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2023 WSX Abu Dhabi GP | Race Report & Results




Round two of the FIM Supercross World Championship took place at Etihad Arena on Yas Island in the United Arab Emirates, a mid-size venue that brought close racing and big changes to the title chases in both divisions. Joey Savatgy and Max Anstie claimed the overall wins and took over the top spots in the standings after incoming favorites Ken Roczen and Shane McElrath experienced minor issues throughout the day.


Heat Races

A quick back and forth between Luke Clout and Jace Owen brought excitement to the SX2 Heat One, the first race of the weekend, as CDR Yamaha Monster Energy’s Clout claimed the holeshot and controlled the lines ahead of Team GSM’s Owen. Chris Blose’s experience on tight tracks emerged during the dash, and though the Honda NILS WSX rider passed Owen for second place on lap three, he could not close the gap that Clout built with fast early laps.

SX Heat Two was all about Fire Power Honda’s Wilson Todd and Max Anstie as the teammates tussled over the top spot from when the gate dropped until the checkered flag. Todd maintained the position the entire time, but Anstie’s efforts cut the 1.507 gap on Lap Three down to just 0.513 at the finish. Incoming championship leader Shane McElrath had an eventful seven laps, and multiple minor incidents with others on the tight track resulted in a ninth-place score and forced the Mobil1 RWR to the back row for all three point-paying motos.

SX2 Race One

Chris Blose wasted no time in SX2 Race One. The Honda NILS WSX rider made it to the first turn first, put in his personal best of the moto (34.501) on the opening lap, and put a 1.102-second gap between himself and the rest of the pack. The six-lap battle between Wilson Todd, Maxime Desprey, and Max Anstie aided the leader’s advantage. Todd held second for most of the race, but successive passes by the Team GSM’s Desprey and Fire Power Honda teammate Anstie, followed by contact with CDR Yamaha Monster Energy’s Luke Clout, shuffled him back to seventh place.

Shane McElrath overcame the second-row start to get scored eleventh on the opening lap and then passed two more riders, but the difference between his ninth-place result and Anstie’s third was enough to put Anstie ahead in the championship.


SX2 Race Two

Anstie and McElrath went to the starting line for Race Two with four points separating them in the championship, but a commanding eight-lap by Anstie for the win and two early incidents and another eighth for McElrath quadrupled the gap to sixteen. Cole Thompson maintained second for all eight laps, Chris Blose backed up his win with a third place, and Maxime Desprey rallied back from fourteenth after an opening lap crash with Luke Clout to finish ninth.

SX2 Race Three

Race Three was like Race One, with Blose nabbing the holeshot and Anstie claiming a spot among the front runners. Anstie stayed close to Blose through the first two laps, made a decisive pass on the third lap, and stretched out a 5.6-second gap over the remaining nine laps. A 35.143 on Lap Seven was the fastest race time, and this netted Anstie a bonus championship point.

Maxime Desprey bounced back from a tough go in Race Two. The Team GSM rider had his own battle with Blose in the early going and utilized a sharp, quick line through the flat sweeper and over the finish line to steal second place in the race and secure third place on the night’s podium. The move didn’t hamper Blose’s final score, though, as his Race One win and two-thirds were enough for second overall.

McElrath would ultimately finish the race in eleventh place. This result, paired with Anstie’s win and fast lap bonus, doubled the championship difference between the riders; thirty-two points separate the two title contenders ahead of the three-moto finale in Melbourne.


Heat Races & Superpole

Matt Moss showed impressive speed during the midday portion of the program, as the FXR/Club MX got the start in WSX Heat One, put in the single fastest time, and led most of the moto, but Mobil1 RWR’s Joey Savatgy snagged the win away with a move in the whoops on the last lap that Moss was unable to counter. Repeat contact between Honda NILS WSX’s Jordi Tixier and Pipes Motorsports Group’s Ken Roczen in the first two turns put the riders at the rear of the pack. The problem was compounded by the difficult to pass track, and Roczen spent most of the race in seventh place behind Josh Hill; the incoming championship leader was unable to find a way by the CDR Yamaha Monster Energy rider, who was the only person that put in multiple 35-second times.

