day and will be sure to elevate up the standings as the year unfolds.

7. Duffy building in comeback:
Determined Western Australian Regan Duffy has overcome numerous setbacks since sustaining life-threatening injuries in October 2021, including a broken thumb during this pre-season which kept him largely off the bike. With Appin marking the first gate-drop in his comeback, Duffy qualified 16th in the heavily-watered conditions and finished 24th in the opening moto. The two-part second race saw him 18th in the first half, and then 19th in the second, positioning him 20th overall. Despite a challenging return in which he entered with a couple of niggling injuries after a crash on his cycle bike in the week leading up, the likeable GasGas Racing Team rider was upbeat following the challenging return and is excited to build as the season progresses.

6. Moss in the mix to shake things up: 
After planning to only contest supercross events in 2023, Matt Moss was confirmed as the replacement at WBR Yamaha for the injured Bailey Malkiewicz. He contested a variety of supercross races in recent months and achieved success with manufacturers and capacities, but it meant he had very limited motocross preparation time onboard the YZ450F ahead of Appin. Yet, the number 102 ran second throughout the opening laps of the opening MX1 moto at the venue, later taking the chequered flag P7 in the scorching conditions. Since Appin, Moss has confirmed that he will race in the premier class of the World Supercross Championship (WSX) with MDK Motorsports. However, that championship is not set to commence until July, with Moss declaring his intentions to compete in the next two rounds of ProMX. Since Appin, he has also ventured back to the US to compete in 250SX West once more with BarX Suzuki at Glendale, and it can be certain that when he is behind the gate he will certainly throw a spanner in the works amidst the season-long ProMX regulars.

5. Promise there for Beaton on return:
A podium result highlighted Jed Beaton’s first ProMX Championship gate-drop since returning from MXGP and the Boost Mobile Honda Racing rider landed third overall at Appin. Prior to the opening round at Wonthaggi being cancelled, 25-year-old Beaton marked his arrival back on the national stage by qualifying fastest in the MX1 top 10 shootout. Two weeks later at the second round on Sunday, Beaton narrowly missed out on first gate-pick and was just 0.250s from top qualifier Dean Ferris (Brisbane Motorcycles Yamaha). Completing lap one of the opening moto in P9, he charged up to fourth at the New South Wales venue and ultimately missed out on a podium position by 1.919s. A third and then a second in the two-part second moto saw the number 14 classified P2 in the final moto once the Olympic scores were tallied, concluding the round just five points from overall winner and red-plate holder Tanti (CDR Yamaha Monster Energy). Beaton sits third in the MX1 standings with 40 points behind Tanti and Ferris, who are level on 45, and the promise there is evident for the number 14 in his return to domestic competition.

Image: Foremost Media.

4. Early advantage for Todd in MX2:
Setting out for a fourth-career Australian MX2 title, reigning champion Todd holds an early advantage in this year’s title-race following the opening three motos of the season. Despite holding the red plate, it’s been a bruising start to the year for the North-Queensland-based rider, commencing 2023 competing in 250SX West with Fire Power Honda Racing, but unfortunately sustained severe whiplash when he was brought down in the whoops at Anaheim 1. He was also involved in a first-turn pile-up during San Diego’s main before returning to Australia ahead of the opening round of the 2023 ProMX Championship at Wonthaggi, where heavy contact with Crawford in moto one brought him down hard. Todd later revealed he battled a broken rib, yet was still able to remount and win the first moto of the season. Not at 100 percent come Appin, Todd managed 2-2 scores for second overall at round two, looking to get healed up and spend some more time on the bike in preparation for round three at Wodonga. His current advantage is 17 points ahead of teammate Brodie Connolly, who has shown promising form in his switch to Honda Racing this year and has established himself as a front-running contender in the initial stages of the 2023 MX2 championship. Notably, Conolly was one of many national MX2 front-runners who lined up at the recent Sunshine State MX Series round in Toowoomba, and was victorious in class on the day.

3. Crawford with a point to prove:
It has been a mixed start to the national motocross season for KTM Racing Team’s Crawford in 2023, but one thing that has been strikingly clear is his speed and tenacity to win. Ruled out of the championship contention last year after breaking his leg in the pre-season, Crawford returned at round six at delivered convincing form to take the final two overall victories of the season at Queensland Moto Park and Coolum. Determined to translate that promise into championship contention this year, he delivered a spirited charge in moto one at Wonthaggi to claw his way forward, eventually catching and passing reigning champion Wilson Todd (Terrafirma Honda Racing) in the restarted outing.. Todd was able to respond then Crawford later collided with the Honda rider which brought both, plus a lapped rider down. Crawford remounted and crossed the line second, behind emerging title-rival Todd. However, the 250 SX-F rider received backlash after the race on social media regarding that incident, as well as track limit infringements and also for seemingly returning to the KTM Racing Team pit during the race’s stoppage. He was later disqualified from the season-opening bout, stripped of all points awarded as a result of his ‘racing conduct’. The outcome meant Crawford entered Appin 25 points down on Todd, and he rode at round two with a point to prove, answering the criticism from round one with a convincing display on track that saw him dominate both motos. The latest results elevate him to third in the title-race, reducing the deficit to Todd to 19 points.

2. Ferris looking dangerous onboard Yamaha:
Surfacing from retirement for the second time, the form of Dean Ferris onboard the all-new 2023 Yamaha YZ450F has spelled a dangerous warning for his competitors. Ferris delivered strong pre-season pace with the Brisbane Motorcycles Yamaha team, later emerging on top of the MX1 qualifying shootout at Appin. With no MX1 motos contested at Wonthaggi before the event’s cancellation, Ferris took a maximum 25 points from the first premier class moto of the season at round two, storming to a commanding 33.331s victory ahead of former champion Gibbs. Costly mistakes while leading in part one of moto two at Appin saw Ferris fall down and outside of the top 10, later charging through the field to recover to P5. He finished the day with a controlled victory in part two of race two, landing him third for the moto when the Olympic-style scoring was factored in and second overall, equal points with red plate-holder Tanti with 1-3 scores. Despite Ferris’ mistake limiting what was a commanding round two for the triple one, his sheer pace at Appin certainly turned heads and will have his rivals determined to respond during round three at Wodonga where he shares the lead going in.

1. Champion’s composure for Tanti:
Even though he entered the 2023 season as the defending MX1 champion, it’s fair to say many hadn’t tipped Tanti as the one to emerge as the early series leader. While Ferris was the outright fastest rider throughout much of the Appin round, Tanti maintained his composure and still delivered solid speed of his own to secure the results when it counted to retain the red plate. With one title-winning campaign already under his belt, Tanti will be sure to draw confidence from that and his experienced, familiar CDR Yamaha Monster Energy surrounds as he looks to piece together an assault on MX1 crown number two. So far, so good, for the Queensland-based rider who notched 3-1 scores at the New South Wales venue to open his account with an overall win and recently he was victorious at the Sunshine State MX Series round against a selection of top national MX1 rivals including Ferris, Gibbs, Webster, Waters and teammate Clout.