Dissecting the 2022 season after eight rounds of the championship.
Words: Simon Makker
As the 2022 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship enters its final stages and despite favorites emerging, both the 450MX and 250MX titles are still up in the air. We break down the unfolding trends in this edition of Q&A.
Q: Can anyone stop the Lawrence brothers?
A: There’s no question that Team Honda HRC brothers Hunter and Jett Lawrence are the class of the 250MX field right now. Between them they’ve accounted for 12 of the 18 moto wins so far, with Jett taking the lion’s share with nine race wins. Still, as dominant as the Australian siblings have been, Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Jo Shimoda and pre-season favorite Justin Cooper (Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing) have proven they are up for the fight if they can get good starts. Shimoda in particular has been impressive so far as he regularly dices with the Honda racers at the front of the pack for most of the motos, including claiming his first-ever round win at RedBud. Other 250MX race winners so far include Michael Mosiman (TLD Red Bull GasGas) at Hangtown and Levi Kitchen (Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing), who claimed a memorable race win at Thunder Valley.
Q: Are Eli Tomac and Chase Sexton that much better than the rest of the field?
A: Yes, and as the Pro Motocross Championship wears on, the gap between the two championship front-runners and the rest of the pack seems to be growing wider. Tomac (Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing) has had to run down Sexton (Team Honda HRC) after the young Honda rider built a handy buffer early on. Tomac fought his way back into contention and took over the points lead at Millville after a string of consecutive eight race wins from High Point, but Sexton was always a close runner-up. Sexton halted Tomac’s win streak at Washougal, but the two seem to be pushing each other to new levels of speed and aggression as each round passes. As a case-in-point, third-placed Jason Anderson (Monster Energy Kawasaki) finished 44 seconds and 50 seconds behind the two front-runners after the two motos at Washougal.
Q: What have been the biggest surprise this year?
A: Back in March, if you’d told us Ryan Dungey was going to come out of retirement and Alex Martin would decide he’d hang his boots up midway through his rookie 450 outdoor season, we wouldn’t have believed you. Red Bull KTM’s rehiring of Dungey certainly was a surprise, but the bigger story was how competitive he’s been. The four-time national motocross champion hasn’t lost any speed during his five-year hiatus and he’s logged three top-five round finishes this year. Dungey was on target for a break-through podium performance at Washougal before a mechanical DNF, but it certainly wouldn’t be a shock to see him on the box before the year is done. Meanwhile, Martin (Muc-Off FXR ClubMX Yamaha) has decided that after 14 years of professional racing, he’ll retire from the sport and will focus on his coaching program and spending time with his family. The 2022 Supercross Rookie of the Year has had an impressive 250cc career, having achieved two runner-up outdoor championship results in 2018 and 2016. He’s currently 13th overall in what will be his first-and-only 450MX outdoor season.
Q: Where are we at with the broadcast after the troubles experienced?
A: One of the biggest disappointments of the 50th Pro Motocross season has been the broadcast. Promoter Davey Coombs even admitted the package had been a ‘train wreck’ and a ‘failure’ in his open letter to the motocross community last month. Basically, the initial platform, MAVTV Plus, couldn’t handle the global traffic and after five troublesome rounds they moved to an entirely different, more stable platform in FloSports, naming it MAVTV on FloRacing. MAVTV Plus refunded the balance of subscriptions and FloRacing is honoring the same subscription fee, to encourage users to make the switch. At the same time, NBC still aired a handful of one-off motos, which meant they weren’t streamed live, causing even more confusion. For now, MX Sports seems to have ironed out the problems and the coverage has stabilized. Unfortunately, the confusion has been too much for many fans and they’ve simply tuned out.
Q: Ken Roczen seems to be fading again as the championship enters its final stages. Why?
A: The Team Honda HRC rider entered the 2022 Pro Motocross Championship re-energized from an impromptu sabbatical that he took halfway through the Supercross championship in order to recharge. As always, he started strong, with a close second to his team-mate Sexton at Fox Raceway, then a really impressive win at Thunder Valley where he beat Tomac fair and square on in Eli’s back yard. Since then, though, he’s been a constant (but distant) fourth or fifth-placed rider, apart from a horror round at Millville where multiple crashes saw him struggle to 13th overall. He revealed after RedBud’s fifth-place performance that he’s still battling ‘exhaustion in my bones’ and barely practiced the week leading up to that round. Roczen is still holding down fourth overall in the championship hunt, but he’s 90 points behind the Tomac and Sexton title stoush. Hopefully this two-week break between rounds sees the former champion enter the final three rounds refreshed and ready for a late-series charge.
Q: Who will secure the MX2 seat for next month’s Motocross of Nations?
A: It’s been one of the hottest debates during the middle part of the championship… who will represent Team USA on the 250cc machine? Justin Cooper is the highest-placed American in the 250MX class in fourth, but that caused a number of 450MX riders (Christian Craig, Jason Anderson and Justin Barcia) to put their names forward to step down to the MX2 class. With Barcia pulling out and Anderson also now unlikely, it appears y that Craig – who enjoyed plenty of recent success on the YZ250F in Supercross this year – will receive the nod to join the probable MXGP and Open team riders of Tomac and Sexton.