Well, the 2022 Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations is officially concluded. The pits are empty, everyone is either home or traveling back home, and the revs and celebrations have finally ended. Now that everything has sunk in for over half a day later, let’s get into what happened at the 75th MXoN event.
On Saturday during qualifying, taking out the worst finishes from each country’s combined scores Team USA claimed P1 with strong performances from Eli Tomac (second in the MXGP qualifying race), Justin Cooper (winning the MX2 qualifying race), and Chase Sexton (second in the Open qualifying race) to end the day with three total points as they dropped a second-place from Tomac. Team France qualified a close second behind USA with a total of four points following Dylan Ferrandis' Open win and Marvin Musquin's MX2 third, and dropping Maxime Renaux's MXGP seventh and Team Australia ended the day with five points: Hunter Lawrence's second in MX2 and Jett Lawrence's third in Open, dropping Mitch Evans' fourth in MXGP). These there three of the favorites entering the weekend (as well as Team Netherlands and Team Spain), so seeing them take the top three qualifying spots was not shocking. While it does not always prove to be the case, the qualifying results were a preview of what was to come Sunday. The weather on Saturday was great and the home team put themselves in a good position entering the final day. Still, with the most important day to go, Team USA started the weekend on the right foot and looked to carry the momentum into race day. J-Coop proved his qualifying race win in ’19 was no fluke.
“That's pretty much how it was for my seat also,” Cooper said when asked if his ride was easily to control with a good start. “It was nice with the fans. Honestly, I've never had that many people behind me, cheering me on throughout the whole track, that was something else and I've never experienced that, so it was kind of like an adrenaline rush the whole race. I was having a lot of fun out there and I almost wished it was longer. Now just need to bring the same energy tomorrow for the races and keep that intensity.”
Saturday night, constant rain began late and carried into Sunday with the radar showing no letup anytime soon. Around 9 a.m. local time, heavy rain started on and off, continuing to moisten the track and entire facility. Flashbacks of October 2018 started to arise. The ideal conditions we saw Friday for media day and Saturday for qualifying had set the stage for a perfect weekend set for epic battles. But the motocross lords had other plans as Mother Nature became another factor on race day. Quickly, the RedBud MX facility became covered with puddles as the track soil turned to sloppy mud—not quite as bad as things were in ’18 but the track would still not as fast as on Saturday. The conditions kept most of the field from doing LaRocco’s Leap, but those equipped—both with courage and a fast machine—sent the massive jump. As expected, lap times were slower but by the time the main three motos came around the track was not a full on mudder like in ’18. Despite the on/off heavy rain, fans packed the infield hills lining the track and the show continued.
Team Venezuela claimed the final spot out of the B Final, led by race winner Lorenzo Locurcio and seventh-place finisher Anthony Rodriguez. Team Japan came up short, with possibly MX2 overall contender Jo Shimoda finished 11th in what is basically the last chance qualifier for the event as Team Japan’s day was done.
Rain was falling when gates dropped on the first moto of the day (MXGP and MX2) as Tomac struck first, grabbing the holeshot as the #101 barely edged out Team France’s Maxime Renaux and Belgium’s Jago Geerts. The rain let up for the latter half of the moto, a welcome sign to all in attendance. Tomac was rolling, but Geerts—off a strong qualifying performance Saturday—kept ET3 honest all race long. Tomac claimed the win over Geerts by about three seconds as Renaux came through third, Jeremy Seewer fourth, and Mitch Evans fifth. Cooper finished ninth, but was the second finishing 250cc rider, finishing one spot behind eighth-place finisher Hunter Lawrence. Event favorites Team Netherlands finished tenth and 13th, respectively, with Kay De Wolf and Glenn Coldenhoff. After one race, USA led with 10 total points over Australia’s 13 points, Belgium’s 14 points, France’s 17 points, and Italy’s 22 points.
Once again, gates dropped with rain coming down on and off. Jett Lawrence got a great jump in the second race (MX2 and Open), but Mattia Guadagnini bested the Aussie for the holeshot and early race lead. Tommy Searle went down in the first turn and collected a handful of riders, including Dylan Ferrandis. Sexton positioned himself in third and the lead trio battled back and forth. Sexton had a pass for the lead coming out of the downhill turn before the flag jump, but the Italian rider retook the lead a few turns later before the finish line. Jettson joined the battle for the lead, passing Sexton and then getting by Guadagnini in the same section Sexton had previously. The younger Lawrence brother checked out for the race win. On the final lap, Ferrandis went for a pass on Ruben Fernandez and went down. The French rider did not lose any positions in the incident and would come through the finish line in sixth (again, after being buried off the start after Searle held him up).
