Features 25 May 2023

Top 10: Topics to follow in ProMX

Key points to be aware of at the halfway point of the 2023 season.

The opening half of the 2023 Penrite ProMX Championship has delivered its share of interesting storylines unfolding. As the series heads towards this weekend’s fifth round at Gillman, MotoOnline takes a closer look at the Top 10 topics to follow.

Image: Foremost Media.

1. Ferris’ momentum:
Brisbane Motorcycles Yamaha’s Dean Ferris is in sensational form as the second half of the season approaches. Despite retiring from racing twice, the three-time champion is arguably in some of the best form of his life. The points leader has won five of the seven motos that have been run so far, and his pace at Maitland particularly was on another level. He swept all three MX1 races on a perfect weekend, and two of his victories were by a margin of at least 12 seconds. Ferris also wrapped up the Queensland MX Championships at Coolum last weekend, and with this much momentum, the triple one could be difficult to stop.

2. Beaton in the hunt:
Having returned to Australia to regain that winning feeling and rekindle his international career, Boost Mobile Honda Racing’s Jed Beaton’s ProMX campaign hasn’t been as smooth as he would’ve liked. Throughout the scorching heat of Appin and the muddy conditions at Wodonga, Beaton remained steady, and was rewarded with the red plate in the process. A tough day at Maitland saw him toppled from the top spot as he circulated to an 8-4-4 result – his first non-podium performance of the season – and he now enters the second half of the series nine points behind an in-form Ferris. With rain and showers in the forecast leading up to this weekend’s Gillman round, expect Beaton to be right in the mix if weather and track conditions deteriorate.

3. The CDR Yamaha Monster Energy counter-attack:
After a relatively slow start for CDR Yamaha Monster Energy’s star pairing of Aaron Tanti and Luke Clout, both are clawing their way back into contention after a strong fourth round at Maitland. For the defending champion Tanti, he successfully retained his red plate at Appin with the overall victory, but struggled in the mud in Wodonga, finishing with a DNF-7 result. After a solid bounce-back with a consistent third overall at Maitland, Tanti has leapt back into contention and is now third in the points. Meanwhile, Clout also seems to have put a rough start to the series behind him. Early-moto crashes and struggling with the Wodonga mud saw him enter Maitland in eighth overall, but a confidence-inspiring trio of P2 results there has elevated him to fifth overall, and just five points shy of a podium spot. Both Tanti and Clout won’t be happy with anything other than wins, and if they stay on their current trajectory, they should cash in during the second half of the championship.

4. The old guard isn’t done yet:
Despite the new generation threatening to take over, the experienced racers of Ferris, Kirk Gibbs (KTM Racing Team), Todd Waters (Raceline Husqvarna Berry Sweet Racing) and Brett Metcalfe (GO24 Racing) continue to hold their own. Wodonga’s championship shake-up saw Gibbs and Waters sitting second and third in the points after showing their experience and prowess with racing in nasty conditions. Gibbs still sits third-equal (fourth on countback) in the standings, while Waters frustratingly finished outside of the points in the first race at Maitland after a track banner got sucked into his rear wheel. He’s now dropped to seventh as a result. As for Metcalfe, he put in an inspired performance at his home round at Gillman last year, on his way to a moto win and second overall. He’ll be very eager to replicate that showing this weekend, and rack up some handy points in the process.

5. Weather extremes and track preparation:
A hot topic over the opening half of the season was the quality of the track preparations in the lead-up to the early rounds, particularly in the face of the extreme weather the host clubs faced. At Appin, the club over-watered the circuit early to get enough moisture into it to cope with the 39-degree heat, but that resulted in extremely muddy qualifying sessions and opening motos for each class. At Wodonga, the club ripped the track before 32mm of rain fell, turning it into one of the most challenging rounds in recent history that resulted in numerous bike failures. The more normal autumn weather at Maitland saw the circuit hold up well, although an early afternoon thunderstorm turned the hard-packed track into a slippery affair for the second MX3 and MX2 motos. Track prep will continue to come under scrutiny over the second half of the championship, but we know the ProMX management team has policies in place, and works closely with the clubs to achieve the best result possible for all parties.

