In the last three runnings of the Motocross Des Nations, the team defending home turf is 3-for-3, with the Netherlands winning their first-ever Chamberlain Trophy, Italy winning for the first time in nearly two decades, and the United States won last year, breaking a decade-plus long drought. If that trend continues, France is next in line to win their sixth Des Nations in 10 years. Although there are several excellent teams not too far off of them this year, their three-rider unit of Romain Febvre, Tom Vialle, and Maxime Renaux may be the best in show.
Of course, you have teams like Australia touting both Lawrence Brothers. Germany sending Ken Roczen and Simon Laegenfelder. Spain sending Jorge Prado and Ruben Fernandez. And the United States sending Aaron Plessinger and Christian Craig, among some other good lineups. So, who's walking out of Ernee with the Chamberlain Trophy on Sunday? Let's find out.
Motocross Des Nations Format Refresher:
- Each Country has three entries: A 450/MX1 rider, a 250/MX2 rider, and an Open class rider who can run several different engine displacements (more often than not, it's used for a second 450 rider)
- Of the X amount of countries that enter, 19 will automatically advance into the big show outright in order of their combined qualifying race results, which are 20-minute Motos across the board. Everyone else goes to the B-Final on Sunday morning, where the winner gets the 20th and final spot. Countries will get gate pick selection for qualifying races via a blind draw (it's stupid, I know).
- Every rider on each team races twice for the Des Nations A-Final (Moto 1: 450 and 250. Moto 2: 250 and Open. Moto 3: 450 and Open). Motos are the standard 30 minutes plus two laps across the board. The final results are the combined finishes added up, with the worst of the six Moto finishes dropped from scoring (The best possible score is 7). The drop score is the tiebreaker in the unlikely event of a tie. From there, I assume it's the best Moto 3 score if that were to be necessary.
2023 FIM Motocross Des Nations Teams
Team Great Britan
MXGP: No. 28 Ben Watson (MRT Racing Team Beta)
MX2: No. 29 Josh Gilbert (Crendon Fastrack Honda)
Open: No. 30 Conrad Mewse (Crendon Fastrack Honda) (2023 British National MX1 Champion)
This British squad has been set in stone for quite some time now, and luckily, they haven't been hit with injuries like some of the teams ahead of them. As expected as well, Conrad Mewse wrapped up his first British 450 Championship about a month ago over Josh Gilbert and Harri Kullas, the latter of whom you may remember had a couple of nice outings on a 450 in the states later on in the Motocross season. This probably isn't a winning squad for my money with Mewse, Watson, and Gilbert, but this is a stout group nonetheless.
MXGP: No. 25 Jeremy Seewer (Monster Energy Wilvo Yamaha)
MX2: No. 26 Arnaud Tonus (IXS Hosteller Yamaha Racing Switzerland) (2023 Swiss National MX1 Champion)
Open: No. 27 Valentin Guillod (Shiptocycle Honda Motoblouz SR)
Jeremy Seewer is just unfortunately in the Tim Gajser position, where he's never going to have many chances, if any for that matter, to come out on top at Des Nations. Even then, he's one of the five best riders in this year's field, and Arnaud Tonus and Valentin Guillod aren't exactly benchwarmers. Tonus, a one-time rider for Mitch Payton in the states and factory Yamaha in the GP's, just wrapped up the Swiss Championship some time ago, and Guillod just ended the year ninth in the MXGP standings with a rock-solid campaign.
Overall, this feels like a team that probably has a better outlook than the Brits, but not likely a winning outfit. I can see them sneaking into the back end of the top five if enough things go right, though.
MXGP: No. 22 Ken Roczen (HEP Progressive/Ecstar Suzuki)
MX2: No. 23 Simon Laengenfelder (Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing MXGP)
Open: No. 24 Tom Koch (Kosak Racing KTM)
Much to my surprise when it was announced, Ken Roczen is indeed captaining the German Des Nations team for the first time in five years. That completely changes the outlook of this team now, with Simon Laegenfelder coming into this event as one of the best 250 riders in the world. If they could get at least one finish between 10th-13th from Koch, I could absolutely see the Germans ending up on the podium. Roczen only did one round of Motocross this year, but he has a lot less wear and tear compared to everyone else, so I can see him having a great weekend.
