Five things to watch out for at the 2023 MXGP opener
MXGP World Championship action is back this weekend as the 2023 season will get underway at the fast and flowing circuit in Argentina.
We take a look at five things to look out for this weekend.
- Jeffrey Herlings anticipated MXGP return
Jeffrey Herlings hasn’t raced an MXGP World Championship event since November 2021 in what was a very special day for him clinching his fifth world title at Mantova. Fast forward a few months and as attentions turned to the 2022 season it was a disaster as #84 crashed during the pre-season photo shoot. An injured foot ended up ruling him out for the whole season as surgeries not going to plan certainly didn’t help.
Ahead of the 2023 season, Argentina will be a very anticipated return to MXGP for Herlings. Whilst he’s been injured, his rivals has been at the races and improving. The important thing for Herlings is to start the season without any major hiccups and just get through it even if that only means to top five or six results. At the end of the day he’s missed out on so many championships due to injuries and if he can stay injury free, the law of averages will tell you he has a very good chance to win the world championship. With the more races under his belt, the more comfortable he’ll be and prime Herlings is probably never too far away. The problem for Herlings is things rarely go straight forward so we probably shouldn’t expect anything different in 2023.
- The new Yamaha 450 looking competitive
Maxime Renaux and Jeremy Seewer both raced the two rounds of the International Italian Championship and Seewer was in great form. The Swiss talent hasn’t racked up as many MXGP overall wins as he’d have wanted throughout his career but we can’t question his consistency – he is always there knocking on the door and hardly ever injured. The Yamaha man wants it badly, how many times has he been in a winning position but washes the front or just loses out on a win? This year in pre-season, he won three out of four moto’s in Italy. Yes, it’s a small sample size but it is very encouraging.
Renaux had a superb rookie MXGP World Championship finishing fourth in the championship standings despite an injury – if it wasn’t for that he’d have been top three for sure. Mentally it’s hard not to be impressed with the French talent, when he’s leading races he always looked under control and never gets flustered despite pressure from behind. He’s already got one MX2 title to his name and he might be knocking on the door for an MXGP title this year.
Only racing the one pre-season race, Glenn Coldenhoff raced Hawkstone International but he was in superb form winning two out of three moto’s. Every year he has been at Yamaha he continues to get better and better. This time last year many thought it would have been his last year with the team but he ended up a strong fifth in the championship standings. He’ll look to do even better this year and the new bike could be arriving at the perfect time.
Seewer, Renaux and Coldenhoff aren’t exactly known for their amazing starts compared to let’s say Prado, Vialle or Cairoli in the past but the new Yamaha got out of the gate well in pre-season which could bode well for the season ahead.
- Can Brent van Doninck keep up his pre-season form?
Coming into the 2023 MXGP World Championship, the rider that’s had the most impressive pre-season has to be Brent van Doninck who has been riding like a man on a mission. With Jeremy Van Horebeek retiring at the end of the 2022 season, Van Doninck has been left to fly the flag for Belgium but moving to the JM Honda team – he looks so comfortable on the bike coming into the season.
It was a third overall at Hawkstone International with bad starts but Lierop went even better as he won the overall. He obviously excels in rough deep sand but if he can transfer that speed to other tracks he could be set for a good season. Towards the end of the 2022 season he started to be a consistent top ten rider so he’ll hope to start in the top ten in Argentina and build from there.
The thing with Van Doninck is he’s always had talent but perhaps hasn’t always had the best mentality but going into 2023 he seems to be in a great place and it would be nice to see him race at his full potential.
- MX2 – wide open!
Heading into the 2023 season, on paper you might think that Jago Geerts is a clear favourite to take the title but don’t underestimate his competitors. Yes, when Geerts and Vialle rode to their full capabilities in 2022 they were a level ahead of the rest of the field but with another full winter behind some of his younger competition there’s no doubt they will have certainly at least closed the gap. Geerts is also in unknown territory as he’s not used to being the main favourite for a championship and that will add pressure to his shoulders.
Out of the current MX2 riders only Jago Geerts, Thibault Benstant and Simon Längenfelder have experienced that winning feeling in the class. So in 2023 we can expect new winners – the likes of De Wolf, Van De Moosdijk, Haarup, Horgmo, Adamo, Everts etc will all want to stand on the top step of the podium.
Only Längenfelder and Geerts have had the red plate before so will someone else be able to get their hands on it in 2023?
- The fast rookies
With Tom Vialle making the decision to go to America this year, it means MXGP have no rookies (apart from Rubini who will race selected rounds) but MX2 will have lots of new blood. The likes of Rick Elzinga, Cornelius Tøndel, Camden Mc Lellan and the exciting Coenen twins will all be eager to mix it with the best 250cc riders in the world.
Article: Andy McKinstry
Main image: Juan Pablo Acevedo