Image: Foremost Media.

6. Crawford’s search for consistency:
As far as raw speed goes, KTM Racing Team’s Nathan Crawford has arguably been the pick of the MX2 class, but he’s been dealt all manners of setbacks so far. After a race disqualification at Wonthaggi, Crawford responded in the best possible way at Appin, with an emphatic 1-1 performance. Drama struck again at Wodonga when a mechanical issue ruled him out of the first race, but he rebounded to take a convincing and crucial moto two victory. At Maitland, Crawford came through the pack to take a comfortable 13-second win in the opening race, but a spill early in the second moto saw him having to scramble his way back to a P5 result. With three of the four remaining rounds in his home state of Queensland, Crawford will be confident he can continue to win races, but it’s crucial he eliminates those bad motos.

7. Todd in control of the MX2 class:
Terrafirma Honda Racing’s Wilson Todd has been the master of consistency in the opening half of the MX2 championship, seemingly content to lose battles as long as he wins the war. He might’ve only won one race so far – the opening hit-out at the shortened Wonthaggi round – but his ability to stay calm and collect the points on offer has earnt him a 27-point buffer over his second-placed team-mate, Brodie Connolly. Todd entered the series after a bruising 250SX stint in the US and was not operating at 100 percent fitness across the first two rounds, but he’s still the only rider to have featured on every round podium to date. Meanwhile, Connolly impressed many with his early speed at Appin, then with his mud-racing prowess at Wodonga, but he battled tonsilitis at Maitland and had to settle for a disappointing 10th overall, allowing Todd to build a comfortable lead.

8: A potential turning point for Serco Yamaha:
After a bumpy start to the championship, Serco Yamaha seemed to turn a real corner at Maitland, as Rhys Budd broke through for his first-ever MX2 round win after a consistent 3-2 performance, while his team-mate, Jesse Dobson, took his first ever moto win in moto two to finish the day fourth overall. The confidence that both racers will have taken from that weekend can’t be underestimated, and they’ll both be entering Gillman with a different mindset, they now both know they’re capable of winning, and that could set them up well for a strong second half of the championship. If all the contenders stay healthy, it’ll be a tough ask for either rider to win the championship (Budd is 39 points behind Todd, and Dobson 50 points), but they can certainly make a real push for the MX2 series podium.

9. Duffy continues to rebuild:
The fact that GasGas Racing Team’s Regan Duffy is even on the startline after his horrific crash in 2021 is a miracle, and it’s been inspiring to see him continue to build himself back up over the opening rounds. It’s been a difficult road, with the Western Australian admitting he’s ‘battling demons’ in his return, but he still managed to finish a solid eighth overall at the challenging Wodonga round. Duffy struggled to 16th overall at Maitland – a circuit he’s never gelled with – and expressed frustration at his results. Renowned for his sand-riding ability, Duffy will welcome a return to a softer surface this weekend at Gillman, as he continues to ride his way back into form.

10. Opportunities for other contenders:
Both the MX1 and MX2 classes have plenty of depth and there are several racers who could easily find their way into the winner’s circle between now and the finale at Coolum. In the MX1 class, Boost Mobile Honda Racing’s Kyle Webster has speed and talent in spades, but has endured a tough start to the series, culminating with a DNS at Maitland’s final moto after a rock tore a hole in his arm. Meanwhile, CML Davey Motorsports KTM’s Hamish Harwood has been a regular near the front of the field, and holds a handy sixth place in the points’ standings. In the MX2 field, GasGas Racing Team’s Noah Ferguson has podiums to his name in past seasons and most of the field will keep a wary eye on him as the championship progresses. KTM Racing Team’s talented young rookie, Kayden Minear, has impressed many with his speed. The 2022 MX3 champion has already featured on the MX2 podium at Wodonga, and should continue to gain confidence and pace as each round passes.