2023 AMA Motocross preview – is Vialle a title contender?


The 450 class is decimated by injuries (Eli Tomac, Justin Barcia, Malcolm Stewart, Craig, Anderson to name a few) and riders riding SX only or WSX (Roczen, Hill, Savatgy, Wilson, Brayton).

But Jett Lawrence is the big star name moving up and the big story, Chase Sexton is the new supercross champ, Ferrandis is a former champ of the class back from injury and Aaron Plessinger and Cooper Webb are former 250 outdoors champ also back in time for outdoors along with Adam Cianciarulo who is putting a steady season together, so the first few positions will be hotly contested even if the depth isn’t very strong.

Image Honda

The logical favourites for this title are Sexton, Ferrandis and Lawrence. Sexton was phenomenal last year on speed and took it to the wire, Ferrandis has title credentials but has been injured the last three series so can he come in fit, fast and stay healthy?

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Lawrence like Sexton comes in on a high with four titles in a row, yes it’s a new class, but Jett showed at the MXoN that he takes to a 450 like a duck to water, beating both Sexton and Ferrandis ( and Tomac in a race one by Maxime Renaux) and he should be even more comfortable now with more testing time. Added to that is the ability Jett has to learn fast, makes him a title contender and those three could put on a heck of a show this summer, all capable of winning races and championships.

The temporary teammate situation with Jett and Chase will also be fascinating with Chase used to being the main 450 guy in supercross…and rumoured to be leaving Honda at the end of the year with Jett essentially taking his place as the number 1 rider.

Image: InFront Moto Racing

But who can run with them? Aaron Plessinger is a bit of a dark horse. At times, when it clicks, Plessinger can go very, very fast but he needs to stay fit to be a week-in, week-out threat. Cooper Webb is only back on the bike so it is unlikely he will up to pace straight away and with rumours he actually wanted to race WSX summer, it might take a while for Webb to get the pace to be a podium guy – but with Webb you never know, if it clicks, like Plessinger he might find a way to get in the mix.

Adam Cianciarulo has shown huge speed on a 450 outdoors before his his hand issues again make it hard to be certain he can run the pace of Jett, Chase and Dylan for 35 minutes twice on a Saturday. Hopefully he can stay fit and find an answer to his physical issues.

Image: Honda


Hunter Lawrence starts as the favourite for the title and it’s hard to disagree with the 250 East SX champ coming in with momentum, confidence and the experience to win. He battles Jett last year but a couple of mistakes and poor starts meant he couldn’t take it to the wire and, actually it was Jo Shimoda who ended up second in the series but this year Hunter is the man to beat going in, it feels like his time.

Justin Cooper came very close a year ago to beating Jett for the title until a crash in Washougal ended those hopes and an injury coming into 2022 meant a slow start to the year, so for 2023 Cooper has prioritised the outdoors only riding a few 450 supercross races in order to prepare for this outdoors season, Cooper is all in to win in 2023. And he can. He has the fastest bike in the class and is a great starter, but can he keep it together all year without mistakes that have cost him in years prior? Cooper v Lawrence is the title rivalry but two more riders should expect to be there too.

Image: Yamaha

Tom Vialle, surprisingly, despite being a two time champ and his MX2 rivals winning motos at Red Bud ona 450, Renaux and Geerts, is not being tipped to be a title contender and not even expected to win a moto by some! Now of course Vialle has some new things to deal with with very little practice time and a one day event to learn 11 new tracks, and less motocross practice coming into the year and maybe not the confidence he had at the end of the season in 2022 but, Vialle and Geerts were riding at a level last year that maybe only Jett Lawrence could consistently match and if Vialle is on that level or even close this summer and can cope with the heat and learn the tracks he should be a contender, especially with his starts.

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Vialle for three years in MX2 was unbelievable but maybe that speed he has didn’t quite get through to America – it might this summer and if Vialle needs any motivation he just needs to look at some of the predictions stateside by some media and fans putting him in the 5-10 range.

Jo Shimoda was on a crest of a wave last summer but that injury before supercross took some momentum away but if he can sync back into his 2022 outdoor from expect him to be a contender again too and it might just be those four who are the best four come the end of the season but RJ Hampshire will have something to say about that! Always fast, RJ should be able to challenge on any given moto but he is fond of a big crash and that might ruin his title ambitions.

Image: Kawasaki USA

The other Star Yamaha boy have the potential to be in the mix with those already mentioned as well. Haiden Deegan and Levi Kitchen are quality rider and with starts should be in the mix, both could be very dangerous in the series if they get off to a strong start to the season and get that confidence up. Jordon Smith is also back and his speed like RJ Hampshire is impressive, but like RJ, can he stay off the ground and remain injury free?

The you have Jeremy Martin, a former two-time champ in the class back for and Michael Mosiman, who at his best is a race-winning threat but can he get that form back after a terrible supercross season?

Another guy under the radar is Max Vohland who despite supercross frustrations is much better outdoors and was very strong last season with sixth overall plenty of podium near misses, he might just be an ideal candidate to move to MX2 Grand Prix – just like his dad! A guy who has raced some MX2 GP event but then made the move to America is Guillem Farres, he shocked America last year with 5-10 results at times and he now knows what to expect with the tracks and the heat, with a great team and bike behind him could be a fly in the ointment for many!

The class is stacked in 2023 and you could argue it is the tougher US outdoor title to win this season, certainly a bad start will be tough to come back from and that’s where the Star riders, Vialle’s traditional starting prowess and Hunter’s recent good starts could be crucial.

Words: Jonathan McCready

Vialle images: Align