Main image: Liam Everts, photo courtesy of KTM Images/Juan Pablo Acevedo
With the 2023 FIM World Motocross Championship kicking off this weekend in Argentina, we felt it was time to provide an update on the current landscape of the MXGP paddock. With a few key moves and injuries coming into the season, the door of opportunity is wide open in both MXGP and MX2. Here are some of the teams, and respective riders, to watch coming into 2023.
This list is pretty comprehensive but does not include every team nor rider competing, so some riders may not be here that will show well this year. But here is our list of key names to watch out for.
#243 – Tim Gajser (Injured)
Tim Gajser would be coming into his fifth ever MXGP title defense after wrapping up his fourth MXGP crown last year, however, the Slovenian will not be on the gate to start the season. A few weeks back in an Italian Championship race at Arco di Trento, Gajser went down hard while battling Jeremy Seewer for the lead and broke his femur. No timetable has been established on when Gajser might return, but he’s at least out for the foreseeable future meaning his title defense is over before it starts. We hope to see him heal up quickly!
#70 – Ruben Fernandez
Ruben Fernandez spent last year racing for the now defunct 114 Motorsports team but still ended up eighth in MXGP with three moto podiums along the way. He had already filled in at Honda HRC in 2021 in the second half of the season so he’s essentially coming home this year, but in doing so, he also takes over the seat that Mitch Evans had occupied for the last three years. Now as a full-time factory guy, the onus is on Fernandez to take another step forward in 2023.
Red Bull KTM
#84 – Jeffrey Herlings
The Bullet is back! The two-time MXGP champion spent all of 2022 on the sidelines after fracturing his foot in a preseason photoshoot right before his title defense began last year. He teased a potential comeback mid-season and even considered racing AMA Pro Motocross, but instead elected to get some more nagging injuries cleaned up and went back under the knife. He did a few preseason races this year but so far has not won any of them, saying that he’s just trying to get back into the swing of things. He will of course be going for his third MXGP title this year, but he may start slower than he has in his prior championship years.
Monster Energy Yamaha
#91 – Jeremy Seewer
The new Yamaha YZ450F has already seen success in the USA with Eli Tomac taking five early wins on it in Monster Energy AMA Supercross, but now it’s time to see how it works in MXGP. Jeremy Seewer is coming off another runner up finish in the World Championship and he’s determined to end that bridesmaid run this year. Speaking with him in January, he seemed very excited about the new bike and the non-production rule in MXGP gives riders more opportunity to find comfort. Could this be the year Seewer finally gets that title?
#259 – Glenn Coldenhoff
Glenn Coldenhoff finished up P5 in 2022, just three points behind teammate Maxime Renaux. He won two motos and the Grand Prix of Finland along the way. Coldenhoff has been around for a while now in the MXGP class and he’s had years where he’s near championship winning speed and years where he’s not. He might be the most intriguing rider to watch where he stacks up heading into 2023.
#959 – Maxime Renaux
Maxime Renaux had a very solid rookie year in MXGP where he won five motos and the Grand Prix of Spain. He could have stayed down and defended his MX2 title last year, but he bet on himself and moved up to MXGP a year before he hit the age limit in MX2. He delivered on the big bike! He also won the final moto at the 2022 Motocross of Nations (beating Jett Lawrence, Chase Sexton, Dylan Ferrandis, Eli Tomac, and more) to win the MXGP class and help France finish second overall. After finishing fourth in his rookie year, he has to be a borderline title contender at least heading into 2023.
Red Bull GasGas
#61 – Jorge Prado
Jorge Prado had somewhat of an “off” year last season on the new iteration of the GasGas MC450F. Even so, he still won three motos, the Grand Prix of Portugal, and finished third in MXGP despite missing the Grand Prix of Italy with an injury. Prado has the talent to win the MXGP title, and if he can figure out the bike underneath of him more quickly this year, he will be a factor. Plus, his starts are just off the charts.
#101 – Mattia Guadagnini
Mattia Guadagnini jumped up to MXGP somewhat randomly in the middle of 2022 after racing the first seven MX2 races. He moved up at Sardegna and hovered around the top 10 for a little while before he started struggling mightily down the stretch of the season. He redeemed himself right at the end with a 4-5 result at the final round in Turkey. Now full-time MXGP in 2023, what version we get from Guadagnini will be very interesting. He could be a top five guy, or he could be outside of the top 10.
Kawasaki Racing Team (KRT)
#3 – Romain Febvre
Romain Febvre broke his femur at the 2021 Paris Supercross just a month after missing out on the 2021 MXGP title by a few points. He missed the first 10 Grand Prix in 2022 and came back at Germany to finish 4-7. He had podium speed right away but still had his struggles before ultimately winning the final moto of 2022. If 2021 Febvre is back, look out. He’s looking for his second MXGP crown now eight years after his first back in 2015.
#43 – Mitch Evans
Joining Febvre this season at Kawasaki to replace the departed Ben Watson is former Honda HRC rider Mitch Evans. Evans has dealt with injury after injury after injury in the past few years, and that has made judging his actual potential in the class a bit harder. He only had two motos inside of the top five in his final year with Honda HRC last year, but he finished the year strong with a fifth-place finish in the first moto at the Motocross of Nations, just behind Seewer but ahead of Prado. That shows he has the talent to be in that group, and perhaps a switch to Kawasaki can unlock it for the Australian.
Standing Construct Honda
#41 – Pauls Jonass
For the first time in his professional career, Pauls Jonass is not on an Austrian motorcycle as Standing Construct has switched to Hondas in 2023. Jonass missed three Grand Prix last year with a mix of injuries which also probably kept him from his best form. He did have a few standout moments though as he went 2-2 behind Gajser at his home Grand Prix in Latvia and had a second-place finish in the first moto in Germany as well. His first test on the Honda came last week at the Dutch race in Lierop where he went 5-1 for second overall. He could be a sneaky in the mix guy this year.
#189 – Brian Bogers
Brian Bogers raced that same race at Lierop as Jonass and finished right behind him in third overall with 2-4 finishes. Bogers was very strong in 2022 as he finished up sixth in MXGP standings and won the Grand Prix of Belgium with 1-3 scores. He’s always been a terrific sand rider, but he was pretty good almost everywhere last year, even getting a podium in Portugal. Look for more solid results again out of Bogers in 2023.
Gebben Van Venrooy Yamaha
#10 – Calvin Vlaanderen
Calvin Vlaanderen is back with Gebben Van Venrooy Yamaha in 2023 after finishing up seventh in MXGP last year. Vlaanderen had two standout performances in 2022 where he won the Grand Prix of Sardegna going 1-1 and finished second at the Grand Prix of Belgium going 2-2. Similar to Bogers, Vlaanderen is great in the sand and has now proved it on a 450, but can he get further up the results sheets on other surfaces this year? We’ll have to wait and see.
MRT Racing Beta
#77 – Alessandro Lupino
Alessandro Lupino is back with Beta again for 2023 but this time it’s a completely different team as SDM Corse is no longer running the program. In steps MRT Racing, which Lupino raced KTM’s for back in 2021. Lupino unfortunately missed a lot of racing last year as he had appendicitis surgery in Portugal last year and then complications from an infection sustained from that carried through to keep him on the sidelines a lot longer. Hopefully we see a consistent version of Lupino on the track in 2023.
#919 – Ben Watson
Ben Watson had a year to forget in his lone year at Kawasaki in 2022 where nothing seemed to go right, and his best result was a fourth in moto two in Italy. Now he jumps over to Beta to replace the now retired Jeremy Van Horebeek and the Brit is looking for a fresh start. A lot will come down to how well he adapts to the Beta this year and whether the work done on the machine translates into results.
JM Honda Racing
#32 – Brent Van Doninck
Brent Van Doninck is coming into 2023 with a huge check mark next to his name already as he won in Lierop last week. He went 1-2 to win the overall ahead of Jonass, Bogers, Febvre, and Prado to name a few. Is this result a flash in the pan or is Van Doninck here to play in 2023? Keep an eye out for the Belgian at Argentina this weekend.
Monster Energy Yamaha
#93 – Jago Geerts
Jago Geerts would definitely like a do-over if he could go back and redo the final five motos of 2022. With the championship lead by a decent margin, Geerts went 7-3-7-2-2 to lose the MX2 World Championship by just four points to Tom Vialle, who went 1-2-1-1-1 down the stretch. Geerts immediately wiped it off to match Eli Tomac for most of a moto at RedBud. The Belgian is unquestionably the favorite for the title coming into 2022 with Vialle moving to the USA full time. The target is firmly planted on Geerts’ back heading into 2023.
#198 – Thibault Benistant
Thibault Benistant finished his rookie MX2 campaign in fifth place last year despite missing the first three Grand Prix of the year. He won the Grand Prix of Germany and picked up four motos wins along the way. Perhaps Geerts’ greatest threat for the title will come from right within his own team if Benistant came come into 2023 firing on all cylinders.
#44 – Rick Elzinga
Rick Elzinga enters the MX2 class full-time on the heels of winning the EMX250 crown last year. This will be an interesting test for Elzinga who has talent but hasn’t been as highly touted as other previous European champions and arguably isn’t getting the as much hype as other EMX250 graduates who he beat last year. He’ll be factory Yamaha’s third rider, looking to prove himself while learning where he stands along the way.
Red Bull KTM
#72 – Liam Everts
It’s a completely new team at Red Bull KTM in 2023 with Tom Vialle gone to America, and sadly, KTM’s next hope, Austria’s Rene Hofer, died in an avalanche while skiing late in 2021. The team has recruited new talent, and in steps a name with a lot of history behind it. The son of 10-time World Champion Stefan Everts and grandson of four-time World Champion Harry Everts, Liam Everts is now poised to show what he’s really made of. Last year with Diga Procross KTM, Everts finished 10th in MX2 despite missing six Grand Prix and had a best result of fourth in a moto at Latvia. The expectations are high for Everts on a full factory program and it’s now up to him to make it happen.
#79 – Sacha Coenen
Sacha Coenen and brother Lucas Coenen (see below) are the hottest new tickets in MX2 this season as Sacha will debut with Red Bull KTM this season while his brother will race for Nestaan Husqvarna. Sacha is coming off a season where he raced some EMX250 with a best moto finish of fifth, but the ceiling is very high for the brothers and Sacha is surrounded by success within KTM.
#80 – Andrea Adamo
Andrea Adamo has been very consistent the last few years riding for SM Action GasGas and has now earned a seat at the factory table with Red Bull KTM. Adam finished up eighth in MX2 last year with a third-place finish in the second moto at Arco di Trento last year and he consistently was inside of the top 10 all year. Will moving to Red Bull KTM give him the bump we’ve seen from other riders in the past? Let’s see!
#39 – Roan Van De Moosdijk
Roan Van De Moosdijk is back with Husqvarna for his second season. He missed a lot of time last year with injury as he only got seven Grand Prix in when the final checkered flag waved. He did have a couple third place finishes towards the end of the year which shows the speed is still there. If he comes into 2023 feeling like he did at the end of the year, he could factor in as a potential race winner.
#74 – Kay De Wolf
Kay De Wolf has the most momentum rolling into 2023 as he claimed the win at Lierop last weekend with a clean 1-1 sweep. De Wolf was a bit up and down in 2022 but he did win a moto in Belgium and had 10 moto podiums en route to sixth in the standings. He missed three rounds in the middle of the season with injury but came back and quickly found his speed again. Look for De Wolf to be fast and flashy again this year, but will it translate into title winning consistency as well? Time will tell.
#96 – Lucas Coenen
The other Coenen brother who you will certainly hear a lot more of this year and beyond. Lucas has been the more successful brother with a second-place overall finish in EMX250 last year with three overall wins on the season including winning seven of the final eight motos of the year. Austria has high hopes for the brothers and Lucas will be under the factory Husqvarna tent for his first full year in MX2.
Red Bull GasGas
#516 – Simon Laengenfelder
Simon Laengenfelder blasted out of the gates in 2022 going 1-1 at the Grand Prix of Great Britain to win his first ever MX2 moto and overall all in the same weekend. He never quite got back to that level the rest of the year, but he did pick up several overall podiums and finished third in the MX2 championship. In terms of last year, he would be the closest to Geerts on a rankings level, but he also finished 158 points behind Geerts in the championship. If he can consistently ride like he rode at Matterley Basin, he certainly could be a threat for the title.
#22 – David Braceras
David Braceras will be a name we hear more of in the coming years as he is yet another rapid rising Spaniard following in the steps of Jorge Prado. Last year he finished eighth in EMX250 on a KTM but missed a round and was a bit all over the board at some other rounds. His best finish was a second in the opening moto of the season, so there is some speed there. The two-time Spanish Motocross champion has now joined F&H Kawasaki as they jump back into exclusively MX2 action full-time this year.
#24 – Kevin Horgmo
Kevin Horgmo finished P4 in MX2 in 2022 with four moto podiums and tons of top five finishes. He seemed to be a tick off the top guys in terms of speed all year long, but he was steady and consistent in his results. In his second year with F&H Kawasaki in the MX2 class, what he learned last year could prove crucial to how he does in 2023.
SM Action Racing
#17 – Cornelius Toendel
Toendel moves from Fantic to SM Action KTM for what will be his first full season in MX2 this year. He finished third in EMX250 last year behind Rick Elzinga and Lucas Coenen and had three moto wins along the way. He also raced the last MX2 race of the year last year and finished inside of the top 10 in both motos.