Analysis: Ranking MX2 Champions

There are a couple of stereotypes that linger around the MX2 class, most of which indicate that the division is full of hot-headed youngsters who prompt wild points swing from one week to the next. The stats tell a different story though; the champion is typically extremely dominant and reels off some impressive results along the way. Who has been the most dominant champion in the division since its inception in 2004?

Ed. Note: The riders are ranked in order of average overall finish.

Jeffrey Herlings (2013)

Avg. Qualifying

4.50

Avg. Moto Finish

1.10

Avg. Overall Finish

1.00

Avg. Starting Position

3.48

For the purpose of clarity, a DNS is not recognised in these figures. Results are counted as long as said rider actually started the race. Herlings missed two rounds that season with a fractured shoulder blade but won the overall at every round that he contested. It makes sense that his second triumph sits at the very top of this list, bearing that in mind. Herlings lost two of the motos that he actually lined up for (to Jose Butron in Brazil and then Christophe Charlier in Sweden) – he was perfect aside from that. 135 points was the gap to Jordi Tixier in second in the championship standings, despite those races that were missed.

An interesting point to pluck from that season is that Herlings had his worst average starting position of all his title-winning seasons, if the figure is crunched to the nearest decimal point, yet he still had the greatest points haul of his 250F career (narrowly beating out his 2016 season by three points). Herlings is in a bit of a lull at the moment, following back-to-back injuries, but statistics like the above act as a stark reminder of just how difficult he can be to beat across the course of a season.

Vergrößern

Site-Jeffrey-Herlings

Ray Archer

Jeffrey Herlings (2016)

Avg. Qualifying

3.87

Avg. Moto Finish

1.13

Avg. Overall Finish

1.07

Avg. Starting Position

2.67

The 2016 FIM Motocross World Championship is arguably going to be looked back on as the most dominant term that Herlings had in MX2 and the numbers paint a picture that points to that narrative. It is just a tick off of that season above in all areas though and there is a reason for that. The USGP at the Charlotte Motor Speedway featured the likes of Austin Forkner and Cooper Webb, so the class was much deeper than usual. Herlings had the title sewn up after a win in the first moto, then failed to fight Webb off in moto two and lost the overall (his first loss of the year). The loss made his average drop just below the season referenced above.

It was still remarkably similar to that year above. Instead of losing two motos, he ended up losing three (to Dylan Ferrandis in Italy, Thomas Covington in The Netherlands and Cooper Webb in the USA). Herlings was on the sidelines at three of the Grands Prix too, compared to two in 2013. The similarities continue on! The greatest improvement that he had in his run to his third world title was his average starting position, as it was much closer to second (2.68 on average in comparison to 3.48 in 2013).

Jorge Prado (2019)

Avg. Qualifying

1.29

Avg. Moto Finish

1.15

Avg. Overall Finish

1.12

Avg. Starting Position

1.41

It really is a case of splitting hairs when attempting to differentiate between the title-winning terms that these elite guys had. Jorge Prado won all but one of the rounds in 2019, much like Jeffrey Herlings in 2016, but is a bit lower than his stablemate for a simple reason; he finished third at that round rather than second. That increased his average to 1.12 compared to the average of 1.07 than Herlings had en route to his third title. Prado was just a tick off of Herlings in the average moto finish category too; the worst moto finish that Herlings (1.13) had was a third whereas Prado had a fourth (1.15).

The entertaining point here is how Prado compares to Herlings off of the gate. The greatest average starting position that Herlings had in his MX2 career was 2.67 (round that up to a third) in 2016. How did Prado get out of the gate in his last title-winning term? 1.29 was his average – he was first in 28 of the 34 motos that he competed in. Additionally, he started inside of the top three in five of those remaining six starts. Why is this so relevant? The premier-class title could hinge on those facts in the 2021 FIM Motocross World Championship.

Vergrößern

Site-Jorge-Prado

Ray Archer

Antonio Cairoli (2007)

Avg. Qualifying

1.43

Avg. Moto Finish

1.79

Avg. Overall Finish

1.71

Avg. Starting Position

4.04

The term in which Antonio Cairoli claimed his second world title often gets overlooked – it was a dominant season and one that should get referenced more. Cairoli and those two aforementioned riders are the only ones to end an MX2 season with an average overall finish below second! 14 of the rounds were completed by Cairoli and he won 10 of those, which really says it all. Even the average starting position (1.43) and average moto finish (1.79) that he had that year were extremely impressive, especially considering he had his hands full with Christophe Pourcel the year prior.

Tyla Rattray (2008)

Avg. Qualifying

2.20

Avg. Moto Finish

2.90

Avg. Overall Finish

2.07

Avg. Starting Position

5.40

Having Tyla Rattray so high up on this list is a bit of a surprise, because he did not just sprint away with the title in 2008. The advantage that Rattray had – 23 points up on Tommy Searle – was one of the smallest in the last 17 years of MX2 action. Ken Roczen won by 19 points in 2011, Christophe Pourcel won by 18 points in 2006, and Jordi Tixier won by four points in 2014. Those are the only seasons where there was a smaller gap! Incredibly, Rattray finished in the top two at 13 of the 15 rounds in 2008. A fourth and a fifth were his other two results. Not too shabby at all, yet that season is rarely talked about.

Vergrößern

Site-Tyla-Rattray

Ray Archer

Jorge Prado (2018)

Avg. Qualifying

3.30

Avg. Moto Finish

2.55

Avg. Overall Finish

2.20

Avg. Starting Position

2.90

Jorge Prado appears on this list for a second time, thanks to an average overall finish of second (2.20 to be exact). The second half of his first title-winning season really saved his averages, as he reeled off eight wins in 10 rounds after a so-so start with an elbow injury. Considering that, and the fact that he was rather inexperienced at that point, it is rather shocking that he is so high up on the list. Prado would have had the two best average starting positions of all previous MX2 champions (average of 2.9 in 2018), but that pesky Tom Vialle jumped into the second spot with an average starting position of 2.72 in 2020.

