The 2022 Motocross of Nations was a weekend of ups and downs. The ups were sunny Saturday weather, thousands of fans, hundreds of friends, and the return for Team USA to the top step of the podium after a decade away. The lows were dreary Sunday weather, pepper spray for a few dozen overzealous party goers, Chase Sexton’s Saturday slip up, and the fact that we don’t know when the next MXON will be in the USA.
Three days at RedBud gave us plenty to talk about, and though the on-track action was everyone’s reason for being there, the afterhours activities and downtime with friends was what we’ll remember most.
We showed up on Friday just in time to see Team USA put pen to paper on their entry forms for the weekend. Chase Sexton and Justin Cooper were granted “One Meeting” licenses by the FIM for the MXON, while Tomac retained an annual license so that he can participate at the WSX kickoff in Cardiff.
How you feel about the random ballot draw for Saturday’s Qualifying Motos was again put to the test on when Morocco, a country in northern Africa with a small motocross contingent among its population of 36 million people, pulled first gate pick. How the team bikes for RedBud is a story in itself: originally entered on KTM and Yamaha bikes, they reached out to Theodore “Bubba” Pauli of the International SX Team to lease the privateer effort’s fleet of KX motorcycles and get help from the small Midwest crew through the weekend.
We, like many, were anxious to see what number Team USA would get. The Easter eggs haven’t always been kind to the Americans, like when number 31 came up at Assen in 2019, and the long wait to be pulled gave DeCoster/Tomac/Sexton/Cooper/Pellitier/Perebijnos plenty of time to discuss the possible outcomes.
Fifteen? Not bad, especially compared to what Great Britain, Spain, Japan, Guam, and France got from the Monster Energy girls.
Tony Cairoli had plenty on his plate at RedBud, including a 37th birthday that the seemingly ageless Sicilian celebrated under the KTM tent on Friday…
And a set of unos on his Red Bull KTM motorcycle, a reward for Team Italy’s long-awaited and well-deserved MXON win at Mantova last year. Cairoli later shared that the weekend was his last as a “professional” racer, a true end to a twenty-year tenure that brought 93 wins, nine championships, and worldwide recognition. What better way to go out than in your country’s colors and with the number one plate?
Get a good look at Jeremy Van Horebeek’s Beta, because the European brand could be on the AMA starting line sometime soon. JVH’s MXGP results over the last few years have shown that the steel frame-KYB suspended bikes are well-suited for motocross, but what really got our attention was Dare DeMartile’s razor-precise lines at PIR in Oregon. This bike in the right hands could be something.
To whoever made the decision to keep Eli Tomac on the 2022 YZ450F, good call. We heard there was talk about debuting the all-new blue bike at RedBud, hype that escalated after Eli’s laps on a modestly modified 2023 at the Alpinestars media launch, but were admittedly relieved when Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha wheeled out matching 2022s, complete with 101s.
What was up for grabs? The Chamberlain Cup, an event-specific trophy topped by a rotating globe, diamond rings for the winning team, and special watches from Rockwell that were ordered by Ricky Johnson/Carson City Motorsports and awarded to the overall victors of the MXGP/MX2/Open Classes.
Roger DeCoster has heard the comments about his recent results with the American effort, how after a decade of losses against 22 wins, maybe it’s time for the Belgian to move aside. The Man acknowledged it when he sat down for Friday’s press conference, saying with a half-laugh, “I apologize for still being the Team Manager, I’m sorry about that.” DeCoster’s legacy as one of the most important to ever throw a leg over a bike is cemented, no question about it, but the truth is the same comments will come up when the selection process begins every July.
You’ve got to give it to Justin Cooper. The American MX2 rider caused a fuss with his pre-race social media post and then stated that he was going to prove that he was worthy of his spot, which fueled online critics for the weekend but rallied the team around him.
How many times will we see these boys rock the green and gold? Lawrence, Evans, and Lawrence are a young, fast, and well-supported trio, just the kind of thing Australia needs for a chance at the Chamberlain Cup.
