2023 Anaheim 1 Supercross | Brainstorm | A Look at Round 1
By Billy Rainford
Here’s a look at round 1 of the 2023 Monster Energy AMA Supercross series at Angel’s Stadium in what we’re calling ‘Brainstorm.’
Heading into the first round of the season, all eyes were on defending champion #18 Jett Lawrence. Would anyone be able to step up and knock him off the top spot? After qualifying, it was #55 Austin Forkner who did just that by turning the fastest lap.
Unfortunately, Forkner’s night was over before he even made it to the first corner of the Main. He bounced back and forth between #24 RJ Hampshire and #48 Cameron McAdoo and went down in a high-speed pile. He left on the medic’s mule and was done.
Here’s a look at what I saw in the top 10:
10. 41 Derek Kelly
Derek Kelly is the rider now infamous in Canada for being the rider who made contact with Cole Thompson last season, resulting in an injury that took the Canadian out for the season. Derek looks comfortable and was very fast at A1.
He qualified 12th but with #33 Pierce Brown going down (posted that he suffered “no serious injuries.”) and Forkner out, he cracked the top 10. He started there and finished there. The track was super-tough and I think he’ll have to fight hard for more top 10’s this season – the West is pretty stacked!
9. 40 Stilez Robertson
#40 Stilez Robertson didn’t get off to a good start and ended up putting a block pass on Thompson. He moved his way forward the entire Main and looked pretty good. He was running lap times that will put him further up the results sheet as we move forward.
8. 69 Phil Nicoletti
#69 Nicoletti got off to a good start (3rd) and crossed the first lap in 5th place. After his great rides in 2021, I would have thought he could stay up there but some of the “kids” got by him after he had a couple blips on his lap times. Once Levi Kitchen got by him, he stayed in 8th.
7. 43 Levi Kitchen
Kitchen was outside the top 10 off the start and moved forward the entire race. I like what I see from this youngster and he will show his pace when he gets a good start very soon. He finished where his best lap time should have put him at A1.
6. 56 Enzo Lopes
I think I may have been most impressed with Enzo Lopes at A1. Rumours of speed at the practice tracks are usually taken with a grain of salt, but Enzo showed he is a rider to watch this season. His practice and qualifying were good and I think he’ll land on the podium if the stars align this season.
5. 34 Max Vohland
I felt bad for Max at the pre-race Press conference. He was one of the riders on the stage but didn’t get asked a question. No biggie. He went out and did his work quietly in the Main and finished a very nice 5th, after getting out to a solid start.
4. Mitchell Oldenburg
I have to admit, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to our old friend Mitchell out there in the Main. He was in a good battle with Vohland and finally made the pass late in the Main to take 4th. He was 15 seconds behind the final podium spot, but it was a good ride for him and I expect him to be in the 4-6 range each week.
3. Cameron McAdoo
Cameron wasn’t happy with getting passed with 2:00 to go in the Main and said as much at the press conference. He said he cased a jump pretty hard and his arms pumped up afterward. We all know he’ll be one of the riders to challenge Lawrence for a win this season. He’ll be on the podium every week unless he has an issue.
2. RJ Hampshire
RJ had to make a couple passes on the first lap to get into 3rd and then worked on McAdoo in 2nd. He ended up 5 seconds off 1st place after making that late pass on McAdoo. He was asked if he was tired of all the press Jett gets and he came right out and said it was well deserved. He’s another rider who should grab a win in the west.
1. 18 Jett Lawrence
The last thing you want to do is let Jett grab the holeshot in the Main, but that’s what he did. He never seems to put an arm or a leg out of place and looks like he’s already ready to challenge for wins in the 450 class. It was a wire-to-wire win for Jett, and that’s what we’ll continue to get if he gets holeshots. Unless something strange happens, the robust lady is warming up her pipes.
There was a lot of speculation about this being the “best 450 class ever!” as usual. But it really might be this time! With 13 former champions on the line, we are guaranteed great racing at the front, unless defending champion Eli Tomac rides like he did at A1. That was almost James-Stewart-in-Toronto-2014-esque, but not quite. There were top riders hitting the deck everywhere and it affected the outcome. Let’s have a look.