Quick reactions and a tight line through the first turn put Vince Friese in control of WSX Heat Two, a role the MCR rider never relinquished through the eight laps while Aaron Tanti, Mitchell Oldenburg, and Dean Wilson figured out who would finish second. Fire Power Honda’s Wilson ultimately took the spot after a move on Oldenburg in the closing laps.

A stunning 34.061 by Matt Moss in SuperPole earned the FXR/Club MX rider a championship point and prime gate pick for the three motos. Unorthodox looking technique at the end of the whoops set Moss up for the tricky rutted corner that exited the stadium and he paired that with tight lines from the bowl turn before the triple to the finish line. His Sector One and Sector Three times were the best of the six riders sent out to do a hot lap.

WSX Race One

The intensity and aggression went up a few ticks when riders rolled to the line for WSX Race One, and the eleven laps that followed brought multiple crashes, hard passes, and heightened tempers. Vince Friese got the holeshot and led a chaotic run down the first part of the track, an action-packed moment that included a day-ending pile-up for Justin Brayton and Aaron Tanti and more opening lap issues for Ken Roczen that shuffled him back to tenth. Medics tending to Tanti, one lane slowed by necessary safety flags, and Friese’s pace-setting kept the lead pack close together and encouraged Matt Moss to make a bold move on Dean Wilson for second place, but Moss had his own issues moments later and dropped back to seventeenth.

The ongoing tension between Friese and Wilson increased with each lap, and their combative riding allowed Gregory Aranda and Ken Roczen to make it a four-way battle for the lead. Aranda cased a triple and crashed out of contention while running third on Lap Seven, but the Team GSM rider remounted and finished the race in sixteenth. Wilson got the lead from Friese in the whoops on Lap Eight, but his time in first lasted just half a lap, as he didn’t cover the inside line in an open bowl corner and presented Friese with a couldn’t-miss passing opportunity. Wilson quickly regrouped and finished in sixth place.

Ken Roczen made it through the madness and was up to second place by Lap Eight. The last three laps were an all-out effort by Roczen to get around Friese, but the MCR rider blocked every move the PMG rider tried to make around the tight track. The action came to a premature end just before the checkered flag flew when Roczen tucked the front end on the slick sweeper, tweaked his foot, and finished fourteenth.

Joey Savatgy, who ran third for most of the race, crossed the finish line in second place after Roczen’s crash but was ultimately credited with the moto win after Friese was docked two positions for aggressive riding towards Dean Wilson.

WSX Race Two

Joey Savatgy got going early in WSX Race Two and led the opening lap ahead of Vince Friese and Dean Wilson. Savatgy’s wide line down the finish and around the awaiting bowl turn was another opportunity that Friese made the most of, and a contact-heavy pass put him into the lead, sent Savatgy off the track and back to third, and moved Wilson into second. The bumping and banging between Friese and Wilson instantly resumed, this time with Wilson body checking Friese outside the arena at the height of the dodgy back and forth and then riding off to the race win.

Ken Roczen lurked around the top-five through the early stint of the sprint, then fired off a series of great laps midway through and moved up to third place after a crash by Mitchell Oldenburg and a pass on Joey Savatgy.

WSX Race Three

Friese finished out the night with another holeshot, and just like the previous race, squared up against Savatgy in an opening-lap fight for the lead and then over position with Roczen. The first moment happened in the bowl turn after the finish line, but this time Savatgy was prepared, and quickly got back in behind Friese and Roczen. The pace of Friese and Roczen’s moto soon brought Savatgy back into the mix, but Roczen made a decisive pass for the lead on Lap Five and sped away to the biggest win margin of the day, 13.725 seconds, and a bonus point for the fastest lap. However, this was not enough for Roczen to stay at the top of the series standings.

Savatgy and Friese soon resumed their rivalry and the second big moment of race outside of the arena, when Savatgy hit Friese in a pass attempt for second place and sent him off the track. Friese rejoined the course instantly but further down the track and still in second place, then pulled away slightly once Savatgy got overwhelmed by Wilson and Aranda. Friese would not finish the race in second place, though, because a late crash dropped him back to sixth place and he was again docked two positions for his on-track actions. The penalties cost Friese seven championship points and dropped him to fourth in the series standings.

Savatgy’s second place sealed his status as the race’s overall winner and his sixty-five-point total on the day put him into the championship lead. Savatgy is five points up on Roczen, sixteen on Wilson, and nineteen on Friese.

Michael Antonovich

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.

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