Jett Lawrence Stays Perfect Halfway Through 2023 Pro Motocross Championship to Collect Sixth Win of Season at Southwick, Vialle Grabs First U.S. Victory in 250 Class as Championship Battle Shakes Up
The 2023 Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, reached its halfway point on Saturday with its annual foray to the motocross hotbed of New England. The 42nd running of the Crestview Construction Southwick National presented the most challenging test of the season thus far, where high temperatures and humidity combined with the demanding sand track of legendary The Wick 338 resulted in a grueling afternoon of racing. The perfect season by 450 Class rookie Jett Lawrence continued with another dominant outing by the Team Honda HRC rider, who went 1-1 yet again for his sixth straight victory, while two-time MX2 World Champion Tom Vialle emerged with his first win in U.S. competition in the 250 Class.
It was the Team Honda HRC duo of Chase Sexton and Lawrence leading the field into the first turn to start Moto 1, as Sexton stormed to the MotoSport.com Holeshot only to be passed by Lawrence by the time they reached the second turn. Both riders dropped the hammer to open a gap on the field while Lawrence moved out nearly two seconds ahead of his teammate. Behind them, Sport Clips/Beachview Treatment/HBI Racing Kawasaki’s Ty Masterpool settled into third ahead of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Aaron Plessinger and Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing’s Dylan Ferrandis.
As the lead pair checked out on the field an exciting battle for third unfolded amongst Masterpool, Plessinger and Ferrandis. The Yamaha-mounted Frenchman found himself in an opportunistic position and was able to slip past Plessinger as he pressured Masterpool. Ferrandis then set his sights on Masterpool for third. The privateer racer didn’t flinch and made the former series champion go to work. After a persistent attack Ferrandis finally got the upper hand and took control of third, leaving Masterpool and Plessinger to battle it out for fourth.
Near the halfway point of the moto Sexton had chipped away at the deficit to Lawrence and moved within striking distance of his teammate. However, Lawrence picked up the pace again and built the lead back out to more than four seconds.
Lawrence continued to add to his lead through the remainder of the moto and rode to his 11th straight moto win with ease, crossing the finish line seven seconds ahead of Sexton, who was never pressured en route to second, while Ferrandis finished a distant third. Plessinger was fourth, while Masterpool rounded out the top five.
The final moto got underway with the Yamaha of Ferrandis leading the field out of the first turn for the MotoSport.com Holeshot, but he was quickly overcome by Lawrence who proceeded to sprint out to an early lead. Plessinger slotted into third, with Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo and Sexton in tow.
While Lawrence took advantage of the clear track it was Sexton who was making moves as he got around Cianciarulo for fourth and then made quick work of Plessinger to take over third. It didn’t take long for him to close in on Ferrandis for second as the lead trio checked out on the rest of the field. Ten minutes into the moto less than 3.5 seconds separated the top three and that’s when Sexton made his move on Ferrandis to grab second.
Sexton was able to gain a few tenths on Lawrence initially, but the Aussie’s advantage grew over the second half of the moto. The lead surpassed double digits in the closing minutes and grew to nearly 20 seconds before he backed down the pace. As has been the case for much of the season, Lawrence led every lap of action across both motos and wrapped up another perfect afternoon 14.7 seconds ahead of Sexton, with Ferrandis well back in third.
Another 1-1 effort gave Lawrence his sixth consecutive overall win and further extended the record start to his 450 Class career. He now sits tied with both Sexton and Ferrandis as the winningest active riders in the division and has led every lap in five of six rounds this season. Sexton earned an assertive runner-up effort (2-2) for his third podium result in three starts, while Ferrandis rounded out the top three overall in third (3-3) with his fourth podium of the summer.
Lawrence’s lead in the championship standings now sits at 67 points over Ferrandis, while Plessinger, who finished fourth (4-4), is third, 90 points out of the lead.
“I didn’t enjoy that one bit. That was a brutal track, the most brutal track I’ve ridden. It was just survival out there. My legs are shaking right now and I’m really tired, but that’s 12 wins in a row now which is awesome.”Jett Lawrence, Team Honda HRC
“Speed is not a problem. I just wasn’t flowing halfway through the [second] moto. I need to keep working on getting back to [the level] where I was last year. Just gotta keep climbing the ladder.”Chase Sexton, Team Honda HRC
“We’ve been pushing really hard in practice and training [during the week] and it’s paying off. Today was just tough. I did all I could to keep up with Jett [Lawrence] but it was a long moto. We’ll keep working and try to be better next week.”Dylan Ferrandis, Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing
The opening moto started with Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing’s Justin Cooper leading the way for the MotoSport.com Holeshot just ahead of Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Jalek Swoll and Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Seth Hammaker. Cooper withstood an early pass attempt by Swoll to hold onto the lead the sprint away, while both Swoll and Hammaker were bypassed by a hard-charging Vialle aboard his KTM. Behind the leaders, the top two riders in the championship, Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing’s Haiden Deegan and Team Honda HRC mounted point leader Hunter Lawrence, started in eighth and ninth, respectively.