10. 17 Joey Savatgy
Joey is a rider that you can usually count on getting a great start and holding on. Unfortunately, he didn’t get one at A1. He had to work his way up from outside the top 15 at the start of the Main. He led #9 Adam Cianciarulo for the first half and then chased him for the second. They finished together with Joey taking 10th. I want to say he can finish higher than this until I look at who’s higher than this!
9. 9 Adam Cianciarulo
I think all of us are just happy to see Adam on the line. He’s one of the most talented riders out there and it’s tough to watch him go through all these injuries. He almost went down in the first turn but somehow managed to stay up. He had a nice battle with Savatgy and heads to round 2. Let me say that again…he heads to round 2. Enough said.
8. 7 Aaron Plessinger
Aaron said he was going to surprise some people at the press conference and he did surprise me. He looked great making passes in his Heat race and I thought he could be one to watch. He was in the big 4-way battle in the Main and ended up taking 8th place after passing #51 Justin Barcia.
7. 21 Jason Anderson
I think Jason should take any finish last week as a win. He must have been hearing and seeing tweetie birds circling after that crash to his face earlier in the day. It was a hard hit! He crashed in the Main trying an inside line move on #94 Ken Roczen and took 7th. Let’s see what he does at Round 2 to see where he’s at. He qualified 4th, so he’s obviously right there.
6. 45 Colt Nichols
Where did you have Colt Nichols finishing? I thought that with a good start he could stay in the top 10, so 6th was a very good finish, if you ask me. He ended up on his own in 6th place at the end of the race – 15 seconds behind 5th and 5 up on 7th. The top couple riders are definitely faster, but he’ll be in that next group all season.
5. 94 Ken Roczen
With the short amount of prep time on the Suzuki, Ken should be pretty happy with a 5th place finish. He got passed by both #14 Dylan Ferrandis and #2 Cooper Webb on the inside in the same place, but I think he was just wanting to stay up and get to the test track this week to continue the work (good luck with this rain!). You could see him drop to 85% in this one. He’ll be fine, folks, and he didn’t lose while kickstarting his bike, either…
4. 14 Dylan Ferrandis
With everything going on at the front, Dylan’s epic ride from outside the top 10 was almost overlooked. I don’t know why some people weren’t thinking about him heading into this season, but he’s going to land on multiple podiums, I’d say. He came through with Webb and was one of the most impressive riders of round 1.
3. 23 Chase Sexton
Raise your hand if you thought it was over when Sexton went by #27 Malcolm Stewart to take the lead on lap 13. I think we all did! If you ask me, this was just a classic block pass on Mookie. As Tomac closed on Chase, he started making a few mistakes, like messing up a rhythm section. He said he didn’t mean to put Malcolm off the track and that he felt better on the last lap after Webb got by him. He’ll get a win this season.
2. 2 Cooper Webb
Sure, there was a lot of chaos up at the front that contributed to Cooper being able to get up into 2nd, but he was coming anyway. To come from outside the top 10 to finish just 2 seconds off the win means he was moving! The series is better when this Cooper shows up and from the fact that he said “every piece of that motorcycle” was changed from last season, 2-time champion Cooper Webb appears to be back in 2023. We’ll see.
1. 1 Eli Tomac
Like I said off the top, that was one of those rides we’ll all remember. I think we can all move on from asking him if he’s happy with the new Yamaha 450. It’s lighter, it feels lighter, and he likes it. He’s never won A1 before and I didn’t think there was any pressure to fix that, but when you’re that much faster, wins come whether you force them or not! He got the holeshot, crashed, and came back to take the win. How good do you think that felt?! Barring something crazy, that same robust lady has a couple performances she’s warming up for. We’ll have to see what happens when the track isn’t quite so “gnarly,” but that was a statement ride.
Now we head to Oakland for round 2. As I type this in Lake Elsinore, it’s absolutely pouring rain and there’s even a flood watch in effect around here. We’re in for the Mudder of the Century, if we’re able to race at all. We’l know more as the week progresses but I don’t have high hopes for much this week.