Friday’s time in the media center ended with Triumph Racing announcing the latest details of their motocross expansion, including intentions to compete the MX2 division of the World Championship in 2024 with full race program headed up by Thierry Chizat-Suzzoni, expectations to join the MXGP class sometime after, and an eventual division in the US. The British brand’s success in Moto2 racing is partly why the small-bore engine has become the priority, and per leader Jeremy Appleton, they are far along in the development process.
We’ve said it at least a half-dozen times this summer, but wow, people love Jo Shimoda. Japan made their MX2 pick the leader, as the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider is quickly becoming one of the most accomplished competitors to come the island. Will Shimoda spark the next generation of Japanese two-wheel talent?
If you ever want to know why Dean Wilson is ending his outdoor/MX career, his attempt at getting in the bed of this truck explained it all, as two bad knees made it seem like Grandpa Earl was on the scene.
Twenty MXONs for Tanel Leok, a record that will be hard for anyone to ever top. The Estonian’s jersey listed the two-decades of participation, with only 2020 and 2021 keeping it from being a full streak.
Anyone remember the last time Eli Tomac looked this excited? Yeah, we couldn’t either. Friday’s parade was a different side to ET3 than we’ve come to expect (thought he was going to smash the front row with the flag a few times), so much so that it became a talking point for people in the pits and fans in the crowd. With a 2023 SX-only contract inked but seemingly a renewed interest racing, one has to wonder how long he’ll continue to line up.
Jeremy Seewer is one the guys we look forward to seeing at the MXON, both for his on the bike style and for the Switzerland team’s look (zoom in to see the red details of the boots/gear/graphics). The MXGP vice champion was again the driving force for the Swiss squad, as the MXGP rider finished third in Saturday’s Qualifying Moto and put in 4-5 results that helped the team finish ninth overall.
Moroccan MX2 rider Saad Soulimani in action, who rode for all forty minutes/16 laps of Saturday’s warm-up practice, was 25th fastest in the time sheets, and put in a 20th place result in the Qualifying Moto.
Kay De Wolf is one to watch in the next few years, as the Dutch rider is becoming a front-runner in MX2 with the Nestaan Husqvarna team. This was our first time seeing a grown De Wolf on the bike, and we have to say that’s his aggressive, stand-up style is fun to watch.
Of course the MX2 guys had the best style over the sand single.
A look at the MX2 entry list shows how many countries are putting out good, young riders. Take Brazil, which has Enzo Lopes repping the flag in the highly competitive AMA series with support from CLUBMX. These next few years will be an interesting time, especially as every region seems to learn that building their domestic series and broadcasting the races around the world is part of talent cultivation process.
Props to every rider that went for the Leap during the weekend. Tim Richie did a very good job at making the triple safe/challenging/thrilling, so when guys like Haakon Osterhagen went for their run toward the face, they knew they had a good chance of getting to the backside of the landing.
There are lots of little differences between the MXGP and AMA series, enough that Team USA had another technical briefing to go over unfamiliar rules or procedures. Eli Tomac told us that the starting gate area was its own thing: once the mechanic was directed to step away, everything from starting block placement to alignment on the high-grip grate was up to the rider.
Jorge Prado showed Eli Tomac how starts go in the MXGP series as the young Spaniard rocketed out of the gate, pointed himself toward the line, and blocked the 101. This is just our opinion, but if the start straight cut overs that are typical in the world series were tried over here, there would be plenty of crashes and angry confrontations.
Dylan Wright proved that he is one of the world’s best at the MXON. No, the Canadian didn’t win a moto, but his starting line crash to ninth place run in the MXGP Qualifying Moto said almost as much as his incredible summer north of the border did. A look at Wright’s lap times from the entire weekend showed that he’s got the pace of Wilson/Cairoli/Vlaanderen/etc.
Team Guam’s Benny Bloss, on his way to 14th place finish in Saturday’s Qualifying Moto. It was cool to see how sponsors stepped up to support the organized, unincorporated American territory in the western Pacific Ocean, including the custom gear by FXR.
Jago Geerts, 450 rider. Belgium’s decision to put the MX2 rider on the big bike was considered questionable (better he over young Liam Everts, who is still coming into his own on the 250) until Saturday’s stunning win over Jeremy Seewer-Eli Tomac-Mitch Evans. If anything, the wonder now is if Geerts should stay in MX2 class for another year or forget that title and go up to MXGP sooner than planned.
