Quick thoughts: 2023 Hawkstone International – kicks off the British MX season

The Motocross season in the UK kicked off at the weekend at the traditional Hawkstone International event and we look back at the day’s action.

    • Prime conditions: For the event being ran at the time of year that it does, it is usually wet in the UK but this year was a pleasant surprise. The weather had been good on the run up to the event which meant a dry and prime track. The rain stayed away over the weekend too which was a bonus. It meant a huge crowd turned up to see some of the best riders in the World and big queues getting in and out of the track. It was great to see the Motocross season kick off in the UK and the famous Hawkstone hill was even in use!
    • Coldenhoff and Rizzi take the wins: In MX1, Glenn Coldenhoff looked to be in superb form on the new 2023 Yamaha despite it being his first race of the year. The Dutch talent took good starts and looked super comfortable at the front. He had pressure from behind in both moto’s he won but he didn’t once look behind him and barely made a mistake all day. Since signing with Yamaha, Coldenhoff seems to get better every single year and now with the new bike arriving, it could be the perfect timing for the Hoff to elevate himself at the top of MXGP on a weekly basis.

      In MX2, Joel Rizzi rode well all day to take the win to start his season on a positive note. The second moto was a good watch as he battled with Jake Nicholls who might be retired but still rides quite a lot and a former MX2 GP podium visitor, he’s seen it all in the sport. After an intense battle, Rizzi got the upper hand and also rode great in the super final to finish eighth just behind Shaun Simpson.
    • Herlings returns: After missing the entire 2022 season through injury, it was fantastic to see Herlings back racing a big event and doing what he loves. It might not have been vintage Herlings but at this stage it doesn’t even matter. The Bullet has been levels ahead of his competition in the past but lost titles due to injuries. At the end of the day it’s about being consistent and lasting the full season which has hindered him in the past. Overall, a solid day as he had the pace of the front three riders at times. It’s a long season and with Gajser already picking up an injury, it’s already one less rider to worry about. The season won’t be won in Argentina so it’s all about improvement as the season progresses for the five time World Champion.
    • Van Doninck – a man on a mission: Perhaps the biggest surprise of the weekend was how fast the Belgian looked on his JM Honda debut. Hawkstone is a track that Van Doninck usually performs well at but this year, at times he was the fastest rider on the track! Starts let Van Doninck down in the first two moto’s but he was able to charge through the pack and catch the front pack which was impressive. In the super final, a better start made things easier and after passing Febrve he went after Coldenhoff for the win but second was still a real positive. If he can transfer his Hawkstone speed to other tracks he could be one to keep an eye on.
    • Febvre gets a pre-season: This time last year, the former World Champion was injured and missed a hug chunk of the season after a big crash at Paris Supercross. When he made his return to MXGP racing, he was already towards the front. This year he’s had a full pre-season and despite requiring arm pump surgery three weeks ago could still win a moto. Don’t rule Febvre out of the upcoming Championship chase – he has what it takes to at least challenge.
  • The new format: This year, the organisers made the decision to merge the MX1 and MX2 classes so they were racing together. Whilst it was still good to see three good races, in the past we’d have seen five good races (2 MX2, 2 MX1 and the super final), perhaps a better format for the fans and other top MX2 GP riders would also have signed up to the race without the format change so it could be one to think about for the organisers but it was still a top event.

With less than two weeks to go before the MXGP opener in Argentina we continue to get closer with the anticipation building.

Article: Andy McKinstry

Images: Leigh Wootton