Jonathan McCready: There are a number of riders who improved throughout the 2017 season and its’s always nice to see a new contender or riders’ hard work paying dividends.

Bizarrely, Jeffrey Herlings was one of them after his injury at the beginning of the season left him battling for 15th and bereft of confidence to becoming the dominant rider in the second half of the season, but we all knew that was what he was capable of.

In America, Dean Wilson rejuvenated his career with a superb season in the 450s with Adam Cianciarulo doing likewise in the 250 class after several injuries.

Arminas Jasikonis had a brilliant season getting his first podium in his first full year of GP racing and was certainly the pleasant surprise of the MXGP division. but it was another Suzuki man that for me deserves the award – Hunter Lawrence.

After a solid start to the season Lawrence had a bit of a dip in form with bad starts, crashes and a back injury playing their part but by the end of the year he was on fire and having the best races of his career.

Making his first podium at world level and nearly getting his first win in the States was followed by nailing the win in the French mud and an epic MXoN beating the US national champ Zach Osborne to win the MX2 class.

Bearing in mind Lawrence first season outside Australia was in EMX2 last year and even that was aborted through injury. So to join Suzuki, learn a new bike, compete in a 19 round MX2 world championship for the first time and post the results he did by the end of the season, showed just what a special talent the Aussie is.

Lawrence has one more year left in MX2 and has switched to Honda before he jets to the USA for 2019 – can he get Australia’s first world title before he leaves?!

Lesiardo. Pic: Youthstream

Andy McKinstry: “There have been a few riders that have really improved over the course of the 2017 season.

In MXGP, the rise of Arminas Jasikonis can’t go unnoticed as he really improved working under Stefan Everts at Suzuki. Another Suzuki rider impressed in 2017 as Hunter Lawrence was superb, he ended the season on a sky high with his Motocross Des Nations performance.

In America, you had the likes of Dean Wilson and Justin Bogle showing huge signs of improvements. Wilson started the year as a privateer and ended up securing a ride with the Factory Husqvarna team.

However, for me the most surprising rider to really step up in the 2017 season was Morgan Lesiardo who won the EMX250 championship. If you were to predict before the season who’d win that series I’d be surprised if you choose the Italian. In 2016, Lesiardo only picked up fifteen points in the series and he was with the DP19 Yamaha team so it’s not like he had a bad bike!

Lesiardo started 2017 on a KTM and surprised everyone at the first round by winning the second moto of the season to secure second overall at round one. He was on the podium for the first three rounds which was very impressive. He then had a bit of a dip in form at rounds four and five missing the podium.

He was riding so well that he secured a ride at the Factory Kawasaki team after they were hit with injuries.  One thing he hadn’t done before round six was win an overall but he was able to do that in Ottobiano in front of his home crowd.

In the end Lesiardo comfortably won the EMX250 series by a fifty-two points margin, we can remember this as the year the Italian made his name. He will contest the MX2 World Championship next year after signing a deal with the Marchetti Racing team meaning he will be back on a KTM for the start of the 2018 season”.

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