The Fox Racing crew’s all-white bibs were easy to spot in the crowd, be it at the track or at the Monster Energy afterparty.
What’s the age gap between France and Spain’s MX2 riders? Thirteen years.
Marvin Musquin is 32, Guillem Farres is 19.
New Zealand’s Brodie Connolly had a “Agony of Defeat” moment when his YZ250F let go in the middle of Saturday’s Qualifying Moto. The Kiwis dropped the 29th place result from Saturday’s scores and raced the B Final on Sunday morning, where Connolly charged to a second-place result and teammate Josiah Natzke finished sixth. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the end of the heartbreak for New Zealand; they tied with Venezuela on points, but lost the tie breaker, which was Anthony Rodriguez’s moto win.
Well-timed shot into the sand.
– Jo Shimoda’s graphics might be some of our all-time favorites: Throttle Syndicate took inspiration from Hokusai’s woodblock print of The Great Wave off Kanagawa.
There were two new teams on the entry list at RedBud: FIM Europe and FIM Latin America. MX exists in these areas, but limited funds or structure make it difficult for riders to emerge on a global stage, which the FIM hopes to address over the next few years.
We’ll rewatch the Open Class Qualifying Moto a few more times this offseason, as it may be a preview of what’s to come next summer between 2021 champion Dylan Ferrandis and 2022 runner-up Chase Sexton.
On that note, if someone had said in 2017 that these two riders would be at the top of the world in just five years, what would you think? Both are dedicated to being the best, know now is their time to make it happen, and are ready to leave it all on the track. The coming era looks like it will be a good one.
As cliché as it is to say, Saturday’s Qualifying Moto was a statement win by Dylan Ferrandis. The French rider had a dreadful summer, first from ligament damage to his thumb from a preseason crash and then by back pain from the Budds Creek collision, but his pursuit of Sexton and open path to the checkered flag proved that he’s still got the speed. That kind of ride is just the sort of motivation one needs before an offseason of gym work, sprints, and bike rides.
This is what Ruben Fernandez looks like. We’re sure this is the first time some of you have seen the Spaniard without a helmet.
Same, but different with Maxime Renaux and Justin Cooper.
A look down the starting line on Sunday morning was a much different sight than we’re used to seeing at RedBud. Gone was the deep disc and heavy water prep that’s common of the AMA races in July, and in its place was a smoothly rolled and finished flat run to the first turn. What would you rather ride down when locked bar to bar with 39 other riders, the loose and loamy lane, or a shellac over wet soil?
Eli and Jago, the Unexpected Duel. Imagine a championship summer of this.
Spotters, filmers, cooks, and trainers are what make France’s program second to none. The FFM/Fédération Française de Motocyclisme is known for their MXON embassies and at RedBud, it was an auto racing team’s rig, complete with a kitchen, that turned out to be the perfect setup for paddock hospitality. USA was one of the teams that took notice of the French setup and staff, especially their use of video, and hopes to have a similar setup for 2023.
Not to go on about Jago, but wow. The Belgian posted a 2:11.299 on lap 14 of Moto One, his personal best and the fastest of the race, against Eli Tomac’s 2:11.604 on lap 11.
It’s a much different world than it was three years ago, and we could go on about the changes MX has endured, but simply put, this was great to see. This year’s MXON had an air of importance to it, as fans from everywhere made their way to the hillsides, credential holders conversated in stop-and-go meetings through the pits, and decision makers of the sport got together to discuss their disputes over territories/schedules/partners/influence.
The Moto One win by Eli Tomac was Team USA’s only race victory on Sunday, and paired with Justin Cooper’s ninth, put the American crew in early control of the overall lead. One day we will look back at Eli’s 2022 run (SX wins and title, MX wins and title, ESPY, MXON wins and overall, public persona), and really appreciate all that that he accomplished against the circumstances (new team, new bike, late stage of his career).
There was a lot of young talent at the front in Moto Two, with Mattia Guadagnini getting the holeshot over Chase Sexton, Jett Lawrence, Mitch Evans, and Justin Cooper (check the look over from Jett to Chase). Of the five names mentioned, the rider on the small displacement bike (Cooper) is actually the oldest (25).