Team Holland (Netherlands)
MXGP: No. 19 Calvin Vlaanderen (Gebben Van Venrooy Yamaha)
MX2: No. 20 Kay De Wolf (Nestaan Husqvarna Factory Racing)
Open: No. 21 Glenn Coldenhoff (Monster Energy Wilvo Yamaha)
For the second year in a row, there's no Jeffrey Herlings for Holland, as a broken collarbone ended his season just two rounds after returning from a C5 vertebrae fracture. So just in the last 20 months alone, Herlings broke his left heel bone in a photoshoot session crash, knocking him out for all of 2022, a fractured vertebra, and now a broken collarbone this year. He just turned 29 years old shy of a month ago. How much more is he willing to put his body through at this point with all the injuries he's had over the years?
In any case, the guy I'm most concerned with on this Dutch squad is surprisingly Glenn Coldenhoff, who had been Mr. Des Nations for a few years late in the 2010s, plus 2020. Last year, he was the drop score for Holland, with a 36th in Moto 3. My concern would be this: Where does he stack up in that third Moto with all the heavy hitters, even as he had a good year in 2023? I think you know what you're getting out of De Wolf and Vlaanderen at this point, but if the Netherlands wants to win again, they need a couple of single-digit runs out of the Hoff.
MXGP: No. 16 Ruben Fernandez (Honda HRC MXGP)
MX2: No. 17 Oriol Oliver (WZ Racing KTM)
Open: No. 18 Jorge Prado (Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing MXGP) (2023 FIM MXGP World Champion)
Now we've reached the first of the true contenders in this year's Des Nations field. Firstly, Jorge Prado has finally done it, and no, I'm not talking about winning the Championship. He's finally figured out how to finish out not one but two Motos on the same day, which is why he got Red Bull GasGas a shiny gold No. 1 plate. With that said, the Spanish putting him as the Open rider and not the 450 rider is very interesting. He's not getting that extended break. Instead, that's going to Ruben Fernandez. So, safe to say I'm going to be locked in on that No. 18 GasGas in that final Moto
Fernandez, meanwhile, I'm not too worried about. He's been one of the better stories across the pond, getting consistently better every year, and did a great job holding down the Honda HRC fort with Gajser missing much of the opening half of the year. Oliver, I would say, is probably playing the Tom Koch role. Can they get one guaranteed great Moto out of him? That's exactly what you're hoping for.
MXGP: No. 13 Jago Geerts (Monster Energy KEMEA Yamaha)
MX2: No. 14 Lucas Coenen (Nestaan Husqvarna Factory Racing)
Open: No. 15 Liam Everts (Red Bull KTM MXGP)
This is the team I'm easily the most excited for. Lots of talent, but three very young riders in the grand scheme. All three riders here finished top five in the MX2 World Championship, with everyone picking up at least one GP victory. Many, myself included, came away very impressed with Geerts after RedBud last year, and he's back on the 450 once again.
It also sounds like Everts will be on a 350, a great call by KTM and the Team Belgium staff. Keep this in mind, the bulk of Tony Cairoli's KTM Championships came on the 350 and not the 450. He should have more than enough power to make things happen. Finally, especially for those who aren't up to speed with the 'GPs, keep an eye out for Coenen. Lucas and his brother Sacha are represented by Lucas Mirtl, the Lawrence Brothers' agent, and they'll probably be making their way to the AMA ranks in 2025. Call it some early scouting. Spoiler: Mirtl's other set of twins are really good themselves.
MXGP: No. 10 Alberto Forato (SM Action Racing/YUASA Battery KTM)
MX2: No. 11 Andrea Adamo (Red Bull KTM MXGP) (2023 FIM MX2 World Champion)
Open: No. 12 Andrea Bonacorsi (Hutten Metaal Yamaha)
'My' people suffered a grave loss with the recent calf issue for Mattia Guadagnini knocking him out of Des Nations. A shame too. He had just returned to racing after breaking his arm much earlier in the year. With that said, the Italians still have Andrea Adamo, who started his run with KTM with a bang, winning the MX2 Title, and the people's rider Alberto Forato. Had this team had Guadagnini, they would have been on level with the French. Adamo has been firing on all cylinders all year, and you only needed one good run out of Forato to compete for the win, and it's not like Forato has been bad by any stretch. I'd call seventh in the MXGP standings pretty good.
