Features 28 Sep 2023

Countdown: Topics of the SMX post-season

What we saw in the 2023 SuperMotocross World Championship Finals.

The introduction of the SuperMotocross World Championship in 2023 revolutionized the sport as we know it, adding a whole new dynamic and increased importance to every gate drop throughout the year. In this Countdown, MotoOnline highlights the key topics from the inaugural SMX Finals series after it concluded last weekend at the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Image: Octopi Media.

6. Hybrid track layouts throw a spanner in the works:
The biggest unknown heading into the SuperMotocross post-season was how the tracks were going to really be once they were built. Riders and fans had track maps for reference but had to wait to see these tracks in the flesh until they’d get a true understanding of what they were up against. Round one at ZMax Dragway was a true ‘hybrid’ design, a 50/50 mix of supercross and motocross, while round two at Chicagoland Speedway was definitely more of an outdoor-style layout. The majority of riders and teams opted to go for a motocross suspension setting for round two and understandably so, there was no supercross-style rhythm or anything that indicated that you’d need a supercross suspension set-up. Nonetheless, getting the setting wrong proved costly, with no better example than the uncharacteristic seventh-place finish by Jett Lawrence in the opening moto in Charlotte. The final stop at the Los Angeles Coliseum was once again a hybrid, but sided more towards being a supercross track. For the factory teams, changing suspension or having different settings ready, is probably not a difficult task, but for the privateers to be making radical adjustments between the rounds, it definitely throws a spanner in the works.

5. Heavy hitters taken out in LA:
The Los Angeles layout took out a large number of front-running riders. The hard-packed, shiny dirt, combined with a high-speed sand section really tested contenders throughout the night, claiming Team Honda HRC title hopefuls Hunter Lawrence – prior to racing on Saturday – and Chase Sexton, as well as Justin Barcia (Troy Lee Designs Red Bull GasGas) and Dylan Ferrandis (Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing). All four of these riders went down in different scenarios, so it’s up for debate as to whether it was the layout itself that was tricky or varied surfaces.

4. Seed position critical in final point standings:
Seed position proved to be critical for riders like Sexton. The number 23 wrapped up the 450SX title, but would bow out of the Pro Motocross Championship with a concussion after the practice crash between rounds one and two. Sexton returned for the fifth round at RedBud and continued banking what would be important points come season end. Finishing the Pro Motocross Championship in P4, Sexton would enter the playoffs at the top of the combined 450SMX points, starting the post-season with a maximum of 25 points. A crash in LA’s second race would see him DNF, resulting in 10th overall in the triple points-paying round. Ultimately, he would finish the championship P3 in the 450SMX standings, only six points ahead of Cooper Webb, who entered as the number six seed. While the Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing rider benefited from the escalating points system and a solid performance at the final round to elevate in the standings, the advantage Sexton held thanks to his number one seed entering the post-season ultimately proved crucial in him securing a series podium.

Image: Octopi Media.

3. Post-season opportunity of Shimoda:
For riders like Jo Shimoda (Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki), the post-season proved to be a good platform to continue the momentum he was gaining towards the end of the Pro Motocross Championship. Shimoda finished the outdoor season with a dominant 1-1 performance at the series finale in Ironman and it was evident straightaway that he was ready to race in the SuperMotocross World Championship. The Japanese rider struck first, winning playoff number one at ZMax Dragway with a 4-1 scorecard and took control of the championship with the red plate. From there, he was extremely competitive yet again and was arguably the fastest rider at Chicagoland Speedway. He hunted down Lawrence in moto one, but was unable to make a move for the lead before the checkered flag flew, then gave up the lead in moto two with a bike malfunction and had to settle for second overall, before finishing his year off with a P2 overall result in Los Angeles to take second in the 250SMX standings.

2. Dangerboy prevents Team Honda HRC sweep:
It’s clear that Team Honda HRC has been the dominant outfit in 2023, claiming all three titles in Monster Energy Supercross with Jett and Hunter Lawrence taking both the 250SX West and East championships, while Chase Sexton took the 450SX crown in a dramatic end to the season that saw championship leader Eli Tomac (Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing) bow out with an achilles injury. Both the Lawrence brothers then went on to claim the 250MX and 450MX titles in Pro Motocross and were looking poised to repeat that in the SuperMotocross World Championship when they entered the third and final round with the 250SMX and 450SMX point leads. But a crash for Hunter Lawrence during Friday practice at the Los Angeles Coliseum led to him opting out of motos, effectively handing the title chances over to Deegan and Shimoda. With 5-2 moto scores, the Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing rider would ultimately top Shimoda’s 4-4 to win the 250SMX title, an incredible achievement in his first professional season.

1. Jett Lawrence stands tall:
This season has truly been the year of Jett Lawrence. After sealing the 250SX West title with six wins in the season, he then stepped up to the 450MX category for Pro Motocross, where he managed to win every single moto going 22-0 as a rookie. There were critics out there saying that he won against a depleted field, however, entering the 2023 SuperMotocross World Championship a lot of big names were back, so the pressure was on Lawrence to see if he could perform against the likes of Ken Roczen (HEP Suzuki), Webb, Barcia and the rest of the capable field that of course included teammate Sexton. Lawrence uncharacteristically missed the overall podium in Charlotte, going 7-2 for fourth overall, but won playoff two – despite Roczen winning the second moto – and delivered under pressure at the LA Coliseum finals to decisively take the title. Lawrence has not been beaten in a 450 championship he has contested yet, also winning the Open category at the Motocross of Nations (MXoN) last year. With such dominance so early in his premier class career, and at just 20 years of age, a worrying thought for his competitors is how high could Jettson’s ceiling actually be and what is it going to take to stop him? Next up for the Australian, MXoN 2023 at Ernee, France, next weekend.