The 2023 running of the Great Outdoors is officially here with things kicking off once again at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. Some slightly cloudy skies in the AM but good weather for racing all things considered. Things are looking a bit different this year with no Eli Tomac or Ken Roczen on the gate, but a top-heavy 450 class with Chase Sexton, Jett Lawrence, Dylan Ferrandis, and Adam Cianciarulo was the main attraction this weekend. Not to be outdone, however, a very fun 250 class with several championship-caliber riders had the opportunity to steal the show (spoiler: they did). So who could strike first out in Southern California?
Daytime Program/Injury Notes:
- Multiple riders went down in qualifying including Chase Sexton and Tom Vialle.
- 250 Fastest Qualifier: No. 32 Justin Cooper (2:21.308) (Best lap came in Q1. Both Max Vohalnd and Hunter Lawrence went faster in Q2)
- 450 Fastest Qualifier: No. 18 Jett Lawrence (2:20.539) (Was three seconds faster than anyone else in Q1, 2.5 seconds faster than anyone else in Q2)
250 Class Recap
1st - No. 96 Hunter Lawrence (Honda HRC) (3-1)
Not a picture-perfect start to the season for Hunter but you'll take a 3-1 for an Overall win every time if you could. The only thing that did him in was the first gate drop of the season. He was scored in 10th across the holeshot line and had a ton of trouble working up to the front, specifically, Justin Cooper and Jo Shimoda giving him the most amount of fits. But to Lawrence's credit, he kept the bulldog mentality up for all 30 minutes and change, and was making great use of some of the outside corners that guys weren't touching much.
A good start in Moto 2 negated the position Lawrence was in right away, and he led all 15 laps en route to what is only his second-ever National victory. Starts are going to be big for Lawrence this summer, and if he can do more of what he did to close things out he's going to be in tremendous shape.
2nd - No. 238 Haiden Deegan (Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha) (6-2)
Deegan was the guy I came away most impressed with this weekend. Mainly leaving Tom Vialle in the dust in Moto 2 while giving him no shot to stage a quick counterattack. Better yet, Vialle never even got back to Deegan at all since he just dropped every other rider with the exception of Lawrence. Said in the 250 preview series that I was skeptical about the fitness to run these 30-minute Motos, and that clearly wasn't an issue on Saturday. Deegan did leave some meat on the bone after tipping over in Moto 1, but I think you can live with that at this stage of the season.
3rd- No. 24 R.J. Hampshire (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing) (1-11)
There's simply never a dull moment with Hampshire. One moment he puts on a 13-laps led masterclass to win a Moto, and then the next he goes down three times in 30 minutes and still almost finishes top 10. If not for that bad start in Moto 2 that started all that for him though, I think Hampshire probably wins this one with points in hand. He had some really good pace down the stretch before he went down for the third and final time on lap 14. Still, a very nice job to salvage what could have been a miserable day and still end up on the podium by the skin of your teeth though.
4th - No. 128 Tom Vialle (Red Bull KTM) (7-3)
Not a very inspiring Moto 1 from Vialle, who hit a wall with his lap times by the midway point and never recovered. He got passed up by both Shimoda and Lawrence on lap nine, then lost an additional two spots by the time lap 13 hit Cooper and Deegan. The good news is that the reigning World MX2 Champion looked much better in Moto 2. Didnt have anywhere near the pace that Lawrence or Deegan did, but by the time things wrapped up, he was 14 seconds up on Cooper who ended up fourth. Vialle's starts were also pretty in line with what he did in the GPs, which even without a holeshot was also nice to see.
6th - No. 34 Max Vohland (Red Bull KTM) (2-9)
Vohland had to be thinking "What if" more than anyone that was on track this weekend. He legitimately looked phenomenal in Moto 1, making some nice early passes to get into second, and never looked back. He was only about .25 seconds a lap off of what Hampshire was running on average which given how locked in he was is fantastic. Even after a bad start in Moto 2 Vohland make quick work of getting into the top 10, but things unraveled after his tip over. Even if he made it back up to ninth, he had the kind of run going where he easily could have finished second or third overall, fourth at the absolute worst.
8th - Guillem Farres (Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha) (8-5)
One of the things I had mentioned about Farres coming into 2023 is that his Moto 2 finishes were worse than his Moto 1 finishes in the two rounds he did last year. That took all of *checks clock/notes* 65 or so minutes of real in Moto time to change that in his third career AMA National. And better yet I think the latter Moto score is a bit more indicative of how he was today. Looking forward to seeing how the young Spaniard progresses as we settle into this 2023 season.
