2023 WMX Preview: The Contenders

The WMX 2023 season gets underway this weekend at the gnarly sand track of Riola Sardo in Sardinia and it could prove to be the deepest class we’ve ever seen. Here’s hoping for an exciting championship chase!

There’s no better place than the reigning champion, Nancy van de Ven. The Dutch talent had been chasing the WMX title for a number of years and after being agonisingly close in the past, finally got the job done in 2022 and thoroughly deserves her World title. Now that she has already achieved her goal the pressure is off going into 2023. Yes, she will want to reclaim the title but now she has already achieved her dream it should lift the weight off her shoulders which could help her going in 2023.

Image: MXGP/Infront Moto Racing

We got a taster of what Dutch sensation, Lotte van Drunen can do as she made her WMX debut in Turkey last year on her 125cc. On her under powered machine up the long Turkey start straight she had to come from the very back to finish seventh in both moto’s. There is an argument to be had that van Drunen could be the most talented girl in the class so it’s going to be exciting to see her race a full WMX championship. She had signed to race with the F&H Kawasaki team this year but parted ways with the team during her winter prep which will now see her have a privateer setup but will race a Kawasaki 250cc. She has time on her side to win multiple WMX titles so she can just enjoy her rookie season but she is very ambitious so no doubt will want to win the title this year. Don’t put it past her as she is a sensational talent.

She already has three WMX titles to her name and as she was chasing four in a row, Courtney Duncan unfortunately picked up an injury last year which was a shame. She will be back and ready to go in 2023 and stamp her authority in the class. The Kiwi has a lot of experience in the class and will be looking to remind her competition early in the season that she is still the one to beat. With two rounds being in sand and the opening round in the soft stuff, those rounds may be about damage limitation. If she gets herself on the podium at those rounds then she’ll be hard to beat for the title as we know how good she is on the hard pack.

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Image: MXGP/Infront Moto Racing

One rider that continues to grow and get better and better every year is the impressive Lynn Valk. Last year she had to be happy with the silver medal in the WMX series after a costly DNF at Riola cost her – she was only 18 points off the championship so without that DNF we’ll never know how close she’d have challenged but going into 2023 she shouldn’t be underestimated. She now also has a factory team behind her inking a deal with the Fantic team and she’ll be looking to repay the team with their trust.

Pic: MX July / Eva Szabadfi Photo

2022 was the second time, Kiara Fontanesi missed a WMX season as she has already been focusing away from racing building a family and became a Mother for the second time. The Italian clearly loves this sport though as she’ll be back full-time in 2023. The Italian is very determined and what a story it would be if she could become WMX champion again. In 2022, she took away a bronze medal but she’ll be looking to add another title before she hangs up her boots – her speed and grittiness shouldn’t be underestimated.

One rider that is super consistent and a regular podium visitor is German talent, Larissa Papenmeier. She is never far away and has had won GP’s in the past but the WMX world title still eludes her – the closet she has got so far is 2020 as she finished runner up. She is one of the more experienced riders in the class as she’s been racing the series since 2008 – it’s nice to still she her perform at the highest level of what she loves to do.

Pic: MXGP/Infront Moto Racing

Another young rider that continues to grow and get better is yet another Dutchie in the form of Shana van der Vlist. She excels in the sand so don’t be surprised is she wins in those conditions – she has even had a WMX red plate in the past. She has made a change for 2023 as she’s made the switch to a Yamaha machine. Perhaps the one area she can improve in is hard pack, if she can do that she shouldn’t be far away.

Last year was a real break out season for Spanish talent, Daniela Guillen. Due to injuries she only raced two rounds of the series finishing 3-3-3-1 in the moto’s! It was a shame she picked up an injury just when she looked to be going from strength to strength but she’ll be looking to pick up where she left off in 2022.

As far as debuts go, Martine Hughes had one to remember as she secured her first WMX podium in her first try. Livia Lancelot who knows a thing or two about the WMX class, decided to sign up Hughes and the trust she showed was repaid immediately. Hughes ended up a solid eighth in her rookie year and for 2023 has switched to Husqvarna machinery – she is very very talented so will be looking for more podiums this year.

Image: Thibault Photography

Australian import, Charli Cannon made her WMX in debut last year as the JK Yamaha Racing team decided to get her to race a round and she immediately impressed. Cannon finished eighth in her first moto and was battling in the top five and looking good in moto two before a crash resulting in a broken collarbone. She was pushing hard to try and impress – which she clearly did as the JK Yamaha team have signed her up for 2023. Now she will have a full season to impress and adapt to the different lifestyle, cultures and European tracks.

It was a good year for Danish talent, Sara Andersen who was riding with an injury and needed an operation at the end of the season but was is consistent. Last year she managed fifth in the championship but she’ll probably feel she can do even better when 100% healthy so should be one to look out for.

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Belgian talent, Amandine Verstappen previously has held the red plate in the series during her days on the Yamaha and for 2023 she has signed up to go back to the blue machine. She’ll be looking to rediscover her form she previously showed on the machine.

Last but not least, Giorgia Blasigh showed a big improvement last year and finished top ten in the championship. For 2023, she has decided to swap Yamaha for KTM and will be looking to show the same kind improvement.

Article: Andy McKinstry

Main image: Nigel McKinstry