Team Honda HRC contender opens 2023 with third place at Anaheim.
An improved setting for Team Honda HRC’s Chase Sexton resulted in renewed confidence through the whoops at Anaheim 1, picking up third in the 450SX main event to open the season.
The tough conditions at Angel Stadium presented a test for riders and teams, also providing the first measuring stick of progress made in the Monster Energy Supercross pre-season.
“Definitely tough, didn’t expect the conditions we had today but after the rain I kind of did,” Sexton explained. “Tonight it was a good test for the bike. I was really happy with the front, it was definitely a lot more stable than it has been in years prior.
“Last year, had a really weird kind of twitch coming into the corner, which caused me to go down, and tonight was even gnarlier than that, so I think that was a good step in the right direction. I wasn’t scared every lap going through the whoops tonight, so that was super-good.
“I felt safe and stable in those. They weren’t long, but I felt solid, so that was nice to kind of be able to focus on the rest of the track and not be worrying about the whoops 24/7.”
Off the back of a standout 450MX campaign last year and a career-first premier class Supercross victory earlier that season, Sexton enters 2023 as a legitimate title contender with the common consensus being that mistakes need to be reduced indoors if he is to challenge for the 450SX crown.
While certain moments set him back in A1’s main event, including losing the lead to eventual winner Eli Tomac (Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing), the number 23 was able to deliver a rostrum finish in the form of P3 to open his 2023 account. He also lost the runner-up position in the closing stages to two-time 450SX champion Cooper Webb (Red Bull KTM).
“The track was really gnarly, like Eli said, and when you make a mistake like that… what happened was I over-jumped the quad into the corner and it shifted into third and I didn’t realise,” he added. “I came out of the corner and just had no lift, I tried to go for the next one and just kept chasing the whole rhythm section basically and lost what felt like forever.
“After that it was really hard to get back into a flow until, honestly, the last lap when Cooper Webb passed me, my last lap felt good and I found some different lines and it was really just being able to move around – I didn’t move around enough to see what other lines were doing and I kind of was just narrow-minded on what I was riding.
“That’s something I have to adjust to and these guys are no slouch at that, for sure. They know how to ride rough tracks and that is something that I’m still learning, but overall, it was a solid day for me and I wish I would have rode a lot better in the last 10 minutes of that main event, but you know we go back to work and work on it for next week.”
A points haul of 21 from Anaheim was a positive way for Sexton to start his title campaign, with the championship resuming this Saturday at Oakland for its second stop of the new season.