REPORT ROUGE: Wins and Podiums for Team HRC at the Motocross of Nations
Team HRC riders played their part in an epic day of racing at the 2023 Motocross of Nations, held at the amazing Ernee circuit in France. Jett and Hunter Lawrence helped Australia to their best ever Nations finish with a second overall, with Jett winning the third moto, while Tim Gajser provided the best scores as Slovenia also posted their first ever top 10 result with ninth overall. Elsewhere Ruben Fernadez gave everything he had to try and get Team Spain on the podium, but wasn’t quite able to make it happen after two gutsy rides.
Words & Images: Team HRC Honda
In race one, Gajser gave up his gate-pick to help the Slovenian MX2 rider, which meant he was outside the top 20 as he rounded the first bend. In an impressive first lap, he was able to get up to 10th but the leaders were well clear by the time he settled into a good rhythm. Eventually, he brought it home in seventh, which wasn’t what he was looking for individually, but it was still a good score for Slovenia.
With the MXGP and MX2 riders being up first, this put the Lawrence brothers on the gate for Australia and although Jett had a good jump, a crash on the third corner dropped him to the back of the pack by the time he had remounted. Against the 450s, Hunter’s Honda CRF250R did well to battle inside the top 15 but on the large hills of Ernee, he had to fight for every inch and did well to get 10th overall. From dead last, Jett quickly set about the task at hand, moving through the field with purpose. After lap one he was 23rd, by the halfway point he was up to 12th and in the final laps he really went on a charge to move all the way up to sixth by the time he crossed with the chequered flag, passing Gajser in the final few metres! It was a great performance and together with Hunter’s result, it gave Australia a strong start as they went after the Chamberlain Trophy.
The second moto saw the Open riders line up for the first time alongside the MX2 class, with Spain’s Fernandez ripping a great start on his Honda CRF450R to get into the lead by the third corner. Riding excellently, the HRC rider kept his lead until the midway point of the race, where unfortunately a small off-track detour cost him eight positions. He kept fighting though, and managed to crossed the line in seventh position, keeping Spain in the hunt for the podium. Ahead of him, Hunter had once again overcome his engine capacity disadvantage to put himself in the top five, in another impressive Nations ride, giving him second in the MX2 class and almost guaranteeing a second Aussie MXON podium in a row.
It was an all-450cc affair for race three as the MXGP class joined the Open riders to decide who would win the Chamberlain Trophy, meaning that Gajser, Fernandez and Jett would all be on the line. And it was the Australian who was best out of the gate, rounding the first lap in second place, with Fernandez in fifth and Gajser just behind in sixth. After a few laps Jett swept into the lead, checking out and adding a Motocross of Nations moto victory to his already impressive 2023 resumé. Behind him, Gajser moved into fifth, which was another solid result and enough to move Slovenia into the best overall finish ever. Unfortunately, Fernandez was unable to keep his form throughout the moto, with a couple of quick crashes forcing him into pitlane and ultimately dropping him out of a good points-scoring position.
With Jett’s victory, Australia cemented their second overall, an improvement on last year’s third place but still not quite enough to hold aloft the Chamberlain Trophy. Fernandez’s seventh in moto two helped Spain to seventh overall, while Gajser’s Slovenia were delighted with their ninth, in what was a strong performance from all of Team HRC and a fitting finale to what has been an exceptional year for the manufacturer.
It was a nice way to end this season, even if I feel my results could have been a bit better. Seven and five aren’t where I want to be in races but it was tough if you didn’t get the start to really make moves against this level of competition. Still, it was a good overall result for Slovenia to finish in ninth, which is our best ever position, so I’m pumped for that and big congrats to Jan and Miha for their riding. Now the focus switches to 2024 and I’m looking forward to a working with the team again to try and win another world title.
This isn’t really the way I wanted to end the season. I was riding well in my first moto, leading the race and feeling good, but a small error when I jumped off the track cost me a lot of time. From then on, it was just a struggle to get going again and I could only manage seventh. Then in my second race, I got another good start and was doing well, but another mistake cost me and then I made another one and unfortunately that was it. I’d like to thank my teammates in Spain and I hope to do better in the future. Also, a big thank you to everyone in Team HRC for a great year. There were a lot of good times and I’m really excited for 2024.
The first race, the start wasn’t too bad, I was there. I was in the top 10 and I thought I had a good chance of winning it but I made an aggressive pass on the outside and went down. Starting dead last wasn’t ideal but I had a pretty good flow around the track and felt fit and didn’t get tired at all. My last six laps were the fastest so I was happy with that. The second moto I wanted to go out and win the thing. I had a decent start, around third, then I made a quick move for second and was chasing Kenny again like back in America. I felt at home, although he had a lot better lines than I did at the start so I was following him for a bit, but once I was able to get around him, I put my head down and flowed just like home. It was good to get the win and finish on a high.
It was the best result ever for Australia, so its awesome but I’m already looking forward to next year. It was a wild day, the track was super gnarly, it was brutal so we’re happy that everyone was able to do their best, and the boys gave their all, and left everything on the track. If everyone gives their 100% effort, you can’t ask for much more.
Marcus Pereira de Freitas
HRC General Manager – MXGP:
The Nations is always an exciting and intense event to finish off the season, but congrats to all the riders in our camp this weekend. Tim and Ruben showed they had good speed, but weren’t quite able to get the results that they deserved, while it was great to host the Lawrence brothers and to help Australia get their best result. It’s always good to see our colleagues from American Honda and we look forward to hosting them again for the 2024 event at the amazing Matterley Basin track in England. A big thank you to the whole team who have worked tirelessly this year, both here and in Japan and now we have the winter to get ready for the 2024 MXGP season, which should be really good for both Tim and Ruben.