Heading into the season finale at Wagga Wagga having won every single round of the SX2 Australian Supercross Championship and 19 points clear of Canadian Cole Thompson, Max Anstie’s destiny was in his hands.
Words: Edward Stratmann | Lead Image: Honda Racing Australia
Although the cards were heavily stacked in his favour, getting over the line under these circumstances can certainly be easier said than done. But, to the Brit’s credit, he did what was required to secure the title even though he faced some adversity on the day.
Starting off nicely by clocking the fastest time in qualifying, all the signs were there that he’d stroll to the crown with a minimum of fuss. But all that changed in the heat race when he suffered a nasty crash attempting the massive quad.
Thankfully he wasn’t severely injured, though, as Anstie remounted and smartly recalibrated his focus, quickly going about working his way through the field. Seemingly unfazed by the spill and back to hitting the troublesome quad within a couple of laps, Anstie recovered brilliantly to scorch through the pack on this very challenging track to ultimately claim second behind Nathan Crawford.
Race one of the twin race format saw Anstie transfer his undeniable speed when it mattered most, for he launched out of gate to bag the Froth Holeshot to gain the ascendancy early on.
Not afraid to keep attacking the testing quad and the massive rhythm sections, including a colossal 14 jump one, Anstie handled the layout with aplomb to assert his dominance.
Carrying and gathering momentum exceptionally in the treacherous conditions that caught out a host of riders, the way Anstie found his flow while maintaining his aggression and pace was a joy to watch.
Delivering yet another masterclass, in what was an event free ride, the SX2 red plate holder eventually ran out the victor in the opener by a hefty nine seconds. Moreover, the fact he recorded the fastest lap time by nearly eight tenths of a second and was the only man in the 1.02s further underlined his class.
Knowing he needed to get through the second final unscathed and the crown was his, this is precisely what he did. Despite getting a horrible start that saw him buried way back and barely inside the top 10, he remained composed and steadily went about making progress.
Moving up to seventh after the completion of lap one and riding in a calculated, methodical fashion, it wasn’t long before he breezed by Haruki Yokoyama and Kaleb Barham, with his superior whoop speed and his willingness to keep nailing the quad ensuring he was closing the deficit to the leaders swiftly.
Just when everything appeared to be under control, a small mistake at the midway point during one of the demanding rhythms gave him a scare. But crucially he held onto the bike and no harm was done. Undeterred, the 29-year-old kept pushing, as he smartly got by Noah Ferguson to move into fourth with two laps remaining.
Eventually bringing it home in fourth, this was enough to secure the coveted SX2 crown, on a day where he tied for the overall win but had to settle for third behind Thompson and Crawford by virtue of his lower second moto finish.
Concluding his outstanding series on a positive note at Wagga Wagga, Anstie cut a content figure when speaking afterwards. “Here in Wagga the track was really something cool, shame that it was so hot and dry and dusty and we had to do it in the day,” he explained.
“I think today would have been really, really good if it had been a night race. But we got the job done in moto one, did what I had to do. Moto two got a little hairy so I just thought ‘right getting on that plane tomorrow back to MTF and continuing my prep for the AMA championship’. Glad to get it done, thanks to the whole Honda Racing team and Yarrive (Konsky), who’s done an awesome job. It’s been cool to be a part of Honda Australia and wrap up this championship for them.
“The Australian Supercross championship has been awesome to me – managed to wrap the championship up here in Wagga Wagga after the first race. It was a challenging few races that we managed to do, definitely learnt a lot and can take this knowledge of the bike onto the rest of my offseason going into Anaheim 1 and the AMA championship coming up.
“It’s been a lot of fun here in Australia, got to see some kangaroos, got to win some races so that was cool and managed to wrap up the championship.”
Although there were a couple of bumps along the way in the finale and he couldn’t keep up his unbeaten streak, much praise must go the way of Anstie for the way he dealt with the situation to hold his nerve and claim his maiden Australian Supercross Championship.
A deserved winner and clearly a cut above his competitors, there was no doubting he was a fantastic addition to the series and a real hit with fans throughout his time Down Under, as he ended his 2022 on a high.
Here’s hoping he’ll be coming back next year to do it all again.