Big weekend here in the wide world of Motocross. AMA Motocross is back after a weekend off and set for the biggest National of the year at RedBud on Saturday, MXGP is running their second consecutive round in Indonesia on Sunday, and World Supercross is set to start their first full season from Villa Park in Birmingham, England on Saturday. Although there are a ton of locations and venues that are most likely new to US-based Supercross fans, the wide majority of these riders should not be.
Defending Champions Ken Roczen and Shane McElrath, Joey Savatgy, Justin Brayton, Max Anstie, and more are taking things global for this six-round Championship. Five rounds outside of continental North America, and Canada's biggest event since Toronto Supercross in 2017. So who are the guys to beat, and who's coming in under the radar via lack of exposure? Let's find out.
Event Format and Schedule
For those who like the Triple Crown format stateside, the program run in WSX may be right up your alley. After five lap Heat Races for each class, the top three in each 450 Heat will run in 'Superpole' and run single-bike passes ala NASCAR and IndyCar for oval races. Those seventh on the back get set by their Heat finish as is generally standard procedure.
For the Main Event, the 250s get two six-lap races and a 10-lap final race, with the 450s getting an extra two laps in each race. Points get dealt out on a per-race basis just like in Motocross, with the exact same system as AMA Pro Motocross (1st=25 Points, 2nd=22 Points, 3rd=20 Points, 4th=18 Points, 5th=16 Points, and -1 point for each additional spot). New for this season is that the rider with the fastest lap in that third race picks up a bonus point, much akin to Formula 1.
Here's the kicker, each class runs all three of their races consecutively with eight-minute breaks in between. Now, this brings the event runtime to a scheduled four hours. Give or take, that's an hour longer than the AMA runs. Speaking personally, I'd get rid of the heat races and go straight into Superpole after intros, anything to get that run time down a decent bit.
- British GP (Villa Park in Birmingham, England) July 1
- Singapore GP (National Stadium in Kallang, Singapore) September 30
- German GP (Merkur Spiel Arena in Dusseldorf, Germany) October 14
- Canadian GP (BC Place in Vancouver, British Columbia) October 28
- Abu Dhabi GP (Ethiad Arena in Abu Dhabi, UAE) November 4 (True Arena venue. Replaces planned French GP)
- Australian GP (Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Victoria) November 2
How Viable is World Supercross Long-Term?
I want to start this section by saying that as far as people the FIM could have gotten to replace FELD to run a World Championship Supercross Series, they couldn't have done much better than Adam Bailey and Co. They ran a good ship with the Aus-X Open and the adjacent events with it, putting on events at/near the quality of AMA Supercross. Additionally, his newest running mate on the administrative side of things, Tony Cochrane, turned V8 Supercars into a 330 million dollar asset when he left shop in 2012 after buying it for 52 thousand in the mid-90s.
So when I ask about the viability of World Supercross, it ultimately comes down to one key issue: Will they be able to secure enough star power on a year-in-year-out basis, and dismiss the thought that they are more than a 'retirement tour'? In their first true season, the answer is a mixed bag. Roczen is undoubtedly a massive get, but he's the only bonified superstar of the 40-ish riders here. Perhaps WSX having rounds after both the MXGP and AMA could present the opportunity to bring in some fun names as Wild Card entries like Eli Tomac was last year for a round, but that remains to be seen. But in general, effectively running head-to-head with both Motocross Championships will make getting guys hard, especially with the SMX playoffs now being a thing.
With that said, having an abundance of quality riders like Wilson, Savatgy, the Hills, Anstie, etc, is far from a nightmare scenario. As far as the 'retirement tour' concerns, there's several 'semi-retired' guys here in 2023. Names like Cole Seely, Zombie Blose, Matt Moss, and Mike Alessi (yes, the very same) pop up right away. Justin Brayton could be thrown into that category as well, but I would say he's an aberration, not the norm. While there is certainly value in having established older names involved in World Supercross, I don't think Bailey is trying to turn this into the PGA Seniors Tour of Supercross. Either way, I want WSX to be a success because 1) Riders are going to get themselves decent-sized bag. Especially some guys who aren't household names. And 2) Having more good racing is never a bad thing.
2023 World Supercross Teams
Craig Dack Racing (Australian Monster Energy Yamaha)
SX1: No. 75 Josh Hill and No. 80 Grant Harlan
SX2: No. 4 Luke Clout (2021 Australian National Motocross Champion) and No. 9 Aaron Tanti (Reigning and Defending Australian National 450 Motocross Champion)
CDR is by all accounts, the only factory team in this series, with the Australian Motocross legend Craig Dack leading the charge. Seeing as this team is an Australian mainstay, he's bringing on both of his own riders to double dip in World Supercross and the Australian Motocross Championship. American fans may remember Luke Clout, who ran with Firepower Honda in the 2020 250 West Championship and will once again be hoping down to the small bike for WSX. Ditto for Aaron Tanti, whose balancing the SX2 title while defending his 450 MX title down under.