After two races, USA was leading with 16 points, Australia had 24, France had 32, Italy had 40, and Belgium had 41. Team USA had finishes of 1-9-2-4 (seven if you drop the worst score of nine) and Team Australia sat with 1-5-8-10 finishes (14 points if you drop worst score). But a lot could still happen in the third race and things could change significantly in an instance. Things were looking good for the home team, but they still had to execute one final time.
The gate dropped on the third and final race (MXGP and Open) and there was no rain this time. But it was French teammates Ferrandis and Renaux out front ahead of Sexton, Evans, Prado, Seewer, and Jett Lawrence as Tomac got held up slightly by a falling Geerts. Evans would fall himself a few turns in and would remount after the field went by Ferrandis clicked off a few laps before a small mistake sent him to the ground, handing the race lead to his teammate. Team Netherlands ran into issues of their own as Calvin Vlaanderen went down coming back onto the start straight. Then, early downed rider Glenn Coldenhoff came from dead, dead last and finally made up ground and caught next-to-last Evans before his bike expired. Dejected, the #4 pushed his bike off the course and began the far walk back to the top of the track on the water truck lane.
Jett Lawrence once again caught and passed Sexton to take over second place behind a now checked-out Renaux. Team France claimed the race win, but Sexton’s third followed by a sixth from Tomac allowed the U.S. squad to scratch Cooper’s ninth from the first moto (again, second-best MX2 rider that race) and give the home team the crown for the first time since 2011.
Cooper, thought to be the “weak link” of the squad by some fans in the comments sections, silenced the haters as he delivered big time. Tomac and Sexton praised one another (and the entire Team USA program of course) but paid their respect to Cooper specifically. The New York native is regularly a great starter and he did just that, but he came up big afterwards as well. And on top of helping claim the team win, winning the MX2 class overall is quite the accomplishment to shut the haters right up.
“Yeah I had a lot of pressure of course with the weather here and the way it went in 2019,” said Cooper. “It was laying in the back of my mind, so it was quite a stressful day for me as well. I just tried to really focus in and try to do what I did yesterday and hang with these 450 guys. Overall it was a fun day but the conditions definitely made it really tough. It was really hard to ride. I just tried to, after that first race, put myself in a better position off the gate to get closer to that top five. I tried to take the weight off going into that last moto for these guys. It went to plan. I’m really pumped and I have to give it up to these guys.”
For Tomac, the veteran had quite a year winning the 450SX Class of Monster Energy AMA Supercross, the 450 Class of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, as well as an ESPY Award in the Best Athlete, Men’s Actions Sports category for his SX performance and title. This elusive MXoN crown was the cherry on top of an already incredible season.
“That's what it was, it felt like a redemption you know from the team here and I just first off, I want to say how proud I am of my teammates, Chase, Justin,” Tomac said. “This is truly a team event and there no race like this. Yesterday started great for us for the qualifying heats and then obviously the rain this morning. This really levelled the playing field but we came through strong in these muddy conditions. 11 yeas is a long time, so I’m just proud of my teammates and everyone who is part of Team USA, this is very special for us.”
“When we’re on top of that podium, there is nothing like it,” said the Colorado native on his first MXoN overall team win. “The whole motocross community comes together for this event. I’ve been on the top of the podium before, but this takes the cake. I will never forget that moment. It will stay with me forever.”
Sexton had race wins in both AMA Supercross and Motocross this year but came up short after an intense season-long battle with Tomac. It was still a strong season for the Illinois native.
“Obviously first time racing this race, it’s like no other,” said MXoN debutant Sexton. “This summer was a lot of pressure but this race is something I can’t even explain. I barely got any sleep last night and then waking up to rain, that was not something I wanted to wake up to, just because of how it went in 2018. I was super happy with how the day went, the starts were good, and man that third moto, it was a super long time out there and I just didn’t want to make any mistakes. I was just reading my pit board, trying not to throw it away. I didn’t want to do anything stupid. I made it to the finish line and I’m just so proud of this team, Justin and Eli. It was a dream day for us and for me, getting my first win in my first time here, I won’t take for granted. So proud of Team USA, and happy to get it done here at RedBud.
