News 29 Apr 2024

Did Vialle’s ride in Philadelphia stamp the 250SX East title?

Bad starts for both title contenders, but Tom Vialle’s ride might have been a championship winning one.

Tom Vialle and Haiden Deegan finished second and third, respectively, in Philadelphia after both riders came from way back in the field. As they fought through the field together, the championship tension between the two was palpable. In the end, it was Vialle who won the battle in what ultimately could be seen as a championship winning performance.

While FirePower Honda’s Max Anstie lit the candles up ahead for his first win of 2024, Red Bull KTM’s Vialle and Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing’s Deegan saw their race long battle come down to the very end. Deegan had actually started just in front of Vialle, but Vialle passed him on the first lap and was officially scored P10 at the end of lap one with Deegan P12. The two were never more than a couple of seconds apart the whole race as Deegan made several runs at Vialle but Vialle continued to remain ahead. Despite having the pressure of his championship rival on his tail the whole race, Vialle never wavered.

“It was actually good,” said Vialle of having Deegan right behind him. “I knew after the start that Haiden was right with me because when I had a bad start, I was like, “Okay this is going to be tough.” But then I saw Haiden was right in front of me, so I was like, “Okay, we are together in this.” He was behind me and trying to push. We actually came back from pretty far to the front. I had a small gap. He was really not close enough to me to make a move, so I tried to stay like that the whole moto. I really didn’t want him to get closer. It was pretty stressful, but I tried to push until the end, and we came back to second and third. It was a good race.”

Image: Octopi Media.

Why this ride was so important is that it gave Vialle an extra four points that he would have given up to Deegan if the Yamaha rider was able to make the move, and potentially even more. Consider that there was at least the possibility that Deegan might have made contact to pass Vialle, and if Vialle ended up on the ground, he might not have finished on the podium.

Their battle saw Jalek Swoll and Seth Hammaker crash in front of them while those two were battling for second place, and then Pierce Brown crashed between Vialle and Deegan on the final lap while he was running third. Those moments changed the dynamic of who could have gotten between both riders to add more points in the favor of Deegan, but they still added to the potential. Either way, Deegan simply could not get close enough to Vialle throughout the race to even entertain a pass.

“I got behind Tom a couple times and it was always like Tom would make a pass and then I’d get stuck behind the guy,” said Deegan. “I’d get around that guy and get right back to Tom. The best chance I had to pass Tom was when we got behind Pierce. Pierce is a good rider so he’s very hard to pass and I was like, “This is going to be my chance to try to get around Tom.” But Pierce ended up making a mistake and Tom went right under him and then Pierce cut back in front of me, and I was like, “Damn it!” Overall, it was a good night. I got on the podium, we’re in, we’re out of here safe, and we’re just continuing to keep learning.”

Image: Octopi Media.

So now Vialle sits 15 points up in the championship where there’s only 25 points left available to grab at the finale two weeks from now in Salt Lake City. Vialle would have to finish P12 or worse with Deegan winning in Salt Lake City for the title to change hands.

Vialle hasn’t finished off the podium since the second round of the season. Salt Lake City is a 250SX East/West Showdown meaning the field will be twice as stacked, but Vialle was the only East rider to finish on the podium at the first East/West Showdown this year in Nashville. So, what will his approach be going into the finale?

“I haven’t thought about it yet, so I have to go home and think a little bit,” said Vialle. “When I come to the race, I just want to do my best. Of course, you can do stupid mistakes on the last one or try to do stupid stuff, but I’m just going to do my own race. Hopefully I get a better start than this weekend because I was pretty far back in the main event. I think I’m just going to go to the last one and ride as best as I can.”

Image: Octopi Media.

For Deegan, not winning the title this year does have the silver lining that he will at least be guaranteed the ability to race 250SX through the 2026 season. If Vialle wins this title and successfully wins again in 2025, he will be forced to the 450SX class by 2026 – the same situation Deegan would be in if he accomplished titles back-to-back.

While Tom Vialle is 23 years old and already a multiple time FIM World Motocross champion, Deegan is just 18 years old and only in his second year as a professional. That leeway to have an extra year to race in the 250 class no matter what could prove to be beneficial to Deegan’s overall career.

“I’ve looked at it too,” said Haiden about potentially being forced out of 250s. “You win the Supercross title this year, you’ve got one year to defend and you’re on a 450 at 19 or just turning 20. That’s a big step. My goal is obviously to win this title, but I have a long road ahead of me. I’m young. We have plenty of time. It’s no rush, but obviously the goal is to try and go win this championship. We’re pretty far back right now, but it’s not over until it’s over.”

Image: Octopi Media.

It’s certainly not over yet, and crazier things have happened at Showdowns to see massive points swings. At Nashville for example, 250SX West points leader Levi Kitchen was up 15 points on RJ Hampshire. But then Kitchen crashed in the second turn, finished P14, and now sits two points behind Hampshire in the title fight with two rounds of that series remaining.

History has a way of repeating itself in weird ways and that same odd scenario could be the way Deegan still walks away as champion. But Vialle did a remarkable job to not only salvage his championship lead after a bad start in Philadelphia, but actually extend the lead. Those four points could come back to be huge once this is all over.