Features 9 Nov 2023

Countdown: Early AUSX trends

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

With one round complete of the 2023 Fox Australian Supercross Championship (AUSX), MotoOnline looks at eight storylines of interest in this Countdown feature as the series moves to Newcastle for its next races this Saturday night.

Image: Foremost Media.

8. Added importance for Newcastle round:
With just three rounds in this year’s AUSX championship, there is absolutely no room to drop any unnecessary points for those who wish to bid for a title in their respective classes. That said, there will be five points-scoring races in the 2023 season, thanks to the Triple Crown format used this Saturday that awards full points for each of the three finals, as opposed to the Olympic-style scoring used at the McDonald Jones Stadium event last year that calculated championship points based on overall position for the night. What that means is that points-wise, Newcastle is the most critical round of the series, and with more to gain on one single night than in the other rounds of the championship altogether, its added importance cannot be understated.

7. Fast, clean starts are key:
The short, sharp confines of the Adelaide Entertainment Centre underlined the importance of fast, clean starts, with the riders able to achieve such setting themselves up for success. While McDonald Jones Stadium will enable a faster, less restrictive layout, quick launches and strong first turns will still be important considering the format, plus the sheer depth of the fields. The shorter duration races used in the Triple Crown will leave less time to recover from deep in the pack, and staying clear of drama or major incidents in the early stages will be crucial, especially with so many points to either gain or lose on the night.

6. Highly-capable Australians looking for more:
There are certainly some highly-capable Australian riders who will be looking to improve their position at Newcastle, with proven race winner Luke Clout (CDR Yamaha Monster Energy) fifth inside the Adelaide Entertainment Centre. With four points-scoring races left in the season, Clout is still in the game, but will be eager for a strong showing on Saturday to claw his way forward onboard the YZ450F. Likewise, Kyle Webster (Boost Mobile Honda Racing) will want to improve from P7, the CRF450R rider impacted by at opening lap crash at round one. In SX2, third was a solid start for multi-time MX2 champion Wilson Todd (Terrafirma Honda Racing), but he won’t want to let the gap slip much more to experienced supercross teammate Max Anstie. Fastest qualifying honours went to Rhys Budd at round one, but unfortunately, the Serco Yamaha rider failed to qualify for the SX2 main event in Adelaide. Budd won a final last year in Newcastle, and you can be sure he’s out for redemption this year at McDonald Jones Stadium.

5. Rider attrition becoming a factor:
With just one round complete in the 2023 AUSX championship, rider attrition has already become a factor, particularly in the SX1 category. Before the season started, Dylan Wills (Boom Racing Fox Husqvarna) and Brett Metcalfe (GO24) were forced to the sidelines with injury. Metcalfe will miss the entire AUSX campaign, while Wills has undergone surgery on a broken collarbone and is set to return at Newcastle. Meanwhile, a broken wrist sustained in the build-up to McDonald Jones Stadium has sidelined WBR Yamaha’s Bailey Malkiewicz from the remainder of the series, plus CDR Yamaha Monster Energy’s Aaron Tanti has had his SX1 title hopes dashed after he sustained broken ribs among other injuries last Saturday in the Abu Dhabi WSX GP. In the SX2 category, a notable absentee will be Empire Kawasaki’s Haruki Yokoyama, the Japanese talent returning home for shoulder surgery.

Image: Foremost Media.

4. US-based riders in the mix:
While it wasn’t a dominant start to Justin Brayton’s (Boost Mobile Honda Racing) bid for a sixth-consecutive SX1 title, the experienced American was able to surface from Adelaide with a solid P2 to his credit, and is just three points back from red plate-holder Dean Wilson (Froth Honda Racing). Brayton has shown time and time again the ability to manage championship-winning campaigns, and while he was forced out World Supercross Championship (WSX) round two at Abu Dhabi last Saturday prematurely, he has been cleared of any major injury following that opening final crash with Tanti. CDR Yamaha Monster Energy’s Josh Hill remains in contention with a P4 finish to open the season, while in SX2, WBR Yamaha’s Robbie Wageman was an impressive runner-up on debut. A mention also to Canadian Cole Thompson (Serco Yamaha), last year’s SX2 runner-up fourth in Adelaide but eager to return to the podium at Newcastle.

3. Promise there for Moss in early Empire outing:
If there is a rider who embodies versatility, it’s multi-time Australian champion Matt Moss. Moss has switched between 250F and 450, plus Kawasaki and Yamaha platforms throughout the last two years, achieving success onboard each manufacturer. For Australian Supercross he signed with Empire Kawasaki, and showed promising form onboard the KX450, leading the early stages of what was his first main event with the team in Adelaide. Moss really built momentum as the season progressed last year, coming within just a single point of the SX1 title. Leaving Adelaide in a solid P3, he will be one to watch at Newcastle, and if past form is an indicator, he should have no trouble adapting back to the Kawasaki after qualifying on pole last weekend at Abu Dhabi onboard the ClubMX YZ450F.

2. SX2 champion Anstie looking dangerous:
Defending SX2 champion Anstie made his intentions clear at Adelaide, taking a commanding wire-to-wire victory to open his title defence. Anstie’s ability to execute was on display at round one, and he enters Newcastle in dangerous form after winning the WSX round last weekend in SX2 at Yas Island. If Boost Mobile Honda Racing’s Anstie can keep his nose clean at round two, he will have to opportunity to be crowned both world and Australian SX2 champion at Marvel Stadium.

1. A refreshed and ultra-fast Wilson:
The general feeling surrounding Froth Honda Racing’s Wilson is that he is refreshed and revitalised, with some going as far as to say it was ‘the old Wilson’ on display at Adelaide. Marking the best possible start to his first full AUSX campaign, the number 15 won the first main event of the season in South Australia, delivering a calculated move on Moss to take control of the lead, and from there not looking back on his way to victory. The achievement marked Wilson’s first win in recent years and puts him in the box seat with momentum entering Newcastle’s Triple Crown this Saturday.