250 Class Pala Top 10 (With Points for R1)
1st No. 96 Hunter Lawrence (3-1) (45 Points)
2nd No. 238 Haiden Deegan (6-2) (37 Points)
3rd No. 24 R.J. Hampshire (1-11) (35 Points)
4th No. 128 Tom Vialle (7-3) (34 Points)
5th No. 32 Justin Cooper (5-4) (34 Points)
6th No. 34 Max Vohland (2-9) (34 Points)
7th No. 30 Jo Shimoda (4-6) (33 Points)
8th No. 88 Guillem Farres (8-5) (29 Points)
9th No. 43 Levi Kitchen (10-7) (25 Points)
10th No. 52 Carson Mumford (11-8) (23 Points)
450 Class Recap
1st - No. 18 Jett Lawrence (Honda HRC) (1-1)
WELP, that didn't take long. One whole American Motocross National is all it took for the Jett to get career victory No. 1 on a 450. Most impressively is that he did it in two entirely separate ways. First by blowing the doors off of the entire field in Moto 1, then holding off Chase Sexton who was breathing down his neck for a full 30 minutes and change. Tweeted out without around six minutes to go in that second Moto that I thought Lawrence was going to lose it, and despite some disaster flirting late on the off-camber section before the hill, was able to finish things out. Impressed would be an understatement.
2nd - No. 23 Chase Sexton (Honda HRC) (2-2)
Sometimes is just not your day and that was the case Saturday for the new Supercross Champion. Sexton threw everything plus the kitchen sink at Lawrence in those last five minutes of Moto 2 and just couldn't get it done. Just have to tip your cap and move on to next weekend. Even then a 2-2 isn't anything to be super bummed out over, if he and Lawrnece flip-flop next weekend Sexton gets himself the red plate so it's not all that bad.
3rd - No. 14 Dylan Ferrandis (Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha) (3-3)
By the talk going into this weekend and during the action on Saturday, it didn't seem like Dylan Ferrandis was 100 percent to go from a health standpoint still. So to come out of the opener third in points with a 3-3 is best case scenario. Ferrandis was not even in the same stratosphere as the two Honda HRC riders, yet still is walking away only 10 points out of the lead, which in all honesty is great given the circumstances.
5th - No. 2 Cooper Webb (Red Bull KTM) (4-5)
Webb is someone else who should be happy with how things turned out, even more so than Ferrandis given that he just got back on the bike this week and had little to no outdoor prep coming into the weekend. Just getting those reps in was good enough for the former two-time Supercross Champion.
6th -No. 9 Adam Cianciarulo (Monster Energy Kawasaki) (6-7)
A 6-7 is probably not what AC was hoping for on paper, but man was his Moto 2 run spectacular. More or less he went from just about dead last in the second corner to seventh, which is mind-boggling when you really think about it. Even crazier than that was that Cianciarulo was all the way up in 11th by the time he hit lap three. Now he was 100 percent faster and on better equipment than everyone he got by, but getting around 25-ish riders in that little time is absolutely ludicrous. Would like to see him get to the front earlier than he did on Saturday moving forward with that being said.
7th - No. 78 Grant Harlan (Manluk Rock River Yamaha) (9-6)
Perhaps the only good thing about the injuries plaguing the 450 class is that allows some new faces to become top 10 guys for the time being. Love that a guy like Harlan gets the opportunity to run up near the front with this Rock River Yamaha squad, he's had several impressive runs indoors and outdoors the last two years and hopefully, this can lead to some opportunities down the road, there's some real talent here. Now that I've gotten all of the nice things out of the way, I want him investigated for insider trading at the federal level, as he currently sits fifth in the PulpMX Industry Idiots MX League as he was racing in said event, my antenna is up. Same with points leader Logan Karnow.
450 Class Pala Top 10 (With Points for R1)
1st No. 18 Jett Lawrence (1-1) (50 Points)
2nd No. 23 Chase Sexton (2-2) (44 Points)
3rd No. 14 Dylan Ferrandis (3-3) (40 Points)
4th No. 7 Aaron Plessinger (5-4) (34 Points)
5th No. 2 Cooper Webb (4-5) (34 Points)
6th No. 9 Adam Cianciarulo (6-7) (29 Points)
7th No. 78 Grant Harlan (9-6) (27 Points)
8th No. 107 Jose Butron (10-8) (24 Points)
9th No. 103 Lorenzo Locurcio (7-11) (24 Points)
10th No. 47 Freddie Noren (13-9) (20 Points)
Pala PulpMX Industry Idiots Fantasy Team
450 Class: Adam Cianciarulo (All-Star +4), Dante Oliveira (+4), Marshal Weltin (+6), Derek Drake (+5)
250 Class: Hunter Lawrence (All-Star +1), Carson Mumford (+8), Haiden Deegan (+4), Guillem Farres (+6)
FFL: Justin Cooper (Unsuccessful) and Jett Lawrence (Successful)
Points Total: 467 (Picked the best possible 250 team and my 450 team was point-shaving. I hate it here)
Next Up: Hangtown (Sacramento, California)
Main Image via Honda HRC