2023 EMX250 Preview: Plenty of young blood

The EMX250 series gets underway this weekend with the opening round heading to the gnarly sand track of Riola Sardo in Sardinia. We’ll take a look at some of the promising young talents to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

Heading into the season ahead, one of the big favourites is Italian talent, Andrea Bonacorsi who finished sixth in the series last year. With another full winter under his belt and staying with the Hutten Metaal Yamaha team he’ll have continuity which should help him grow as a rider. His starts aren’t always the best but he has a lot of sheer speed and if he can be mentally strong he could take some stopping in 2023. His goal will be to do enough to secure a Factory Yamaha ride for the MX2 World Championship in 2024 and there would be no better way to do that then clinching the EMX250 title.

Image: Shot by Bavo

Bonacorsi has two young and exciting rookies as team mates in the form of Karlis Alberts Reisulis & Ivano van Erp who both are making the step up from the EMX125 class. Reisulis finished second in the EMX125 series last year and improved a lot so he’ll be looking to show what he can do on the 250cc. He raced the bike at the MXoN at RedBud representing Latvia in what was a good way to end his season. Van Erp didn’t start the 2022 season as he’d have liked going in as one of the favourites but he was flying at the end of the year winning three of the last four moto’s. The Dutch talent excels in the sand so should be strong at those rounds but like Reisulis it’s important for Van Erp to learn and improve during his rookie series. There’s no doubt he’s a very exciting project for the future and is exciting to watch!

One of the other big favourites heading into the 2023 season has to be Quentin Prugnieres. The BUD Racing Kawasaki rider improved a lot last year and finished an excellent fifth in the championship. He ended his impressive season racing Paris SX and then set off to America to race the Mini O’s in which he impressed. Going into the 2023 EMX250 season he’ll want to challenge for the title.

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Pic: Kawasaki Racing

His team mate, from Chile Benjamin Garib has experience racing in America and raced the MXoN to round off his 2022 season but for 2023 will be a completely new experience for him racing all around Europe at very difficult and challenging tracks. He dislocated his shoulder at the second round of teh French Elite so he may be ruled out for round one but racing the EMX250 series will certainly make him a better rider so his objective is to learn and improve for the future.

Fantic always have a strong rider line up when it comes to EMX competition and this year is no exception. They have the exciting EMX125 champion Cas Valk who will have his rookie season racing in the EMX250 series. A very talented, smooth and calculated rider, you can bet he’ll be consistent and should get better as the year progresses. Alexis Fueri will also have his rookie season in the class but unlike Valk, will race a 250cc two-stroke – we’ve seen what Lapucci has done in the past before and Fueri will want to follow in his footsteps. Last but not least, sadly Hakon Osterhagen is currently injured as he’d have been one of the championship favourites coming into the season but hopefully he can return for the second part of the season. The Norwegian is a very exciting prospect so will be one to keep an eye on when he returns to racing.

The BT Husqvarna team had initially planned a two rider line up for the 2023 season but when Kay Karssemakers became available they signed him up to have a trio of riders. Karssemakers impressed as an MX2 GP rookie last year so if he can show the same speed should be a front runner in the EMX250 class.

Maxime Grau hasn’t had an easy time of it since being with the Nestaan Husqvarna team whether it dealing with Epstein–Barr virus or injuries! However, Grau will be hoping the tough times are behind him and he can show his full potential in 2023. He had top three results in France and Germany last year at the hard pack tracks so he should be strong in those conditions – sand is his area for improvement.  Rounding off the team is Belgian rider, Wesly Dieudonne who contested a couple of MX2 GP wildcards last year as a privateer but now he has a team behind him can focus on one championship which should benefit him.

The VRT KTM team have an exciting rider line up and have had a great pre-season with both Marc-Antoine Rossi and Ferruccio Zanchi also making the move up from the EMX125 series. Rossi started the season with Tech32 KTM before ending the season with a private team. However, he now has a chance with a great team to show what he can really do and he looks better suited to the 250cc. Similarly, Zanchi looks to be loving the 250cc, not only has he ran with some GP riders in pre-season but he has also beat some. He’ll be going into the season feeling confident and in a good place so he could surprise many in 2023.

Image: KTM Images

Being a former EMX125 talent, Valerio Lata has bags of talent. His rookie season last year wasn’t really going according to plan so he decided to then race some wildcard MX2 rounds instead and towards the end of the season he started to ride much better. After being with the Marchetti KTM team for many years, he’s switched teams to Beddini KTM which could do him the world of good. There’s no question he has the ability to run right at the front of the EMX250 series if it all clicks for him.

You could call Meico Vettik an EMX250 veteran as he’s one of the longest serving riders in the class. This year, Vettik has signed to race TM which is a big change for him but he’ll be looking to show some of the youngsters and rookies what he’s all about. There could also be a potential for him to race a TM in the MX2 World Championship in future so that’s good for the motivation.

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The WZ KTM team are down a rider for the opening round as Dave Kooiker who was with the Hutten Metaal Yamaha team for a number of years has a new challenge but will have to wait to return to EMX action. Cato Nickel from Germany who has showed good things in the past will hold the fort for the team in the EMX250 championship and he’ll be eager to show what he can do.

The SB KTM team were a new team on the scene in 2022 and showed some good things especially with Yago Martinez but for the season ahead their focus is on Jens Walvoort and Nico Greutmann. Walvoort has showed flashes of what he can do in the past but tends to pick up injuries. He will be hoping this is the year he can stay injury free and it can all come together for him. Greutmann will be a EMX250 rookie but has got experience racing a 250cc with the ADAC MX Masters so will try and show what he can do against the best at European level.

One rider to watch in 2023 could be Italian, Andrea Rossi who has had some top fifteen results in the class last year in what was his rookie season. Another winter behind his belt and signing with the FmMax Bart KTM Racing team who nature young talents could prove to be a good fit.

The SM-Action KTM team have the same EMX250 rider line up in 2023 with Federico Tuani and Luca Ruffini. Tuani battled for some top ten results last year so will look to be in the top ten more consistently in 2023. Ruffini moved up to the EMX250 series sooner than he had to so last year was all about learning and he’ll now want to score points in the very competitive series.

The RFME GasGas team do a brilliant job at helping young Spanish talents. For 2023, they have Samuel Nilsson and Gerard Congost to focus on the EMX250 series – both riders actually have MX2 GP experience so will be looking to run at the very front. Unfortunately, both have been dealing with injuries coming into the season – Nilsson will race Riola but Congost is out for the opening round.

Another Spanish talent to keep an eye on is Edgar Canet who was previously with the RFME GasGas team but has signed with the Jezyk Racing Team for his rookie EMX250 season.

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Since moving up to the EMX250 series, Max Palsson hasn’t showed his true potential yet as injuries haven’t exactly been kind to him. This year he’ll be hoping to stay injury free as there’s no doubt he has plenty of talent and has signed with Kosak KTM for 2023 which should be a good move for his career.

Last but by no means least, Scott Smulders has signed with the KMP Honda team for the 2023 season and has plenty of talent. On a 125cc he ran with the likes of De Wolf and Karssemakers. Another years experience and winter behind him, he’ll be hoping the switch to the Honda will do him the world of good.

Article: Andy McKinstry

Main image: Danny Relouw