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Podium Notes & Quotes From Round One Of Pro Motocross



Last week’s kick off for the 2023 Pro Motocross Championship gave us a glimpse of what’s to come through the summer, as the motos at Fox Raceway had a who’s who of names cycle through the top-10 in the 250 Class and the first of many head-to-head battles for the win in the 450 Class.

For this episode of the Midweek Podcast presented by Yoshimura R&D, we’ll go over race day went the top-three finishers in both classes, from the way it played out on track to what they said in the post-race press conference hosted by Broc Glover.

Jett Lawrence’s true 450 Class debut is the biggest story of the weekend, as rightly so. The Team Honda HRC rider was at the top of the running order all day, which included a stunning 2:20.539 on his final run in Timed Qualifying and a controlled effort through all 30 laps for 1-1 finishes in the motos.

There wasn’t a back-and-forth between Lawrence and Sexton in Moto One to captured on camera, but a look at the lap sheet shows how they kept each other in check. Their best times happened on Lap Two; Lawrence did a 2:26.321 while leading and Sexton a 2:26.857 as he ran in third place.

Sexton made his first run on Lap Seven, passing Ferrandis for second place and clocking a 2:27.670, which according to the AMA results, was 1.6 seconds faster than Lawrence on the same lap. The rookie immediately fired back, doing a 2:27.902 to Sexton’s 2:28.976 on Lap Eight, but Sexton chipped away at the lead by going about a second faster on Laps Ten, Eleven, and Twelve. 

Despite giving up 3.14 seconds of his lead in seven minutes, Lawrence managed to regroup late with a 2:29.194 on Lap 13 followed by a 2:31.332 on Lap 14. These heaters, mixed with Sexton’s worst laps, put Lawrence ten seconds ahead at the checkered flag.

Moto Two was excellent from start to finish, as the two stayed within about two seconds for all fifteen laps, made minor mistakes while pushing the pace, and crossed the finish line 1.008 seconds apart. Much will be said and speculated about this first battle, but Lawrence provided plenty of perspective from the track, including comments about the sound of the CRF450R, and regard for his teammate and competitors.

Chase Sexton endured an eventful day on his way to runner-up results. The Team Honda HRC rider stated that he came into the weekend feeling “off,” that the crash in Session One of Timed Quailifying was a ding to his confidence and couldn’t get into the flow during the early laps of Moto One, but as seen, things took a turn at the halfway point in the race.

Sexton’s effort in Moto Two was highlighted by the single fastest time, a 2:26.014 on Lap Seven, and the constant ebb and flow he had with the leader, which was maintained by Lawrence going faster on nine of the fifteen runs around the track but Sexton having a slightly better average, a 2:27.395 to Lawrence’s 2:27.430.

Comments in the press conference and Honda post-race press release by Sexton make it clear that the Supercross championship took precedence over preparation for Pro Motocross. According to Sexton, he and the team did seven hours of riding over three days during a test in Florida, and outdoor motos were added to his weekly program as Supercross wrapped up, but that’s much less than normal. He also said that he will be fine-tuning the bike in the coming weeks and that a full shock change was made for the second moto.

There are a handful of differences between the two CRF450Rs, including frame bracing for rigidity on Lawrence’s bike but not on Sexton’s as well as the usual engine and suspension settings, and both riders have their own dedicated staffs of technicians.

Dylan Ferrandis was surprised by the podium result , especially given the circumstances he and Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha faced through the past few months. The rider said vision issues from the concussion at the Houston Supercross are partly to blame for the violent crash that happened during practice at Daytona, and that a trip to France and a four-week program with specialists helped alleviate the symptoms.

Ferrandis was also very open about the issues he is experiencing with the all-new 2023 YZ450F and cited a few reasons for it. Because of the bike’s late arrival last year, the team put most its effort into developing a Supercross setup and did almost no laps on an outdoor track. His situation and Tomac’s ill-fated run at SX title took even more attention away from Pro Motocross, and now that Tomac is out, they have one less rider to gather data or feedback.

The 2021 450 champion said that there were still changes made to the bike on Saturday, but that there was a noticeable improvement, and it will be something to build from going forward.

Hunter Lawrence claimed the second overall win of his career at the opening round. The Team Honda HRC rider’s 3-1 finishes were by far the best and most consistent of the 250 Class; this Honda’s ninth moto win and sixth overall in the small-bore division at Fox Raceway. He and Jett become the first brothers to win their divisions on the same day, and they’ll run the red plates at round two in Sacramento.

Lawrence came into the weekend with a fresh injury, as a practice crash on Monday ripped fascia and cartilage from his ribs and kept him from doing many laps in Thursday’s media session, but this wasn’t openly mentioned until the post-race press conference, when he explained that his expectations were still to win but that he’d have been okay with a top-five.

The two races were considerably different, with Lawrence working from outside the top-ten to take third in Moto One, then nabbing the holeshot and leading every lap in Moto Two, and displayed his passing abilities and starting prowess.

Haiden Deegan left his third outdoor national with the runner-up trophy. The Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider has done who knows how many laps at Fox Raceway, and his best times were 2:27.591 on Lap 13 in Moto One and a 2:26.954 on Lap Two of Moto Two. During the press conference the rookie stated he achieved two goals: getting a top-five at the opening round and finishing on the podium. He is the only rider within single digits of Lawrence in the standings.

RJ Hampshire rode the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing bike like only he does to 1-11 finishes and third overall. He outdueled Jo Shimoda and did a 2:26.073 on Lap Seven to win Moto One, went down twice on the opening lap of Moto Two, crashed again after getting into the top-ten, and made a last-lap move on Chance Hymas to re-secure his place on the podium.

Metal starting grates, paddle tires, and deeply tilled starts will become important variables at rounds like RedBud, Spring Creek, and Budds Creek, and it was already a talking point among the 250 Class podium. Hampshire and Lawrence both said that they’ll likely run the aggressive directional tread more often than not, even if it means giving up traction on other parts of the track, because it betters their chance of a holeshot or place in top-ten on the opening lap. 

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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