Cooper and Vialle were able to open a gap on the rest of the field and assert themselves at the front of the pack. Cooper comfortably maintained his hold of the top spot, but the Frenchman kept him honest. Meanwhile, Hammaker moved around Swoll into third. Further back, Lawrence made the pass on Deegan and soon broke into the top five while Deegan remained mired in ninth.
At the turn of the moto’s halfway point a three-rider battle emerged for third between Hammaker, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s RJ Hampshire, and Lawrence. With pressure from behind, Hampshire was aggressive and hounded Hammaker. He successfully squeezed under his Kawasaki rival to take the position, which led to another battle between Hammaker and Lawrence, from which Lawrence prevailed in fourth as Hammaker endured a quick tip over.
The gap between the lead pair was slowly shrinking as the final five minutes of the moto approached but things changed dramatically when Cooper tipped over and gave up the lead to Vialle. The Yamaha rider remounted and continued on without any additional positions lost but faced a near seven-second gap to Vialle when he resumed. Further back, the battle in the championship got more interesting as Deegan was able to claw his way into the top five and started to close in on Lawrence. The Honda rider responded and opened the gap back up until his bike appeared to expire with two laps to go and forced Lawrence to retire.
Back up front Vialle cruised to his first career moto win on U.S. soil and took the checkered flag 17.4 seconds ahead of Cooper, who soldiered home in second, while Hampshire followed in third. Deegan finished fourth following Lawrence’s misfortune as Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing’s Levi Kitchen grabbed fifth.
Vialle picked up where he left off with a stellar start in the final moto for the MotoSport.com Holeshot, followed closely by Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Jo Shimoda and his teammate Hammaker. Cooper started fifth, with Deegan ninth and Lawrence just inside the top 15.
A clear track allowed Vialle to settle into the lead and Shimoda into second, maintaining an advantage of just over a second. Hammaker did the same in third, but Cooper lurked in fourth. A little deeper in the running order Lawrence broke into the top 10 while Deegan went in the opposite direction and fell back behind Lawrence. Back up front, Shimoda appeared to be faster than Vialle but showed patience and waited for his opportunity to arise. Once it did, he pulled the trigger and made the pass stick to take control of the moto with 18 minutes to go.
Behind the leaders Cooper made his move for third after spending half the moto behind Hammaker, moving into a podium spot with relative ease. As the moto wound down Cooper’s forward progression continued. He started to chip away at the deficit to Vialle and soon found himself within striking distance. With just over five minutes to go Cooper was able to make the pass for second and then looked to erase the 3.7 second gap to Shimoda out front. Meanwhile, Vialle was forced to contend with Hampshire from fourth, a battle that put the overall win in the balance.
As time was about to run out on the moto Cooper had closed in on Shimoda to challenge for the lead, but he tucked the front end and went down. That allowed Shimoda to slip away and while he remounted quickly, Cooper resumed right in front of Vialle, with Hampshire right behind.
Shimoda prevailed with his first moto win of the season, finishing four seconds ahead of Cooper, while Vialle kept Hampshire at bay for third. Further back, Lawrence rebounded from his Moto 1 heartbreak to finish eighth, while Deegan settled for 10th after a late tip over.
Vialle’s consistent 1-3 moto finishes were enough to land him atop the overall podium for the first time here in the States in just his sixth Pro Motocross start and makes it back-to-back first-time winners this season. He’s the latest World Champion to make the full-time move to America and achieve success, following in the footsteps of the likes of fellow Frenchman Marvin Musquin and German Ken Roczen. Vialle is the 91st different winner in 250 Class history.
Cooper narrowly missed out on his first win of the year in second (2-2), while Shimoda’s second moto victory vaulted him to his first overall podium result of the season in third (6-1).
With the mixed fortunes of Lawrence and Deegan the championship standings saw a dramatic shakeup with five rounds remaining. Deegan’s sixth-place finish (4-10) was enough to put him atop the 250 Class standings for the first time, where he now holds a five-point lead over Lawrence, who finished 13th (26-8). Hampshire’s fourth place finish (3-4) moved him to within 13 points of the lead in third.
“It was a tough one today. I’ve been trying so hard [all season]. I felt really comfortable today and we were able to get the win. It took some time to get here [on top of the podium] but I’m just so happy we were able to achieve this. It’s been so much fun.”Tom Vialle, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
“I’m pretty wasted right now. I’m very tired. I gave it everything. I had to. I was riding a bit over my head [in Moto 2] and pushed it a little too hard [to catch Shimoda]. The way this track is, it’ll bite you quick. We’ll keep pushing and got good points, so an awesome day for us.”Justin Cooper, Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing
“I’m not really sure what was different today. For sure a better start [in Moto 2]. All year I’ve been struggling but today it finally worked out. I’m just so happy to finally get on the podium.”Jo Shimoda, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki