A thrilling British Grand Prix kicked off the 2023 World Supercross Championship, with both reigning champions launching their title defences in the best possible way.
In front of a huge Birmingham crowd, running the number one plate in the WSX class, Ken Roczen took the overall victory after going one-two-one in the three main events, while Shane McElrath also went one-two-one in the SX2 class.
Roczen was joined on the overall podium by Joey Savatgy and Vince Friese, with Max Anstie second and Enzo Lopes third overall on the SX2 rostrum.
The night started perfectly for Roczen; fastest in warm-up and fastest in qualifying before winning his heat race by a comfortable margin to make it through to Superpole.
After Dean Wilson, Matt Moss, Savatgy, and Friese had set their lap times, Justin Hill set Villa Park alight by going nearly a second quicker than anyone else. Roczen followed, but he was unable to go quicker, and Hill took the extra championship point.
A frenetic start to the opening main event saw Friese take an early lead from a flying Thomas Ramette. Hill and Roczen were third and fourth, and eventually made it past Ramette before Roczen passed Hill and set off after Friese. However, the fans were denied a grandstand finish when Friese went down out of the lead. He still held on to second, with Hill third.
Roczen again gave himself work to do off the start in the second main event, while Friese hit the front and pulled away. The reigning champion reeled him in but was unable to find a way past and took the chequered flag first and second. However, the pair were penalised for jumping through a medical flag and demoted to third and fourth. As a result, Hill inherited the win, ahead of Savatgy.
A battle at the front of the final main of the night saw Roczen, Friese, and Savatgy go bar-to-bar. Unfortunately for Friese, he went down, as Roczen pulled away. Savatgy was second, ahead of home hero Wilson. Friese took the chequered flag in 10th.
Roczen said after his first overall victory in the World Supercross Championship, “The track wasn’t super technical but it was hard tonight. And my starts weren’t where they needed to be so I gave myself some work and had to make some passes. With the races being so short you had to make a plan on the fly and pass when you could and it got a bit close. But I was strong in the whoops and tried to stay low over the jumps. I had to push hard tonight, and we’ve got some areas where we want to get better.
Runnerup Savatgy added, “I’m second tonight but honestly I wasn’t the second-best guy today. But I’m on the podium, that’s the goal, I want to be here every round. We’ve got some things to work on and improve going forward but, I was second overall last year, and I want to make sure I’m in that top three every round.”
Third-placed Friese said, “I’m happy with where I was tonight. The injury I’ve had is like a year injury and I’m seven months in. The goal was always to come back better and continue to improve. I had an issue with the footpegs but, I believe I’ve got the best bike on the grid. I’ll continue to heal and get closer to Ken [Roczen]. I’ve got to make it hard for him but beat him tonight, I’ve shown he’s beatable and I’ll only get better.”
It was decided on a ‘best of three’ in the SX2 mains, with defending champion and 2022 vice-champion Max Anstie resuming their rivalry from last season, trading main event wins. Sadly for the Brit, Anstie was unable to deliver the overall for the home crowd, taking a brace of seconds to McElrath’s double victory.
Brazilian Lopes showed he’s going to be a force in this year’s championship, finishing third overall despite dislocating his shoulder in the warm-up. Mixing it at the sharp end of the mains, he was twice third before a crash in the final race cost him another rostrum finish. He managed to salvage fourth – finishing behind Mitchell Oldenburg – to take third overall in the British GP.
“It’s good to start with a win,” McElrath said. “Rick [Ware – team owner] said he wants to win a championship and he wants me to do that for him. I said this is what I need and he’s made it happen. The Yamaha feels like my bike. I’ve ridden lots of bikes but the Yamaha suits me, it feels good, and it’s good of Rick to trust us as riders to deliver. I’m happy with tonight and it’s a good start to the season.”
Anstie said afterwards, “It was tough tonight. I’ve raced at home before and I know the vibe, but as well as the racing we’ve been pulled into different directions and lots of obligations, but it’s one of those, it comes with the territory and it’s a positive because it’s good for the sport; it’ll be the same for Kenny [Roczen] in Germany and it’s good for the fans to be able to support their guy. Hopefully, we put on a show. It was close out there with Shane [McElrath], obviously, I wanted to win and we’ll go again in Singapore.”
Lopes said of his first WSX podium, “To be here on the podium is incredible. I made the decision to do World Supercross after the US series. I turned down offers to race in America this summer to be here because I like racing with my team and I want to be the Ayrton Senna of Supercross to Brazil. It also gives me