2023 has been a crazy year. Both in MXGP and in America. For the first time ever, we have seen two brothers win both of the Monster Energy Supercross 250 championships. We could possibly see the third rider ever in the AMA Motocross championship go undefeated. Rookies coming in strong on both sides of the pond. Battles throughout the field. Privateers and satellite teams shining. But, the real story here is all the title contenders and favorites going out. Lets take a little dive at what this year has provided for the title contenders this year.
Let us take you all the way back to February of this year. At an Italian International Championship race at the beautiful Arco Di Trentino track, the 5 time and reigning MXGP champ and certain title contender Tim Gajser had a massive crash. By now, if you are reading this, you have seen the video of “TIGA’s” massive crash at the base of the Dolomites. The HRC Honda rider ended up leaving the race with a broken femur, which knocked Tim out of the MXGP Championship before it even started.
That was just the start to the year. At the very first round of the MXGP, in the qualifying race, Monster Energy Yamaha’s Jeremy Seewer also had a wild crash. Although it didn’t actually knock the Swiss rider out of the round, or the championship, it was just the start to the weekend that put him down in points. A few bad rounds after that and now Seewer is already over 130 points down on Jorge Prado.
But wait, there’s more. Kawasaki Race Team’s Romain Febvre had a gnarly crash in the RAM qualifying race first turn. The Frenchman got knocked out and missed the entire round. Speaking of the French, Monster Energy Yamaha’s Maxime Renaux also sustained a broken foot midway through the same race, which we have yet to see him return from.
Now, the biggest star in MXGP and the one most people were expecting to win the title has gone out. Red Bull KTM’s Jeffrey Herlings just started to make a push towards the championship after having to take a year off, and having a slow (for him) start to the year. “The Bullet” started the year off just getting his feet wet and scoring good points. Quickly, he found his way to the top step of the podium and started rattling off wins, and even breaking the all time GP wins record. Immediately after that, the moto gods struck and hit his goggle strap and footpeg all in one race in France. We still aren’t sure we have seen something as wild as that. But, again, there’s more. The first race of the MXGP of Germany, Herlings found himself passing Prado and Seewer for the lead and had a crazy crash with just a few minutes left. Although you could tell it definitely hurt, it wasn’t the craziest crash we have seen, but it did end up with him breaking his neck. He finished the race, and you could tell he was in pain. Now he will miss the two Indonesian rounds and will almost certainly knock him out of the championship.
At least the MX2 class has been good, right? Well yeah, most of the top guys are there and the racing was predictable. We saw Jago Geerts doing what we thought, winning. And then, heading into the MXGP of France, it started. We saw Red Bull Gasgas’ Simon Laengenfelder go out with a midweek crash that resulted in a broken arm. Simon was finding his groove and possibly starting his push towards the championship.
Crazy, right? But check this out. In the RAM qualifying race at the MXGP of France, Monster Energy Yamaha’s Jago Geerts had an insane crash in the opening lap. Geerts ended up walking off the track with a broken wrist. Fortunately for the Belgian, there were a couple weekends off so he only missed one round. Coming back for the MXGP in Germany, you could see he was there to score some valuable points, in which he did. Coming back a bit sooner than most would might just salvage his first world championship.
So you can see how this is going by now, right? But that is just in the MXGP series. Shall we start with the USA scene? Lets make this one a little shorter. We can start off with Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Austin Forkner. Forkner got tangled up at the start of the first main event of the year in Anaheim, California. Forkner ended up having quite a bit of knee damage and should return soon, but knocking him out of both the SX and MX championships. Speaking of Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki, the Japanese rider Jo Shimoda, was coming in to the east coast as a title contender but broke his collarbone just before the start of the series and caused him to miss quite a few rounds. His teammates Cameron Mcadoo and Seth Hammaker both went out prematurely. Hammaker went out in preseason and Mcadoo had a few bad crashes in the series ultimately knocking him out of the hunt.
Now, lets talk about the 450 class. Preseason seemed to be good for everyone. And we saw at Anaheim 1 that everyone was ready to go and fight for the championship. And then, we saw fan favorite, Rockstar Husqvarna’s Malcolm Stewart exit the series early with a torn ACL. We knew someone would get hurt, and unfortunately, he was the first casualty. Then we had Marvin Musquin and Dylan Ferrandis go out. Not too bad to start the series off.
We had an insane battle going on with Red Bull KTM’s Cooper Webb, HRC Honda’s Chase Sexton and Monster Energy Star Yamaha’s Eli Tomac. Up until past the midway point, we had a great run with no one being injured. And then the flood gates opened. We lost Adam Cianciarulo and Colt Nichols for a few rounds. Christian Craig then went out for the remainder of the series. Aaron Plessinger then missed a few rounds towards the end, but we saw him finish the last round.
And then it went south real fast. Round 15 of the series, in Nashville, TN, there was a massive blow to the championship. Although already out of the championship hunt, Jason Anderson and Justin Barcia came into 2023 expecting to hold the crown at the end of the year. But, Nashville had other plans. Anderson had a few big crashes already throughout the year, and then finished himself off in Tennessee. Barcia had a great run in the year. Multiple podiums and even a win in the mud one week before in East Rutherford. Barcia had another great run going, and then had a gnarly crash off a dragonsback that ended up breaking his collarbone and knocking him out for the rest of the season.
The biggest blow in Nashville came to Cooper Webb. Webb went into round 15 with a tight title fight with Eli Tomac. Just a few points down in the championship standings, Webb was ready to take the fight head on, only in the heat race, we saw his head take on Adam Cianciarulo’s front tire. A very scary situation if you seen the video, and thankfully Cooper walked away with just a concussion. But this caused the championship campaign come to a halt with just three main events left.
That has to be all, right? Well, no. The very next weekend, Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha’s Eli Tomac heads to the 2nd to last round with a chance to wrap up the championship in his home state in Denver, Co. The day is going smooth for the #1, and then lightning struck the series for about the 15th time this year. Tomac jumps out to the early lead and looking to cruise this one home for the win. And then it happens. I don’t think anyone can explain it still to this day, but on a routine rhythm section, Tomac randomly slows way down and then immediately pulls off the track. Given the situation, everyone was waiting to see if it was a bike problem or waiting to see Eli, if injured, try to get going again and try to at least cruise it in for a couple points. But no, Tomac heads straight off the track as the camera crews chase him back to the paddock and straight to the medic unit. Tomacs year was done, right there, with an Achilles tendon rupture. Flipping the championship over to Sexton.
That is all, no more, we can’t handle anything else. Oh but wait, now the AMA Pro Motocross series is starting up. With no Anderson, no Barcia, no Roczen (heading to WSX), no Stewart, no Craig, no Tomac, an ill prepared Webb, Ferrandis, Cianciarulo and Plessinger, the series is relying on two riders to go at it for 22 motos. HRC Honda’s 2023 SX champion Chase Sexton, and the much anticipated 450 debut for his teammate, Jett Lawrence. The first round we saw a great battle from both the Honda riders for the lead, and a great battle with the rest of the factory riders a battle for 3rd. The series couldn’t handle another one going out. And then, heading into round two, the news broke that Chase Sexton had a mid week crash that gave him a concussion and in that, found out he also had mono. And just like that, there wasn’t a single factory rider that competed every 450 race this year.
It has been a rough year for the title contenders this year. Fingers crossed that we keep the riders we have left, in both series. It’s already been a tough year, I don’t think we can handle anymore riders dropping out.
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