CDR did a fairly good job of getting some hired guns from the states, starting with Josh Hill, who was one of the best stories of the entire Monster Energy Supercross season, taking full advantage of the real estate available in the top 10 of the field late in the year. Grant Harlan is another awesome get for CDR. Just weeks ago, he put together one of the best privateer Motocross outings in several years at Thunder Valley and is now getting a notable bump in equipment. Super happy that he's getting this opportunity.
Bud Racing Kawasaki
SX1: No. 46 Justin Hill and No. 85 Cedric Soubeyras (Reigning and Defending French 450 Supercross Champion)
SX2: No. 13 Adrien Escoffier and No. 945 Anthony Bourdon
Josh wasn't the only good story to come out of the Hill family. In fact, Justin was the better of the two after he finished top 10 in Monster Energy Supercross points after a multi-year layoff. For WSX, he jumps on with the Bud Kawasaki squad out of the MXGP ranks, joining former AMA ringer Cedric Soubeyras, who has dominated the French scene these last several years. Not to be outdone, both Escoffier and Bourdon bringing a combined three French Supercross Championships to the table as well for Bud's 250 program.
FXR ClubMX Yamaha
SX1: No. 102 Matt Moss and No. 519 Josh Cartwright
SX2: No. 56 Enzo Lopes and No. 125 Luke Neese
The ClubMX Yamaha outfit has quickly become a staple unit in America. Once again, they are fielding a World Supercross squad with plenty of familiar faces. However, one name here, Josh Cartwright, is a last-minute replacement. Cole Thompson, who rode for Solitare Yamaha during Monster Energy Supercross, found out that he's suffering from a herniated disk and a compressed right S1 (Lower area of the back right below the lumbar) nerve root. As far as last-minute replacements go, Cartwright is a pretty good option. He made all but three 450 Main Events in Monster Energy Supercross this season. Joining him on the 450 gate is the Australian Matt Moss, who made a start at Oakland this year with BarX Suzuki.
The real star of this team, however, is Enzo Lopes, after he put together a career season in the 250 West division, ending up fourth in the points after a pair of fifths the years prior. A Main Event podium alluded him all year long, but he did everything but that. Lopes, most notably, picked up his first career Heat Race win in Denver about a month and a half ago. In what is probably the more contested field, calling Lopes the favorite wouldn't be that much of a stretch.
SX1: No. 10 Justin Brayton (The King of Intl. Supercross) and No. 15 Dean Wilson
SX2: No. 40 Gage Linville and No. 99 Max Anstie
I'm going to assume most fans know the power that Justin Brayton holds in the Eastern Hemisphere in Supercross, but for those who don't, he's won every 450 Supercross Championship in Australia dating back to 2016 and has multiple wins at Geneva Supercross. Even last year, Fort Dodge, Iowa's finest likely would have won the two-round series. Well, if not for a certain teammate that may or may not have put a bounty on him in that last race, but I digress. I would expect both he and Deano to be fairly competitive.
Gage Linville, despite turning pro and making a couple of 250 East Main Events in his rookie season might not be the most known commodity at this juncture. With that said, the Georgia native is a multi-time Loretta Lynn's Champion, and came into 2023 with pro Supercross experience via the Australian Championship last winter. Anstie needs no introduction I'd imagine. He finally got that coveted first Supercross Main Event in a monsoon in East Rutherford and now looks to parlay a strong US season into another good season at the global level.
SX1: No. 80 Kevin Moranz and No. 911 Jordi Tixier (2014 MX2 World Champion)
SX2: No. 3 Chris Blose and No. 110 Kyle Peters (Arenacross Jesus)
The NILS Honda squad probably has the most interesting mix of riders in this field. That starts with Kevin Moranz of Seattle Supercross holeshot fame, who finished a career-best 16th in the 450 Monster Energy Supercross points in year three in the class. This is someone who has been on either a KTM or Kawasaki (mainly the former) for his entire career dating back to his first years at Loretta Lynn's, so I'm curious to see how he does on the Honda. The 911 of Jordi Tixier is very familiar with the CRF meanwhile. The one-time factory Kawasaki Rider in MXGP is back with the Italian-based Honda squad for the second year in a row.
Zombie Blose was going to come into this WSX season fresh, but then literally everyone got hurt for Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki. In his fill-in stint, the longtime vet put up some very respectable results for Mitch Payton. Then there's the King of Arenacross, Kyle Peters, who has put up video game numbers in Kicker Arenacross in recent years. Health was an issue for him when he ran 250 East a couple of seasons ago, which feels worth mentioning. But especially on some of these smaller stadium floors, Peters should have some reasonable success at worst.
