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2023 MXGP World Championship Preview: Dark horses

2023 MXGP World Championship Preview: Dark horses

MXGP is known for it’s depth of talent and, along with the well-known title contenders there are plenty of others who could get in the mix as well. We look at the dark horses for 2023.

Let’s start with Pauls Jonass. A former MX2 world champion, Jonass is one of the riders that has the ability to run consistently with the title contenders and the Standing Construct team are always able to extract the most from their riders. A move to Honda in the off-season means there may be some adjustment for Jonass to get used to a Japanese brand but the Latvian’s talent level is high and if he can stay away from those big crashes and injuries, he has the quality to be amongst the title contenders this season.

Mitch Evans has went from factory Honda to factory Kawasaki and after getting his race legs under him last year after a year out, Evans showed towards the end of the season that the speed is still there but he hasn’t done a pre-season race so far on the Kawasaki after small injury so we don’t quite know what his speed is like just yet on the green machine. But Evans is an Aussie and those guys have a great mentality, intimated by no-one, and are always confident and, with Febvre to ride with, he still has an elite rider to judge his pace off. I expect Evans to be very good this season but it might take a couple of rounds to get back to his best from, once he’s there keep an eye on him, he doesn’t look fast his his languid riding style but when he’s feeling it. he should battle in the top five.

Ruben Fernandez has the dream gig at factory Honda and he earned it with his performances both on a 250 and 450 the last couple of years. He has shown great speed despite a couple of big crashes and scary moments, but that is all part of the learning curve in this class. The question isn’t Fernandez speed, he has that, it’s can he handle the pressure of being the only guy in the HRC truck for the first few races in his debut season with them in the absence of Tim Gajser, the man who usually has the pressure of winning. If he can, expect him to be a cat amongst the title contenders in 2023.

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Brian Bogers and Calvin Vlaanderen both won races last year – can they do it again? They have proven that on their day and when it clicks they can run up front but with the depth of field it’s hard to do it consistently. Starts are key for both and that area can be a bit up and down which makes it hard to come through in an MXGP moto. Vlaanderen is staying with the same team so he has continuity which should help while Bogers, like Jonass, stays with Standing Construct but moves to Honda – a bike he already knows from his factory Honda days. Both riders are in a great position to build on excellent seasons in 2023.

Alberto Forato’s raw speed sometimes goes underrated. Forato always seems to have a niggling injury or a bad start but when he starts even in the top ten, his speed and talent is evident. If the Italian character can get out of the gate well regularly he will show the world how good he is. Keep an eye on him if he gates well in 2023!

Ben Watson going to Beta could be a great move for both parties. Watson now has a two year deal on a bike that was proven to be competitive last year with Jeremy Van Horebeek, he won’t have the pressure he had at Yamaha or Kawasaki and that might suit the British talent perfectly. Ben usually needs time to grow into his surroundings but his his talent in undeniable and if he is comfortable with the team and the bike and can relax and show his true potential he should be a regular top ten guy. With Lupino as his teammate, who showed a lot two years ago until illness ruined his 2023, it could be a great combination for Beta.

Brent Van Doninck has been a revelation in the pre-season on the Jacky Marten’s Honda. As fast as anyone at Hawkstone and Lierop, Van Doninck is showing the form of his life and in an interview with Andy McKinstry at Hawkstone that you can read here, you understand why he is feeling so good. He still has to show he can down it in the fiery heat of an intense MXGP field but things look really promising for the Belgian – this might be his best season in MXGP.

Words: Jonathan McCready

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