Main event winners Tomac and Lawrence recall first round.
It was career win number 45 in the 450SX class for Eli Tomac (Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing) to start his 2023 Monster Energy Supercross campaign, as Jett Lawrence (Team Honda HRC) dominated in the first 250SX West race of the season. Both riders were available to the media following the race for this Debrief feature.
Eli, if we look in history you’ve been very successful in Supercross, but Anaheim 1 has not been your friend. Today from qualifying, to the heat, to the main event you were extremely impressive, why?
I guess just experience, this is my 10th Anaheim 1 in the 450 class, so apparently it took me 10 times to figure out how to get everything to go the right way for round one, from pre-season to the race itself. But overall, that was just a wild race, early battling with Justin [Barcia], then crashing up the tunnel jump, I just got a little bit in the backseat of my bike and washed the front end, thankfully everything stayed straight, my bars and clutch were good and I was able to stay in touch with the front. The track was probably top three in pure gnarliness, the way the transitions were, you had to time the jumps literally perfect, or else you were launching off the track and making mistakes. But yeah, overall, such a good start for us on this new platform.
After the crash, were you thinking ‘lets just get some points’ or did you look up and see the leader and think ‘I’m going to go for it’?
My thought at first was that I’d thrown it away, and that I would be lucky to get on the podium. But the way the track was, it was so gnarly, I guess there was time to be lost and time to be made, so maybe that was a little bit in my favour.
The first five minutes was great racing from first to seventh, the crowd was going crazy! Does that affect you at all? Do you hear that going on?
[Laughs] yeah you hear it, but there’s nothing you can do about it, so it’s just like, ‘can you focus?’. But, that’s just part of Supercross though and that’s what makes it so cool. You hear the action, whether it’s yourself in a battle or you hear something else going on, it’s just something you’ve got to deal with.
Now that you have experienced the new Yamaha in a race setting, can you explain how confident and comfortable you feel with this new bike?
I honestly was surprised how good we were for round one and it being a new bike, its not easy setting up a new motorcycle, no matter what anyone says, because a lot of times it just takes race experience, period, and being in the moment and learning things. But somehow, we did start off in the right spot, and the platform totally performed well. I’ve said this a bunch lately, but the big thing about this bike, it lost a lot of weight and I can totally feel it, for Supercross its amazing for change of direction.
We keep speaking about how gnarly the track was, what stood out to you most each lap?
Well, there was that rhythm lane, the triple-triple-triple-triple, there was a massive pot hole leading up to the up ramp, it was unbelievable. We started way inside, then that got super steep with a kicker and then after that, you just had to go down the middle and deal with it. Then you try to land and pick a rut on the next one, but when the dirt is like that, its really easy to either come up short, or go long on those jumps, so that’s another thing that’s tough to deal with. Then, after the start straight, that last double into the turn had a nasty curb in it, so you had to be careful with your line selection there.
Finally, with so many people asking you yesterday about getting your first Anaheim 1 win, how much does this really mean to you? Or are you truly as stoic as you seem to be, where you really just care about winning the championship?
It’s nice to have the win here, absolutely. But, I’m always big picture, in my head, which is racing for the championship.
Jett, you were really happy across the finish line jump. Take me through the day and being able to get the job done when it really mattered.
Yeah, you’re always nervous coming to the first round… I’ve said it before, you never know where everyone’s at and that stuff. The big thing with today was always kind of, like, ‘how is the track going to form up for the main?’. After practice it was just about trying to survive and not die. It kind of changed, it was like ‘okay, we’re going to come in and hopefully do good’, but then when practice went out, after the first few laps it was like, ‘okay, let’s try and keep it on two wheels and try and survive today’. The joke all day was ‘I just wanna see Sunday’, there’s always a lot of hype around Anaheim 1, it’s the first round so it’s just built up so big, so obviously I had quite a bit of nerves. I had a bit of rough one in the heat race, the start was quite slippery, but I just made sure I focused on the main and did what I needed to do, I made it the safest way possible for me to, kind of, just go out there and do my laps.
In qualifying you had a couple of falls, did you feel discouraged at any point leading into the night show?
No, those crashes never really wreck my confidence, you know sometimes I make a small mistake and most of the time I know what I did wrong there so its like ‘just don’t do that again’. Today I was almost expecting a few crashes with how the track was, it just bit you so fast without even realising, so I was expecting a couple [of crashes], but I’m just thankful I was able to walk out of here in one piece.
When you come in with so many eyes on you and so many expectations as the title favourite, when you manage a day like today, is it a sense of relief?
I definitely feel like I felt the pressure a lot, but I think the biggest mistake would’ve been to try and go and show [speed] the whole day, I think that’s where I was pretty smart, I just took it how it was and, to be honest, I would’ve been happy with a second or a third – I was just mainly going for a podium today. I just wanted to make it out safe because the track was so sketchy, but, yes and no, the pressure was there a bit. I kind of just focused on what I was doing, I just knew tonight in the main event, with how the track was forming, that whoever was going to make the least amount of mistakes was going to either, bit by bit, get a gap, or close the gap where you’re at.
Your bike looked awesome. It sounds a little different from last year, is it any different or any faster? What changes did you and the team make from 2022 to 2023?
Yeah, I think one of the major [changes], is that we switched from Vortex ECUs to Get, it was kind of late in December that we changed and decided to go with them. They’ve been awesome, this is the first time with start mapping, so far it’s been really good with them, so hopefully we can keep it going with the good starts. That’s probably the main thing, we might’ve put a little extra go-go juice in it. Besides that, the bike’s fairly similar, even with suspension testing we’ve kind of looped all the way back around to the same setting. The bike’s handling great, the motor feels awesome, I’m feeling right at home on the Honda this year.
Finally, Feld have done something really cool this year, they have included some 250 guys in opening ceremonies, which I think you guys deserve, what did you think?
Yeah, that was a really cool opportunity that I think Lucas [Mirtl] helped a lot on. We always thought it was a little weird that the 450 guys would do it, but then you have some of the best 250 riders in Supercross, that don’t do anything. So, I think it’s a good opportunity for 250 guys to get more known and kind of make it similar. Yeah, we might not be on as big of a bike as the 450, but we’re still doing the same stuff out there, and a lot of the same rhythms. I think it helps our sport grow a little more for the 250 guys, so I’m pumped we get to do that and hopefully it brings up the 250 [class] a little bit more.