“Today is an awesome feeling to be here, to win again after many years of not doing so well,” stated long-time team manager Roger De Coster. “I want to congratulate Team France and Team Australia for being tough competitors but I have to congratulate these three guys as well for allowing me to be part of it. With Cooper, a lot of people doubted the choice but he came through with flying colors. I really want to thank him for his ride. With the big guys, everyone expected it from them, but with Cooper there was a little bit of doubt but he pulled through and we did the right thing. Thanks to all three riders and everyone that supported us. On our team, everyone worked very hard but I think the hardest working person besides our riders was Christina [Denny]. I want to thank her for the crazy amount of work she put in.
“The cooperation this year was off the charts,” said American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) Director of Racing Mike Pelletier in a press release. “Of course, the riders’ teams themselves, which included Star Yamaha and Team Honda, were behind this effort 100 percent. We also had help from industry partners, such as Feld Entertainment, Alpinestars and Monster Energy, as well as other individuals and groups such as Paul Perebijnos, who organized a golf fundraiser, FMF, who produced fundraising t-shirts, and the family of the late Tom White, who held a fundraiser at Tom’s Early Years of Motocross Museum. The AMA can’t thank these partners enough for supporting this championship-winning campaign.”
As Team USA celebrated together in the Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing pits, rain was on and off, but briefly, a rainbow appeared over the track.
Team France rode well, with their drop race being a 14th from Musquin in the first race and the team’s finishes that counted being 1-3-4-6-9, totaling 23 points. Renaux, who claimed third in the first race with the MX2 class and then won the third and final moto with the Open Class, claimed the MXGP Class overall win on the day in his maiden event on a 450cc machine. The second overall result for the team was Renaux’s maiden overall MXoN team podium finish.
“Of course it’s great!” said Maxime Renaux on his weekend. “But I want to start about the team, you know it was not the result we wanted, we wanted to go for the win, but sometimes things don’t go as planned and USA was really strong today. But I am really happy to say we had a really good atmosphere in the team, these guys were like friends that I knew a very long time, they were really like big brothers to me. They both know the track so they gave me a lot of advice and I want to thank them for that and my result for sure is a part of that. Personally, first victory at the Motocross of Nations in the 450 class was amazing with some pretty strong names.”
“I gave everything today,” said Ferrandis. “I was not very lucky in moto one and then I threw away the win in moto two. I was a little bit disappointed with that, but I regrouped well and that helped us to second today. This was the best we could do. I would like to congratulate the home team, USA. They were very strong today and they had the crowd fully behind them, which just made me look forward to next year when we are on my home soil in France.”
Jett Lawrence was impressive in his 450cc debut. The 19-year-old put in a strong ride in his qualifying heat, and then caught and passed Mattia Guadagnini and Sexton in the first moto before taking the race win. In the third and final moto, Jettson claimed second behind Renaux to claim the Open Class overall win and help stamp the Honda HRC Aussie squad third overall in his debut at the event.
“I’ve ridden the bike a few times in the past but I think I’ve spent a maximum of a few weeks with the bike,” said Jett Lawrence of gelling with his CRF450R. “I don’t know, maybe I got lucky on my start with it. I feel like we have a little work to do on the bike getting it set up and that stuff, and I need more 450 experience to ride with these boys. I guess I could have gotten lucky this round. Looking forward to next year in outdoors hoping I can improve and then come into next year’s ‘Nations in France even more confident in where I can finish.”
His older brother Hunter finished 8-10, with the team’s scared result being Evans’ 28th from the final moto.
“It was really good,” said Hunter Lawrence on the weekend. “In the past years, we have had where we come into the last race somewhat in contention and close to the podium, and we’ve just not been fortunate enough to pull it off, so to do so here is awesome. To do it with my brother, but also Mitch, it’s really cool! Just stoked for everyone. HRC they all came together that was really cool. So yeah, it's good. And we're excited for next year we didn't have some really good years coming up.”
Team Italy (Guadagnini, Antonio Cairoli, and Andrea Adamo) finished fourth with 49 points and Belgium (Geerts, Liam Everts, and Jeremy Van Horebeek) finished fifth overall with 50 points. The Netherlands finished seventh with 62 points, even after scratching Coldenhoff’s 36th from the final race. Team Great Britain finished tenth overall with Tommy Searle, Max Anstie, and Dean Wilson, who raced in what he called his “final outdoors race” of his career (Deano is set to race AMA Supercross in ’23).
Although officially announced back in June 2021, it was reminded over the weekend that the 2023 Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations event will take place in Ernée, France. In a little over a calendar year, Team USA will head to France with riders numbered #1, #2, and #3 as the U.S. looks to build towards another winning streak against hosting Team France and the rest of the field.