The 2023 Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, got its 11-round summer season underway on Saturday at Fox Raceway under sunny Southern California skies for the KTM Fox Raceway National, presented by Fox Racing. The centerpiece of the new SuperMotocross World Championship began with heavy fanfare to see which riders would make the first statement in the grueling battles that lay ahead for the Edison Dye Cup (450 Class) and Gary Jones Cup (250 Class). After a memorable winter in Monster Energy AMA Supercross, the Australian siblings of Jett and Hunter Lawrence kept the momentum rolling to open the outdoor season with a landmark outing that saw them make American motocross history as the first siblings in more than a half century of the championship to win on the same day. Jett enjoyed an flawless afternoon in his 450 Class debut with a 1-1 sweep, while Hunter’s experience and consistency allowed him to emerge triumphant in the 250 Class with 3-1 finishes.
The opening 450 Class moto of the 2023 season saw the division’s newest face put himself out front off the start as Lawrence easily grabbed the MotoSport.com Holeshot and stormed out to an early lead ahead of Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing’s Dylan Ferrandis, the 2021 titleholder, and Team Honda HRC’s Chase Sexton, the newly crowned Monster Energy AMA Supercross Champion.
Lawrence’s lead continued to grow as the moto wore on, as the young Australian looked comfortable and in full control in his first premier class race. As a result, the focus shifted to the battle for second between Ferrandis and Sexton. The Frenchman held control of second for nearly half of the moto, but Sexton showed patience and persistence and eventually made his move into the runner-up spot.
Out front, Lawrence enjoyed a carefree wire-to-wire performance and cruised to the moto win by 10 seconds over his teammate for a Honda 1-2, while Ferrandis finished with a firm hold of third. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Cooper Webb followed in a distant fourth, with teammate Aaron Plessinger fifth.
The second and deciding moto once again saw Lawrence leading the field through the first turn to sweep the MotoSport.com Holeshots for the afternoon, but he immediately came under fire from Ferrandis. A couple of bobbles by the Yamaha rider saw him lose some momentum, which allowed Sexton to make the pass and give chase to his rookie teammate. Behind the lead trio, the KTMs of Webb and Plessinger added themselves into the mix.
It didn’t take long for the Hondas to inch away from Ferrandis and the KTMs, and the race soon turned into a one-on-one battle between Lawrence and Sexton. About two seconds separated the pair, with Sexton keeping Lawrence honest and settling in through the middle portion of the moto. As they entered the final 10 minutes Sexton picked up the pace and was able to decrease the deficit to about a second. They traded momentum at various points on the track and both navigated their way through lapped riders efficiently. As time ran out on the moto the teammates were closer than they had been all race.
A mere seven tenths of a second separated Lawrence and Sexton as they took the white flag, but Lawrence dug deep to open up just enough distance to manage the final push. Lawrence took the checkered flag a second ahead of Sexton, while Ferrandis, who never factored into the battle, finished a distant third, nearly 44 seconds off the lead.
Lawrence led every lap and every minute of his first 450 Class race, which was complemented by the top time in both qualifying sessions, to complete perhaps the most impressive premier class debut in the history of Pro Motocross. Sexton was with Lawrence every step of the way en route to a runner-up effort (2-2) to cap off the second consecutive 1-2 sweep by Team Honda HRC at the Fox Raceway opener. Ferrandis’ 3-3 results rounded out the overall podium in third.
An unprecedented undefeated streak for Lawrence at Fox Raceway now extends to six races, across two classes, having won the previous five 250 Class events in Pala dating back to his first career win in 2020. He becomes the 75th different winner in 450 Class history and the first Australian since Brett Metcalfe won at Round 10 of the 2011 season.
Lawrence and Sexton are separated by six points after the first two motos of the summer, while Ferrandis sits 10 points out of the lead in third.
“It’s awesome. I can finally smile. I’ve been trying to stay serious all day, but I’m too excited and can finally let loose. That one [Moto 2] was a little harder than the first one. I could keep hearing [Sexton]. It was a bit of a chess match. It’s great for Honda to have such a great day and hopefully that can continue. It’s going to be a war this summer. I can’t wait.”Jett Lawrence, Team Honda HRC
“I had some decent lines to where if I got close enough I could maybe make a move. I did try at one point with about 10 minutes to go, but I messed up. Jett was riding good and he had a good pace. It’s a great start and we’ve got a lot to build on from here.”Chase Sexton, Team Honda HRC
“I think it’s good to be in podium position. It was a long second moto, AP [Plessinger] was pushing me. I had to dig deep, so it was good for me and the team to have that experience.”Dylan Ferrandis, Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing
The first 250 Class moto of the summer began with Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Jalek Swoll at the head of the pack with the MotoSport.com Holeshot ahead of Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Jo Shimoda and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s RJ Hampshire, who both quickly passed Swoll to grab early control of the moto. Shimoda led briefly, but then gave way to a hard-charging Hampshire as Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Tom Vialle slotted into third.
