Features 12 Oct 2023

Q&A: What we learned from Adelaide

Further breaking down the weekend's first round of AUSX 2023.

The opening stop of the three-round 2023 Fox Australian Supercross Championship (AUSX) saw a return to tight, intense racing inside the Adelaide Entertainment Centre on Saturday night. In this Q&A edition, MotoOnline answers some of the key questions that arose from an eventful night of competition as the series fired into action.

Image: Foremost Media.

Q: There were mixed reviews of the small track and short races. Were the criticisms justified?

A: Most of the criticisms from Adelaide were from those watching from afar, via the televised or live-streamed coverage, with the common theme being that the track looked too small and basic, and the races were too short. The heat races (no more than three minutes long) and the LCQs (less than two minutes long) in particular were very short, which placed an even higher emphasis on good starts. While 22-to 23-second lap-times aren’t ideal, the Adelaide crowd who watched it live seemed to genuinely enjoy the spectacle from the comfort of an indoor venue. This year’s three-round series also features three different-sized venues (round two at Newcastle will be held at the McDonald Jones Stadium and round three at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium), so you could argue that the best all-round supercross riders will emerge at the top of the points after dealing with the varying track lengths and designs.

Q: Is Honda Racing on track for a clean-sweep of class championships?

A: It’s very possible, especially when you factor in we’re already a third of the way through the series, and the calibre of riders camped under the red awning. Defending champion Justin Brayton and round winner Dean Wilson looked very strong in SX1, while Max Anstie didn’t put a foot wrong all night on his way to starting his SX2 title defence in the best way possible. At the same time, Wilson Todd put in a composed, error-free performance on his way to third. In SX3, Parker Ross’s last-gasp pass for the win was one of the highlights of the night and will give him plenty of confidence heading into Newcastle, but Raceline Husqvarna Berry Sweet Racing’s Jack Mather was dominating the day until he crashed in the whoops and bent his bike up. While Mather is now 15 points down on the series lead, the unpredictability of supercross means it’s still anyone’s game.

Q: Who has the best chance of stopping Brayton’s SX1 reign?

A: If Adelaide is any indication, Wilson or Matt Moss (Empire Kawasaki) have stepped up as the two main contenders who could stop Brayton from grabbing title number six. Moss’s consistent knack of scoring holeshots were particularly impressive and if he can keep his elbows out and the Honda Racing riders behind him, he is a serious title threat. All three CDR Yamaha Monster Energy racers – Josh Hill, Aaron Tanti and Luke Clout – were competitive all night too, and have a good chance of playing spoiler to Brayton’s title defence when the tracks open up over the next two rounds.

Image: Foremost Media.

Q: Can you pinpoint the biggest revelations of the opening round?

A: Considering he’d only had limited time on his new Empire Kawasaki, Moss was at his fast, aggressive best in Adelaide, proving his form in last year’s championship was no fluke. WBR Yamaha’s US import Robbie Wageman was something of an unknown entering the series, but he proved he has championship-winning potential with a strong runner-up result in SX2. CDR Yamaha Monster Energy’s Hill was also impressive in a strong P4, especially as he’d just come from Tyler Bereman’s huge Red Bull Imagination freeride contest days beforehand. We’ve also got to give full credit to all the privateers to make the 10-rider final, as Queenslanders Luke Zielinski (Yamaha) and Jackson Richardson (Kawasaki) impressed with their P8 and P9 results in SX1, while Liam Atkinson finished the night with a remarkable sixth-place result in the SX2 class.

Q: Who would be the most disappointed after Adelaide?

A: You have to feel for Rhys Budd who did everything right early in the day. The Serco Yamaha rider edged red plate-holder Anstie for the SX2 fastest qualifying time, but finished third in his heat – less than half a second off a straight transfer to the final – and was sent to the LCQ. In that do-or-die race, Budd was shuffled wide by KTM privateer Atkinson in the final corner and missed out on making the final. Empire Kawasaki’s Haruki Yokoyama and Yamalube Yamaha Racing’s Kaleb Barham also missed the cut for the final after bad LCQ starts saw them faced with a near-impossible task of making their way through the field in just four laps.

Q: How was the CR22 85 Cup received?

A: The new Chad Reed-led initiative, the CR22 85 Cup, is designed to help foster the next generation of Australian supercross racers and the racing was well received by both the fans and the industry. The smaller, tighter track at Adelaide was a near-perfect introduction to expose these up-and-coming stars to supercross racing, and helped them come to terms with this special style of racing before the series heads to Newcastle and Melbourne. GasGas rider Jack Nunn was fast all night and claimed the win from Lachlan Allen (KTM) and Dejan Sankovic (KTM), while all eyes were on Levi Townley, the son of former world champion Ben Townley, who finished the final in eighth. There’s also plenty of anticipation to see Reed’s son, Tate, in Newcastle next month.