MXGP: No. 7 Jett Lawrence (Honda HRC AMA) (2023 AMA National 450 Motocross Champion. 2023 SMX 450 World Champion)
MX2: No. 8 Hunter Lawrence (Honda HRC AMA) (2023 AMA National 250 Motocross Champion)
Open: No. 9 Dean Ferris (Brisbane Motorcycles Yamaha) (2023 Australian MX1 Champion)
Jett Lawrence is the best rider in this event, and Dean Ferris being your third-best rider is as good as it gets. However, I'm skeptical about the health of Hunter Lawrence after Los Angeles SMX. There was a shot after he did an interview in the HRC hauler where he was struggling simply to walk. That was only 10 days ago. The good news is that Hunter Lawrence, even at 50 percent, is still a pitbull on a Motorcycle, but I don't know what to expect from him until we physically see him on the bike at Ernee. Either way, this is the best chance Australia has ever had to win this event. Best not to waste it with Hunter and Jett moving up to 450s full-time next year. Also, they have some cool LTD merch if that's your sort of thing.
MXGP: No. 4 Romain Febvre (Kawasaki Racing Team MXGP)
MX2: No. 5 Tom Vialle (Red Bull KTM AMA)
Open: No. 6 Maxime Renaux (Monster Energy Wilvo Yamaha)
The French probably don't have the best rider in any class, but they have three really, really good riders and the best overall roster for their first Des Nations on home soil in nearly 2015. Romain Febvre did a good job keeping Prado honest all season despite missing the Spanish GP, but ultimately fell 76 points shy of his second World Championship. The 31-year-old out of Kimi Räikkönen's (yes, the very same) Kawasaki KRT camp is still one of Europe's best. Renaux is a guy I've enjoyed watching over the last few years, but a severe back injury last year and a foot injury this year have put a damper on things. He was expected to miss the rest of the year with the latter but made the final four GPs, nearly winning in Arnhem.
American fans got a good taste of what Vialle can bring to the table, and the expectation should be that he's hopefully closer to his European form than his rookie year in America. Despite that, he had some great runs in SMX, so expect big things from him going forward. Hard to say if this team is a lock to win, but they are 100 percent the favorite going into the weekend.
On a final note, these universal kits Team France has these guys wearing STINK. Horrendous, could not be put into Hell Tier faster. Remember when they kicked Vialle off the team in '19 over that hat, by the way???
MXGP: No. 1 Aaron Plessinger (Red Bull KTM AMA)
MX2: No. 2 R.J. Hampshire (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing)
Open: No. 3 Christian Craig (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing)
No Tomac, No Sexton, No Cooper, No Problem. Even with the 'new league year' passing going into Des Nations week, the United States still touts one of the best lineups in this field. AP's year ultimately got overshadowed by Jett (for obvious reasons) and Chase, as well as Ferrandis, but keep these numbers in mind: In Plessinger's last 30 Motos, he is 30/30 in Top 10s, 22/30 in Top 5s, with an average finish of 4.83. He'll be up for the task.
As for R.J. Hampshire, he's the volatile member of this group, which might not be a bad thing. If you take his best Moto result from each national he's run over the last two seasons, it rounds out to a 4.4. There's zero guarantee he gives you that kind of output twice, for better or worse. But the red, white, and blue are in serious business if so.
I know many people were unhappy with Christian Craig as the Open rider when the team was announced but remember this. He suffered a broken hip and elbow in that Glendale qualifying crash, then suffered a setback to keep him out for the entire summer. So the fact he answered the call to not only jump on this team relatively last minute, but to take the long shift, running Motos 2 and 3 with much fewer Moto reps than anyone else in this event, should tell you how badly he wants this. Craig deserves a ton of props, and if he does well, he's about to have a lot of people apologizing like people did with Justin Cooper last year, myself included. Hard to say if this is a winner, but they have a puncher's chance, and that's all you can ask for.
Gaffney's 2023 FIM Motocross Des Nations Power Rankings
5. Team Spain
4. Team USA
3. Team Belgium
2. Team Australia
1. Team France
Podium Picks: 1st) Team Belgium 2nd) Team France 3rd) Team Australia
First Teams Off: Team USA, Team Spain, Team Germany
Main Image via GasGas