Hampshire controlled the first 10 minutes of the moto then tipped over in a rut, which subsequently forced Shimoda to come to a stop with no way around. Both riders resumed quickly with no positions changed, but the incident allowed Vohland to close in from third. Not long after, Shimoda went on the attack and made the pass for the lead briefly, but Hampshire responded to regain control. As he looked to remount another attack Shimoda went down and lost multiple positions, which allowed Vohland and his Red Bull KTM Factory Racing teammate Tom Vialle, the 2022 MX2 World Champion, to move into second and third, respectively.
With no pressure from behind Hampshire opened a lead of nearly 10 seconds entering the final phase of the moto, which allowed Vohland to settle firmly into second. Behind them, the battle for the final spot on the podium continued as Shimoda clawed his way back into contention and brought Team Honda HRC’s Hunter Lawrence with him. Both riders were able to make their way around Vialle to drop the Frenchman to fifth and set their sights on Vohland in the closing minutes.
It was smooth sailing for Hamshire the rest of the way as the Husqvarna rider captured the third moto win of his career by 6.1 seconds. A torrid battle for second unfolded on the final lap as Shimoda and Lawrence closed in on Vohland. A lapped rider allowed Lawrence to get by Shimoda, from which the Australian rider continued his charge onto Vohland’s rear fender. However, the KTM rider withstood the challenge to secure the best moto result of his career in second, with Lawrence third, Shimoda fourth, and Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing’s Justin Cooper rounding out the top five.
The final moto saw Lawrence put his Honda out front with the MotoSport.com Holeshot as Vialle gave chase in second. Behind them, both Hampshire and Vohland were involved in incidents that dropped each of the top-two finishers deep in the 40-rider field. Shimoda didn’t fare well either and started outside the top 15 in the running order.
With a clear track ahead Lawrence easily built a multi-second lead over Vialle, who started to receive pressure from Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing rookie Haiden Deegan. As the top three settled in, the attention shifted to the recovery efforts of the riders that ran at the front of the field with Lawrence in Moto 1. Both Vohland and Shimoda soon found themselves racing one another in a climb up to the top 10, while Hampshire valiantly looked to overcome a pair of tip-overs on the opening lap. Vohland and Shimoda continued their march up the standings, which put both back into contention for the overall podium. The KTM rider was able to reestablish his spot in the overall classification, only to make contact with a rider and go down, which dropped Vohland outside the top 10.
Vohland’s misfortune shifted the momentum to Vialle and Cooper, who engaged in a late battle for third in the moto that would ultimately decide which rider would also secure that position in the overall standings. That was until Hampshire’s slow and methodical recovery saw him break into contention by approaching the top 10 in the running order. Hampshire was able to move himself onto the overall podium, only to watch it slip away with a third incident. The Husqvarna rider lost a couple positions but remounted and made one final push. He needed to pass a pair of riders on the final lap and was successful in doing so.
Back out front, Lawrence enjoyed a wire-to-wire performance that saw him cap off the afternoon with a convincing win, 8.4 seconds ahead of Deegan, with Vialle not too far behind in third.
Lawrence’s consistent 3-1 moto finishes not only gave the Australian the second victory of his career, but allowed him to establish a solid point lead after just one round. Deegan earned the first overall podium finish of his career in the runner-up spot (6-2), while Hampshire’s valiant late-race effort and impressively resilient moto as a whole allowed him to steal the final spot in third (1-11).
The opening round win established an eight-point lead for Lawrence atop the 250 Class point standings over Deegan, while Hampshire sits 10 points behind in third.
“The start was crucial. I had a massive crash Monday and could barely ride press day. I was in so much pain. This one goes out to Dr. G [H. Rey Gubernick]. He’s got magic hands and has taken care of me. I can’t thank [him] enough. He is an asset to our team.”Hunter Lawrence, Team Honda HRC
“I’m actually kind of surprised. Some people said I wouldn’t have been close to this. I guess we’re kind of proving people wrong and that’s what I’ve got to do. Second place in my first season of outdoors, I’m hyped.”Haiden Deegan, Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing
“Didn’t have a great start and it kind of got mayhem and in that second corner I went down. I picked up in last and made some really good passes and then going up the hill someone took my front wheel out and then I was dead last again. I didn’t know if I had a shot at the podium. I just started digging deep and making passes, then I threw it away again and had to get those back [once more]. Hey, I’ll take the podium.”RJ Hampshire, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing