The 2023 Pro Motocross Championship travelled more than a mile high for its third round of the summer with an annual visit to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and scenic Thunder Valley Motocross Park, just outside Denver.
The Toyota Thunder Valley National always provides an early test for the world’s fastest racers thanks to its elevation, but the end result on the track was more of the same from the Australian siblings of Jett and Hunter Lawrence. The Australian duo continued their dominant starts to the season, with each capturing their third victory to remain unbeaten in the overall classification. Jett’s perfect start to his rookie 450 Class campaign continued, while Hunter closed out the 250 Class in emphatic fashion.
The opening moto once again saw the Honda of Jett Lawrence at the front of the field as the championship leader secured another MotoSport.com Holeshot ahead of Adam Cianciarulo and Cooper Webb. A hard-charing Webb was aggressive early and made the pass on Cianciarulo to move into second. Behind them, Dylan Ferrandis and Aaron Plessinger were both pushing to get into the mix and came together, which sent both riders to the ground and deep into the field.
Back up front, Lawrence moved out to a lead of more than four seconds over Webb just five minutes into the moto, while Cianciarulo was forced to contend with Toyota of Derek Drake in a battle for third.
Lawrence’s lead grew to double digits at the halfway point of the moto and he never looked back. He went wire to wire for the fourth time this season and extended his unbeaten moto streak to five by 31.6 seconds over Webb, with Cianciarulo following in a season-best third. Plessinger rebounded from his early misfortune to finish fourth, while Ty Masterpool finished fifth after starting in the rear of the field following a tip over in the first turn.
Light rain greeted riders to start the final moto, as Lawrence stormed to his fifth MotoSport.com Holeshot in six tries this season, ahead of Grant Harlan, Cianciarulo, and Ferrandis. A lot of jockeying for position unfolded on the opening lap, but eventually, Cianciarulo positioned himself in second with Ferrandis third, followed by the KTMs of Webb and Plessinger.
As everyone behind him engaged in battle, Lawrence jumped out to a lead of more than 2.5 seconds and easily controlled the race at the head of the pack. Cianciarulo continued to give chase from second while Webb made his way around Ferrandis for third. The battles didn’t end there as Plessinger clawed his way from fifth to second during the first 10 minutes, with Webb following through into third. Also garnering attention was Masterpool, who surprised his factory counterparts with a charge up to fourth.
At the halfway point of the moto, Lawrence enjoyed a comfortable lead of eight seconds over Plessinger, who firmly held on to the second spot. Webb ran third but was forced to fend off a hard-charging Masterpool, who soon took control of the position. Ferrandis then followed through into fourth.
It was smooth sailing for Lawrence out front, as he compiled his fifth wire-to-wire performance of the season and kept his undefeated record intact with a winning margin of 11.9 seconds over Plessinger. The battle for third came down to the final corners as Ferrandis made a late, last lap pass on Masterpool to steal the position.
Lawrence’s third 1-1 sweep to open his rookie campaign in the premier division has been further highlighted by the fact he’s led every single lap of competition. He’s also rewriting the history books with the single-most-impressive start to a 450 Class career in history. Plessinger’s stellar second moto vaulted him into the runner-up spot overall (4-2), while Webb helped put a pair of KTMs on the podium in third (2-5).
Lawrence’s maximum point total after three rounds has allowed him to open a 34-point lead in the championship standings over Ferrandis, who finished fifth overall (7-3). Webb remains third, 38 points out of the lead.
“An awesome day here,” Lawrence enthused. “I got an even better start in the second moto. I couldn’t really push as hard as I wanted to because the rain made it a bit greasy, so I focused on maintaining. It was a fun day. The Lawrence boys did it again.”
Aaron Plessinger didn’t have a straightforward day bit second was a good result. “I hate to have [the crash] happen in that first moto. Dylan [Ferrandis] and my lines came together and we hit. It was a racing incident,” Plessinger explained. “That one hurt though, he hit me pretty hard. Then we just came out and ripped that second moto. It was a good day. I didn’t keep it off the ground, but we still ended up on the podium.”
Cooper Webb was back on the box again and thankful. “It was a struggle in the second moto, but we did the best we could and fought hard. I’m happy to be on the podium again, it’s great. It’s not easy to get up here, a lot has to happen, but it feels good when you are.” Webb said.
The first moto of the afternoon got underway with a multi-rider incident that collected some of the class’ top competitors, including RJ Hampshire, Jo Shimoda, and Tom Vialle, and also impacted Hunter Lawrence, who stayed on two wheels.
Out front, Haiden Deegan emerged with the MotoSport.com Holeshot ahead of his teammates Justin Cooper and Levi Kitchen. A brief tip over caused Deegan to lose the lead a drop a couple of positions, but he remounted quickly in third behind new leader Cooper and Kitchen. Deegan then went back on the attack and passed Kitchen for second. Behind the leaders, Lawrence fought through the early adversity to position himself in sixth.
As the field settled in through the first 10 minutes of the moto the Star Yamaha contingent occupied the top four spots in the running order, with Lawrence pressuring from fifth. The Honda rider continued to push the pace and passed the Yamaha of Jordon Smith for fourth. He then set his sights on Kitchen in third. As the halfway point of the moto approached, a three-rider battle for second took shape with Deegan, Kitchen, and Lawrence. Lawrence moved into podium position with a pass on Kitchen and was then all over the rear fender of Deegan. After a couple of laps of patience, Lawrence made an assertive move to take control of the runner-up spot. He faced a 10-second deficit to Cooper with 13 minutes left.
As Cooper and Lawrence strengthened their hold on the top two positions the attention shifted to an incredible rise through the field by Shimoda. The Kawasaki rider methodically worked his way forward after the crash off the start and was able to climb all the way into the top three in the closing minutes of the moto.
Cooper took his first moto win of the season by 2.7 seconds over Lawrence, who made an impressive push late to close the deficit, with Shimoda in a hard-fought third. Deegan settled for fourth, while Kitchen rounded out the top five.
The second moto started cleanly with Cooper at the front of the field for the MotoSport.com Holeshot, pursued by Kitchen and Lawrence. A swap for second occurred briefly between Lawrence and Kitchen, but the Yamaha rider fought back. A short while later Lawrence reclaimed the position and became the benefactor of a tip over by Cooper, who went down and gave up the lead. He remounted just outside the top 10.
With the lead in hand, Lawrence was able to inch away from Kitchen, while Smith slotted into third. As the moto reached the 10-minute mark a battle for third emerged between Smith and Team Chance Hymas, from which the rookie prevailed with the position.
Lawrence continued to strengthen his hold on the lead as the moto wore on, which left the battle for second to come down to Kitchen and Hymas. The Honda rider closed in briefly, but Kitchen responded to keep him at bay.
A drama free moto for Lawrence saw the Australian capture a third consecutive Moto 2 win, 4.7 seconds ahead of Kitchen who kept Lawrence honest the whole race. Hymas recorded a career-best result in third. Cooper recovered from his first-lap crash to finish fourth.
Season-best 2-1 moto finishes landed Lawrence atop the overall podium once again for his third straight win to open the season and the fourth victory of his career. Cooper’s resiliency in the final moto was enough to give him the runner-up spot (1-4). One year removed from his podium debut at this event, Kitchen landed on the overall podium for the second time in his career in third (5-2).
Lawrence extended his lead in the championship standings to 16 points and is now chased by Cooper, who moved into second place. Deegan dropped to third, 27 points out of the lead.
“I didn’t want to run [Cooper] over [after the crash], so I tried to go around him. After that, I just rode my own race. Definitely made life a lot easier getting a good start. I’m stoked.” Lawrence said.
Justin Cooper put his second place down to a good day, “It was a great day. I rode really good all day and I’m happy with the bike,” Cooper said. “I bent my levers a bit [in the crash] and couldn’t use my front brake for a couple of laps. After a few laps, I got my controls back and started finding my flow again and made a push to the front. I did what I could. I gave it all I had.”
Levi Kitchen said he was stoked with how his day worked out. “In that first moto I feel like I left a little on the table. I didn’t ride my greatest. In the second [moto] I tried to get another good start and lock in with [Cooper] and Hunter [Lawrence]. I got into some lappers and lost a lot of time, then my buddy Chance [Hymas] was keeping me honest. That was a fun race. I’m really stoked on how the day went.” Kitchen said.
The 2023 Pro Motocross Championship will make its east coast debut next Saturday, June 17, with the Father’s Day tradition at famed High Point Raceway in Mt. Morris, Pennsylvania.
450 Class Overall Results (Moto Finish // Points)
1 Jett Lawrence, Landsborough, Qld.,Australia, Honda (1-1 // 50)
2 Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, KTM (4-2 // 40)
3 Cooper Webb, Newport, N.C., KTM (2-5 // 38)
4 Adam Cianciarulo, Port Orange, Fla., Kawasaki (3-6 // 35)
5 Dylan Ferrandis, Avignon, France, Yamaha (7-3 // 34)
6 Ty Masterpool, Fallon, Nev., Kawasaki (5-4 // 34)
7 Garrett Marchbanks, Coalville, Utah, Yamaha (6-8 // 28)
8 Grant Harlan, Justin, Texas, Yamaha (8-7 // 27)
9 Fredrik Noren, Lidköping, Sweden, Suzuki (10-10 // 22)
10Lorenzo Locurcio, Valencia, Venezuela, GASGAS (12-9 // 21)
450 Class Championship Standings (Round 3 of 11)
1 Jett Lawrence, Landsborough, Qld., Australia, Honda – 150 Points
2 Dylan Ferrandis, Avignon, France, Yamaha – 116 Points
3 Cooper Webb, Newport, N.C., KTM – 112 Points
4 Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, KTM – 109 Points
5 Adam Cianciarulo, Port Orange, Fla., Kawasaki – 98 Points
6 Lorenzo Locurcio, Valencia, Venezuela, GASGAS – 67 Points
7 Fredrik Noren, Lidköping, Sweden, Suzuki – 63 Points
8 Ty Masterpool, Fallon, Nev., Kawasaki – 62 Points
9 Derek Drake, San Luis Obispo, Calif., Suzuki – 58 Points
10 Grant Harlan, Justin, Texas, Yamaha – 56 Points
250 Class Overall Results (Moto Finishes // Points)
1 Hunter Lawrence, Landsborough, Qld.,Australia, Honda (2-1 // 47)
2 Justin Cooper, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., Yamaha (1-4 // 43)
3 Levi Kitchen, Washougal, Wash., Yamaha (5-2 // 38)
4 Jo Shimoda, Suzuka, Japan, Kawasaki (3-8 // 33)
5 Chance Hymas, Pocatello, Idaho, Honda (11-3 // 30)
6 Max Vohland, Sacramento, Calif., KTM (7-5 // 30)
7 Jordon Smith, Belmont, N.C., Yamaha (6-6 // 30)
8 Haiden Deegan, Temecula, Calif., Yamaha (4-9 // 30)
9 RJ Hampshire, Hudson, Fla., Husqvarna (8-7 // 22)
10 Jalek Swoll, Belleview, Fla., Husqvarna (10-10 // 22)
250 Class Championship Standings (Round 3 of 11)
1 Hunter Lawrence, Landsborough, Qld.,Australia, Honda – 137 Points
2 Justin Cooper, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., Yamaha – 121 Points
3 Haiden Deegan, Temecula, Calif., Yamaha – 110 Points
4 Jo Shimoda, Suzuka, Japan, Kawasaki – 95 Points
5 RJ Hampshire, Hudson, Fla., Husqvarna – 94 Points
6 Levi Kitchen, Washougal, Wash., Yamaha – 88 Points
7 Max Vohland, Sacramento, Calif., KTM – 83 Points
8 Tom Vialle, Avignon, France, KTM – 68 Points
9 Chance Hymas, Pocatello, Idaho, Honda – 63 Points
10 Ryder DiFrancesco, Bakersfield, Calif., Kawasaki – 63 Points