Australia’s Charli Cannon has raced to a very respectable seventh place finish at the first round of the 2023 Women’s World Motocross Championship, held in Sardegna, Italy.
On board her JK Racing Yamaha YZ250F, Cannon only landed in Italy just days before the event and quickly had to adjust to her new surroundings, new bike, and new team. But the hard working and talented Australian quickly got down to business and set about making a name for herself in the women’s world championship.
Sardegna is an island off the coast of Italy and the track is soft, deep sand. With two long motos and a busy race schedule that featured the best motocross riders in the world, the weekend was going present some challenges to the likeable teenager.
Things started off positively in practice when she posted the fifth fastest lap as she familiarised herself with the new track. She was four seconds off the pace setter but feeling good and looking to go better once official qualifying started.
Her next session on the track was qualifying and with the track considerably rougher, it was time to dig in and post a good lap to grab an all-important gate for the two, 20 minutes plus two lap races to be held over the weekend. Again, she recorded the fifth fastest lap, but this time the gap had closed to 2.5 seconds from the lead rider and gained in belief with each session on the track.
Race one and Cannon gated well and was in the lead group as she entered the first turn. As she began to tip into the sharp right hand turn, the front disappeared from under her and she fell from her machine. She was fortunate that other riders didn’t hit her or damage her bike and as she gathered herself, collected her thoughts and then picked up her bike. She was in 38th place and had an enormous amount of work to do to even get back into the points.
She quickly caught the tail-enders and completed lap one in 32nd place. For the next 20 minutes she passed anything and anyone that was in front of her as she relentlessly work her way through the best female riders in the world. Her charge came to a halt at race end when she crossed the finish line in a stunning seventh place, just a bike length of sixth and within sight of the fourth. It was a huge effort.
With race two first up on Sunday morning and a much rougher track after the qualifying races of the other classes, Cannon was confident if she could start around the top five, she could stay there. Again, she burst from the gates and was well positioned into the first turn. This time she made her way around the turn without incident and was within the top five and just what she needed.
The pace up the front was fast as she engaged three time world champion, Courtney Duncan, in battle. The pair traded positions several times and were then joined by race one winner Lotte Van Drunen to make it a three way battle. Van Drunen passed both of them and then just as it looked like Cannon got the best of Duncan, she miscued a sand roller and went down.
She dropped back to 14th place as she remounted but with less time on her hands to make up the lost ground. She worked hard to get back into her flow on the rough and demanding sand circuit and in the waning laps of the race, her fitness came to the fore and she moved through into eighth place.
Her 7-8 results gave her seventh for the round in an encouraging start to the season but the super determined racer was left frustrated with her day.
“I’m really angry with myself,” Cannon lamented. “I made two mistakes and fell in each race and I shouldn’t be doing that. This is a world level and mistakes like that are costly.
“I loved the track and the JK Racing team was amazing so hopefully we can clean up my riding and aim for a better result at the next round in two weeks’ time. I feel like I can compete with the best girls here, but there is a lot of good riders here and I still have a lot to learn.
“The team worked super hard and I want to thank Mike (Ward) and the Yamalube Yamaha Racing Team back in Australia, especially Nash who came over here with me as well as Yamaha Financial Services, my family and so many other people who have given me this opportunity. I won’t let them down,” she ends.
JK Racing Yamaha team owner, Riccardo Boschi, was pleased with her performance and thinks the best is yet to come.
“I think she did a great job as this track is unique and very hard to race with no previous experience. She showed great pace with limited time and continued to fight all the way until the end in both motos. Without the crashes in each race, I believe she is capable of a top five result at this GP and she is only 17.
“We have some time to work with her before the next GP so we hope she can make some improvements and do even better at the next round in two weeks,” Boschi said.
Cannon will stay in Italy for the next couple of weeks where she will contest an Italian national round before going to Switzerland for the next round of the WMXGP a week later.
1st Daniela Guillen- 47 Points
2nd Lotte Van Drunen – 45 Points
3rd Courtney Duncan – 38 Points
4th Britt Jans Beken – 30 Points
5th Shana Van Der Vlist – 29 Points
6th Lynn Valk – 28 Points
7th Charli Cannon – 27 Points
8th Kiera Fontanesi – 23 Points
9th Nancy Van de Ven – 22 Points
10th Sara Andersen – 22 Points