2022 Motocross of Nations | Saturday Qualifying Report & Results
Presented by O’Neal
It’s been years since Team USA earned the Chamberlain Trophy at the Motocross of Nations, but when the dust settled on Saturday’s three qualifying races at Red Bud Track N Trail, the United States team of Eli Tomac, Chase Sexton, and Justin Cooper, sat atop the world with a combined total of three points. Defending champions France was close by with four, and France was third with five points. Each class raced one 20-minute-plus-two-lap moto to determine Sunday’s final starting grid, and the traditional scoring system was used to tally the order. Each individual team’s moto scores were gathered, with the worst of the three being dropped. With Tomac’s second in MXGP, Cooper’s victory in MX2, and Sexton’s second in MX3, there was no beating Team USA’s three-point tally. Here is how the motos wound played out.
When the gate dropped for the first race of the weekend, Switzerland’s Jeremy Seewer snared the holeshot aboard his Yamaha YZ450F and led Australian Mitch Evans, Glenn Coldenhoff of the Netherlands, Belgian Jago Geerts, and the rest onto the famed Red Bud Track N Trail course. American hero Eli Tomac, meanwhile, was mired at the start and began lap one in the middle of the pack. Geerts was the first of the front runners to make a move, displacing Coldenhoff for third in his first major MXGP classification race.
Seewer stuffed the front end in the rollers and crashed out of the lead and handed the lead to Evans, but Geerts was absolutely on rails and hounded the Aussie relentlessly. Tomac worked up into seventh by the second lap and set down some blistering laps as he worked past his unfamiliar International competitors. Geerts took over the lead at the halfway point by diving beneath Evans in the tricky uphill left-hander preceding LaRocco’s Leap. The leaders flew side-by-side over the largest jump on the track, and Geerts completed the pass by diving harder into the next corner. With that, the lead was settled for good, and Geerts went on to score s surprise win for Belgium.
After eating roost from France’s Maxime Renaux for a surprising number of laps, Tomac went around the outside to take control of sixth, then immediately chopped down the distance between himself, Spaniard Jorge Prado, and Coldenhoff. Tomac clicked off a number of amazing laps that saw him pass his competitors with relative ease, passing Prado and Coldenhoff in short order, Once into fourth, Tomac clicked into overdrive and reeled in and passed Evans for third, then set after Seewer for the runner up position, turning in the fastest lap times on the track by over two seconds, in the closing stages of the race. Seewer made a critical mistake in a corner on the very last lap, only seconds away from the finish line, that allowed Tomac to sail past on LaRocco’s Leap.
“I felt pretty good on the 450 already,” said Geerts. “I didn’t expect this! It is nice and unexpected! I want to wish my teammates good luck as well.”
When the gate dropped at the start of the MX2 qualifying heat, it was Spaniard Guillem Farres who rocketed off the line quickest on his Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha YZ250F leading, but home-country hero Justin Cooper wasted little time and took control of the lead before one circuit was in the record books. Once out front, the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider put his head down and absolutely checked out, putting over 40 seconds on the field in a flawless performance.
Behind Cooper, Farres did his best to hold onto second, but the Spaniard was unable to fend off the advances of Australia’s Hunter Lawrence, who gated around fifth but worked towards the front quickly. Lawrence found his way past Farres with 13 minutes left in the race and set his sights on Cooper out front. Lawrence would close slightly on the leader, but after getting the pit board that Lawrence was in tow, Cooper turned the heat up and pulled well clear for the win. France’s Marvin Musquin was another rider on the move. After starting seventh, the two-time 250 World Champion sliced through the field with precision. Musquin was the final rider to work past early leader Farres, and with that the top four positions were set.
“I felt great out there,” said Cooper. “The track is amazing and we have the bike in a great place right now. I passed my buddy Guillem for the lead and tried to put in the hard laps and set a good pace out front.”
Spaniard Ruben Fernandez grabbed the holeshot at the drop of the gate, but Vlaanderen took control of the lead on lap one and led Dylan Ferrandis and Chase Sexton early on. Sexton was on the move and moved past Ferrandis with a smooth inside-line pass on the Frenchman, then set his sights on the leader from the Netherlands. Sexton used a similarly smooth outside-inside line move to take control of the lead, then he put his head down in an attempt to distance the field on his HRC Honda. 2021 450 MX Champion Ferrandis, however, had other ideas and closed to the rear of Sexton’s bike, applying unexpected pressure to the leader.
A bit further back, Australia’s Jett Lawrence engaged in an early battle with Fernandez, who responded to an aggressive pass attempt by Lawrence with some wide, aggressive riding of his own. By the time Lawrence worked his way past and into fourth, Sexton and Ferrandis were out of reach, but Lawrence was able to make quick work of Vlaanderen and take control of third in his first race aboard a CRF450R.
Up front, Ferrandis stayed in Sexton’s wake, and the duo pulled well clear of Lawrence and the rest of the field. With a little more than three minutes left, Sexton missed the massive LaRocco’s Leap uphill triple and allowed Ferrandis to close right to the rear of Sexton’s Honda. Ferrandis lost traction coming out of the fast left-handed sweeper crossing over the starting straight and allowed Sexton to squirt away again. Ferrandis got another shot at the lead when Jorge Israel Rubalcava of Mexico ran Sexton wide and out of the race line, but a mistake by the Frenchman saw him suck his left leg into the rear wheel and forced him to lose touch with the leader. On the last lap of the race, however, Sexton pushed the front end and tipped over in a corner, and allowed Ferrandis to sneak past on his Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha. Ferrandis scored the win over Sexton, Lawrence
“I got a good start and I was so stoked, I almost got the holeshot and took it easy on the first lap because it was wet and slippery,” said Ferrandis. “Sexton passed me and I was thinking, ‘Oh it’s Team France and Team USA!’ then something so strange happened to me. I hit the wall on the outside of the track and my leg went into my rear wheel. I had to stop and make the bike go backward to get free. But I was there when Sexton made a mistake and it feels good to win. It is going to be a war between France and USA tomorrow!”