Team GSM Yamaha
SX1: No. 6 Thomas Ramette (Multi-time French Supercross and British Arenacross Champion) and No. 20 Greg Aranda (Multi-time Supercross Champion across several series in Europe)
SX2: No. 141 Maxime Desprey (2021 Undisputed French Champion) and No. 401 Jace Owen
France is well represented with this GSM Yamaha squad. There's a solid chance that this is your first time hearing about the three French riders paired with Jace Owen, but you may recall Ramette specifically running a handful of 250 East Supercross rounds back in 2018 with moderately successful results. Desprey may be familiar if you've watched MXGP for some time. He spent several years with the Gebben Van Venroy Kawasaki squad, having several quality outings in 2018.
MDK Motorsports (KTM)
SX1: No. 7 Anthony Rodriguez and No. 68 Cade Clason
SX2: No. 19 Justin Bogle and No. 604 Max Miller
Lots of familiar faces on the MDK squad this year after they gave a ride to Chad Reed a season ago. Very happy to see Cade Clason get another crack at WSX after a mixed bag a season ago. If not for a 12th right away in Australia, he may have walked away with a podium performance after he bounced back with a fourth and fifth. Rodriguez has mainly spent his 2023 on a 250 but did get a couple of Main Events logged in a 450 at Denver and Glendale, with results of 11th and 20th.
We didn't see Justin Bogle at all during the winter/spring, and thus this will be his first live notable race action in over eight months. It was some tough sledding indoors and out for him a year ago, and the plan was that he was to run the Canadian Motocross series up until a bad practice crash about a few months ago. So yeah, quite the year for him so far.
Rick Ware Racing (Freelance Bike Choice)
SX1: No. 17 Joey Savatgy (Kawasaki) and No. 45 Colt Nichols (Kawasaki)
SX2: No. 1 Shane McElrath (Yamaha) (Defending SX2 "World Champion") and No. 66 Henry Miller (Yamaha)
Nice to see Joey Savatgy good to go for this weekend after a crash seven rounds into Monster Energy Supercross ended his season, after he put up six straight top 10s aboard a RWR Kawasaki. Despite losing out on the SX1 title last year, the veteran picked up a sentimental victory in Australia at Marvel Stadium. The venue where Savatgy suffered a significant offseason injury in 2019. Said injury took him out of the 2020 Supercross season you may recall. If anything happens to a certain Suzuki rider, this is the gentleman to watch out for. I've been a big fan of what Savatgy has done these last couple of years, and Rick Ware should be over the moon that he has a borderline factory-level guy on his program.
Nichols wasted no time finding a new ride after his solid stint at Honda HRC and is officially 'team green' to boot. Should this season go well for him, Rick Ware would be wise to offer the former 250 Supercross Champion a contract and pair him with Savatgy for the coming years. McElrath, meanwhile, comes into 2023 as the defending MX2 Champion, but he won just one of the six races and still managed to win both individual rounds. I'd be stunned if similar results work in his favor once again.
SX1: No. 3 Vince Friese and No. 14 Cole Seely
SX2: No. 800 Mike Alessi and No. 7 Mitchell Oldenburg
We saw him not once during the AMA season due to injury, but resident supervillain Vince Friese is back after finishing third last season. I say supervillain given that at the Australian GP last season, he offered Grant Harlan a non-insignificant chunk of change to wreck his now-former teammate Justin Brayton, then simply did it himself. I don't think I've ever seen Brayton that mad the night of the incident or in the ensuing weeks. So no reason to worry at all, Cole Seely.
Not to be outdone, Mike Alessi, in the year of our lord 2023, is still going, most notably doing some Arenacross in '21-'22 as well as two-stroke World Championships at Glen Helen in '22 and '23. Also, if you want to feel old, LaserGate is now less than a month away from turning 10 years old, do with that information what you will. As for Oldenburg, he should most likely be a contender for this SX2 Championship. Just an all-around solid rider in a class more wide open than the 250 West class was in the States.
Pipes Motorsports Group (HEP Suzuki)
SX1: No. 1 Ken Roczen (Defending SX1 "World Champion") and No. 11 Kyle Chisholm
SX2: No. 58 Hunter Yoder and No. 67 Cullin Park
No way to beat around the bush. This is the Ken Roczen invitational in the SX1 class. Guys like Savatgy and Justin Hill should keep him honest, but he's the best guy in that field and won the points last year despite winning neither round. I'm also interested to see how Yoder does on the RM. I thought he did well in spots on the 250 West circuit for PRMX Kawasaki. Ditto for Park, whose been solid the last two years with Phoenix Honda in Supercross and a bit longer in Arenacross. I will also never say no to getting more Chiz, so all things considered, this is a fantastic team.
2023 World Supercross Championship Picks
SX1: No. 1 Ken Roczen
SX2: No. 56 Enzo Lopes
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