Do you know when the last dry MXON was? Maggoria 2016, as very year since has had a wet Sunday. Matterly Basin ‘17 had sticky and heavy slop, RedBud ’18 a weeklong quagmire, Assen ’19 was cold with a constant rain, and Mantova ’20 was just a sandy mess. This year’s raceday rain was just enough to be stressful, with quick showers that rolled through before the start of Moto One and Moto Two and in the final laps of Moto Three.
Is this a sign of things to come? We, like many, watched Sexton and Lawrence square up in Moto Two and played out all the possible outcomes in our head. Sexton’s focus on the task at hand, the overall win, meant that he didn’t engage with first-time 450 racer Lawrence as much as some many have wanted, but the laps they spent in battle proved that Team Honda HRC should two contenders for next summer’s MX title.
The Goggle Lane. Dylan Ferrandis made a late race stop for new optics in Moto Two, a decision that proved to be wise for the rider, as he used the clear vision to hammer in some of the fastest laps of the race. This switch was much better than the one we saw he attempt in practice, and it was cool to see Trevor Carmichael, Star Racing’s engine builder in a Team USA shirt, help the French rider.
First of many. Jett Lawrence’s run to the Moto Two win was one of the “it’ll be cool when this happens” moments many discussed ahead of the weekend, but how many thought it would come to be? The Australian got in with the lead group from the very start, hammered in hard laps, wore down guys with more big bike experience, and crossed the line 14 seconds clear of Chase Sexton.
There were a lot of Yamaha bikes up front at the start this year. Maxime Renaux and Dylan Ferrandis were practically even when they went over the holeshot stripe in Moto Three, a first and second place running that gave the Americans a momentary reason to worry.
As fans, we’d wanted to see the Renaux-Sexton match up for months. Both guys are young, fast, fluid on the bike, and pretty shredded, while their differing bike brands, national backgrounds, and personalities that make things a little more interesting. The laps they spun together during Moto Three had our full attention; we’d have been watching even if it wasn’t a fight for the lead.
Did you know Eli went down in the final laps of Moto Three? His push to catch the pack of riders ahead ended abruptly when he laid the bike down in the right-hand turn after the sand whoops…
But a quick remount and launch down the following jump helped him stay ahead of Jorge Prado. Apparently Tomac forgot about this in the excitement of the win, but the people on the hillside who watched it happen and held their breath until he got going remembered.
Don’t sleep on Team France for the next five years, because guys like Maxime Renaux, Tom Vialle, Dylan Ferrandis, and Romain Febvre will always be in the mix for one of the three spots. The team’s second place finish, though very good (Musquin’s MX2 scores are arguably what cost them the win), only seemed to be a motivator for redemption in 2023, when the race returns to the hills of Ernee.
The weekend didn’t end with the Tomac-Sexton battle to the end followed by the arm-in-arm finish so many wanted (we admittedly imagined that on the drive up Thursday). Instead, it came with a pair of top-ten finishes and the sense of relief that finally, Team USA would touch the trophy again and that Tomac had added the one missing thing to his accomplishment list.
We never noticed it until this point in the weekend, but cool that each of the guys have three in their permanent number, right? Tomac is 3, Sexton is 23, and Cooper is 32.
Mark it 23 wins for The Man at the MXON.
Fitting that Mitch Covington, a Monster Energy executive over motorsports, got to hand the big award to Team USA. Covington’s decision to sponsor teams and riders has paid for plenty over the past decade, probably even that trophy.
Last time we’ll say it, but don’t be surprised if some mix of these riders is what fills the MXON podium for the next five years. Tomac and Musquin might not be up there in the future, due to SX-only deals they have at this stage in their careers, but you never know what kind of call could come from the AMA or FFM.
Medals and rings.
Let’s end the recap here, with Eli’s bike on the rev limiter and a diamond ring ripping through laminated tear offs. Hope the hangover doesn’t last too long, though, because the next race is only a few weeks away and the 2023 prep follows immediately after.
Michael Antonovich has a wealth of experience with over 10 years of moto-journalism under his belt. A lifelong racing enthusiast and rider, Anton is the Editor of Swapmoto Live and lives to be at the race track.