Features 16 Dec 2022

MotoOnline Awards: 2022

Annual feature highlighting the winners and events of the year gone by.

In the 2022 edition of the MotoOnline Awards, we name the leading performers and storylines of the season past in a reflection of domestic and international competition. These are done purely for editorial purposes, pieced together from an Australian perspective via what we witnessed during the year both locally and abroad.

Image: Octopi Media.

Rider of the Year – Eli Tomac:
2022 was arguably Tomac’s most convincing yet, showing a lightning-fast pace, strong mental fortitude and high levels of race-craft to win both 450SX and 450MX titles. Tomac managed a knee injury in the closing stages of Monster Energy AMA Supercross to add another title in the discipline to his credit and recovered to win what was a thrilling Pro Motocross battle with Chase Sexton (Team Honda HRC). Adding to his list of achievements as he debuted with Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing, Tomac was also part of Team USA’s Motocross of Nations (MXoN) winning effort at RedBud.

Rookie of the Year – Maxime Renaux:
After clinching the 2021 MX2 World Championship, Monster Energy Yamaha’s Maxime Renaux stepped up to the MXGP class this year. The young Frenchman rarely looked out of his depth, and if anything, relished the challenge of establishing himself as a threat in the premier class. With five podium performances and a breakout double-moto round victory at the Spanish GP, Renaux finished the championship in a remarkable fourth place, despite missing two rounds with broken vertebrae. Reneaux’s stellar year finished with an exclamation mark when he topped the MXGP field at the Motocross of Nations, beating some of the sport’s best in the process and helping France to a well-deserved P2 result.

Personality of the Year – Jett Lawrence:
Fittingly, although Tomac was deservedly Rider of the Year, 250MX national champion and 250SX East title-winner Jett Lawrence is the ideal candidate for Personality. His balance between youth and professionalism is just right, not to mention his obvious success on track. Get set, because chances are we’re going to be seeing even more of the Team Honda HRC rider over the next decade or even longer! We’re here for it.

Image: Supplied.

Series of the Year – AMA Supercross:
The 2022 Monster Energy Supercross Championship delivered its share of action, excitement and challenges along the way, with many marquee riders debuting with new manufacturers and surrounds. The series itself saw records broken, former champions reborn and a new title-winner crowned in the form of Christian Craig in 250SX West, with many intriguing storylines unfolding across the 17-round championship. Plus, there was no denying Jett Lawrence in 250SX East and Tomac in 450SX.

Most Anticipated Motocross Model – 2023 Yamaha YZ450F:
Building on the class-leading power delivery, suspension performance and usability of the previous model, the highly-anticipated new YZ450F raises the bar with more power, less weight, a slimmer design and improved handling in an even more usable package. Traditional strong points of broad, torquey power, plush suspension and predictable handling had to be enhanced, but with a distinctly rider-centric focus for the new model with a five-pound weight reduction, increased control and improved ergonomics. With Tomac achieving immense title success on the 2022 platform, many await with bated breath to see the level of the latest model with gates drop at Anaheim 1.

Top Team – Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing:
2022 was another memorable year for the biggest team in the pits, Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing. Courtesy of new signing Tomac and a revitalized Craig, the team lifted three of the five national titles that were up for grabs, with the 450SX, 250SX West Coast and 450MX championships finding their way to the team’s mantelpiece. To cap it off, Tomac and Justin Cooper helped USA lift the Chamberlain Trophy at the Motocross of Nations for the first time in 11 years. While wasn’t all smooth sailing, with injuries affecting the team along the way, Star Racing will be ecstatic with what they achieved this year.

Best Event – Motocross of Nations at RedBud:
After many key nations were forced to miss MXoN in recent years due to the pandemic, the bid for the coveted Chamberlain Trophy returned to normality, with many hungry nations vying for the coveted title. The atmosphere at RedBud was electric and racing didn’t disappoint, with plenty of anticipation surrounding the debut of Jett Lawrence on a 450. With Team USA victorious thanks to the efforts of Eli Tomac (MXGP), Justin Cooper (MX2) and Chase Sexton (Team Honda HRC), Team Australia returned to the podium and secured third place behind Team France, as Mitch Evans (MXGP), Hunter Lawrence (MX2) and Jett Lawrence (Open) did Team Australia proud. Jett Lawrence notably won the Open class in his CRF450R debut.

Hottest Topic – The future of Ken Roczen:
Following a sensational decision to leave Team Honda HRC after the 2022 race season, wild theories and speculation abounded for months about where Roczen would eventually land for 2023. The new World Supercross champion himself seemed to almost dictate the direction of the rumors by openly posting social media content of him test-riding a range of motocross bikes – including the Stark Varg – and riding for Yarrive Konsky’s Honda Genuine Honda Racing team in the two-round world championship. After months of speculation, it was announced last week that Roczen will be aboard a HEP Motorsports Suzuki RM-Z450 when the gates drop on the 2023 SuperMotocross season in a couple of weeks time.

Image: Supplied.

Greatest Disappointment – Pro Motocross coverage:
One of the biggest disappointments of the 50th Pro Motocross season was the average live-streaming coverage. MX Sports promoter Davey Coombs even admitted the package had been a ‘train wreck’ and a ‘failure’ in his open letter to the motocross community midway through the season. The initial platform, MAVTV Plus, couldn’t handle the global traffic, and after five troublesome rounds they moved to a different, more stable platform in FloSports, naming it MAVTV on FloRacing. At the same time, NBC still aired a handful of one-off motos, causing even more confusion. The troubles were eventually ironed out and the coverage stabilized, but the confusion saw a lot of race fans tune out. Fortunately, the 2023 package looks a lot more promising, with all rounds of the supercross and motocross as SuperMotocross to be streamed through Peacock as part of the multi-year deal with NBC.

Most Surprising Moment – Cooper Webb not winning a race this season:
Considering his reputation as a relentless competitor who never gives up, it’s remarkable that Red Bull KTM’s two-time Monster Energy AMA Supercross champion Cooper Webb failed to raise the checkered flag this year. A P2 result at the Anaheim opener gave everyone the impression the defending champion would continue where he left off, but it wasn’t until the series moved to the east coast that he’d find himself on the podium again at Minneapolis. Two more podium performances followed, but a heavy crash with Team Honda HRC’s Chase Sexton at Detroit left him with a bone contusion on his shoulder and a broken metacarpal. With little time to heal properly, he cruised through the remaining rounds, finishing the series in seventh.

Social Standout – Jason Anderson:
Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jason Anderson has always been unashamedly himself, both on the track and on social media. His unique takes and a near-perfect mix of racing, personal, humorous and behind-the-scenes posts have helped him gain almost 650,000 followers on Instagram alone, without seemingly trying. On top of that, his Team Fried crew produce some of the most entertaining, creative YouTube content you’ll find from the motocross and supercross championships. ‘El Hombre’ is one of the most unique, genuine individuals on the starting gate and the sport is all the better for it.

Special mention – Tim Gajser and Tom Vialle:
Not forgotten, the MXGP World Championship again delivered its share of excitement in 2022, with Gajser (Team HRC) convincingly winning the premier class crown and Vialle (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) standing tall in MX2 in a title fight that went right down to the wire. The Spaniard will be watched with a lot of intrigue as he debuts in the US next season, while Gajser will have the opportunity to underline his title as he defends against the returning Jeffrey Herlings (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and a list of motivated hopefuls.