Jeffrey Herlings (2012)

Avg. Qualifying

4.94

Avg. Moto Finish

3.41

Avg. Overall Finish

2.44

Avg. Starting Position

3.26

The first MX2 title that Herlings picked up was his least dominant, which is hardly surprising. It still ranks in the top half compared to previous MX2 champions though! Herlings won over half of the rounds (nine of 16) in the 2012 season and was actually in the top two overall at 14 of the events. A seventh at some of the mudders (Brazil and Sweden) and a mechanical failure at the German finale dragged his average down. Similar to Rattray in 2008, this title run is probably overlooked somewhat. Those are impressive stats. All of his additional averages were up (moto win, starting spot and qualifying spot) compared to his following titles.

Vergrößern

Site-Jeffrey-Herlings-2

Ray Archer

Marvin Musquin (2010)

Avg. Qualifying

4.67

Avg. Moto Finish

3.23

Avg. Overall Finish

2.60

Avg. Starting Position

3.27

There are underrated title runs above, whereas this is arguably the opposite. The second world title that Marvin Musquin picked up is often referred to as such a dominant term and it was – 61 points was his final advantage over Ken Roczen. Musquin won eight of the 15 rounds, but a lot of those came in the first half. That meant that he established an advantage early and was never really challenged for the title when others caught fire in the second half. There was just one overall win in that second half and that obviously dragged his averages down, hence why he is further down on the list than some probably presumed.

Tom Vialle (2020)

Avg. Qualifying

8.06

Avg. Moto Finish

3.08

Avg. Overall Finish

2.61

Avg. Starting Position

2.72

Tom Vialle is the least established rider on this list of MX2 champions, mainly because he has not quite had as much time to make a name for himself and mark his spot in history. Perhaps his positioning should make people realise just how good he is and could end up being? Vialle would actually be a lot higher too, had it not been for that rogue wheel problem at the penultimate round in Italy. Heck, he fell off of the podium at just four of the 18 rounds! Consider this too: Vialle claimed this title in his second season. Greats like Prado and Roczen managed that, but Herlings did not. Vialle is on the right track.

Vergrößern

Site-Tom-Vialle

Ray Archer

Ken Roczen (2011)

Avg. Qualifying

1.53

Avg. Moto Finish

3.63

Avg. Overall Finish

2.67

Avg. Starting Position

3.03

Marvin Musquin had an average overall finish of 2.6 in his aforementioned 2010 title, whereas Ken Roczen had an average of 2.67 the following term. Splitting hairs here! Roczen won eight of the 15 rounds in 2011, much like Musquin above, but had a couple of tricky rounds like Agueda (crashed out of moto two) and the finale at Fermo (failed to finish moto two on a 125 SX). Perhaps the most impressive stat from his title run is that he had pole position at all but four of the rounds, leaving him with an average qualifying position of 1.54. Roczen won the title by 19 points over Herlings.

Christophe Pourcel (2006)

Avg. Qualifying

4.73

Avg. Moto Finish

3.67

Avg. Overall Finish

3.00

Avg. Starting Position

5.20

Christophe Pourcel had an average overall finish of third in his title-winning term, which is a good number. That statistic makes it that much more surprising that Pourcel won just two of the 15 rounds though! Pourcel was on the podium at 10 of the rounds and dropped outside of the top five overall once – sixth was his finish at that race – hence why his average managed to stay so low. Consistency got him to this point and that is reflected in the rest of the stats. Cairoli was second in the title fight that term, but only won three of the rounds. Tyla Rattray and David Philippaerts won a majority of the rounds at four apiece. Billy Mackenzie and Marc de Reuver stole one win each too.

Ben Townley (2004)

Avg. Qualifying

2.53

Avg. Moto Finish

6.22

Avg. Overall Finish

3.25

Avg. Starting Position

4.53

The statistics that Ben Townley, the first MX2 champion, amassed in his title-winning season are interesting to look at. There were so many DNFs! Townley did not score points in six of the 62 motos, which is so rare for a champion, and still won the championship by 116 points. Those issues pulled him down, as his average moto finish was a sixth, but take note of the fact that he won 21 of the 32 motos. That is extremely impressive. If he completed both races at a Grand Prix then he won it too, aside from when he went 3-8 for fifth overall at Gallarate.

Vergrößern

Site-Ben-Townley

Ray Archer

Marvin Musquin (2009)

Avg. Qualifying

6.64

Avg. Moto Finish

4.26

Avg. Overall Finish

3.36

Avg. Starting Position

4.78

It is surprising that the wild run that Marvin Musquin had to the 2009 title is not referenced more; it is rare for court cases to be involved in a championship run. The 2009 FIM Motocross World Championship was a changing of the guard, if you like, as a lot of unknown quantities emerged as title candidates. Musquin won six events en route to the title, which is an adequate amount. It is particularly impressive when you consider that few people tipped him to win a single round pre-season though. Musquin was particularly strong once he switched to KTM and that helped lower his averages. There was only one Honda win.

Pauls Jonass (2017)

Avg. Qualifying

3.89

Avg. Moto Finish

3.58

Avg. Overall Finish

3.37

Avg. Starting Position

4.46

Looking at those results that Pauls Jonass carded across his title-winning campaign, it was bizarre how high his averages are. Jonass dropped out of the top three at just four of the 19 events, so why would that average be so high? It is very simple: The Indonesian mudder wrecked his figures, as he went 14-25 for twenty-first overall. There is no doubt that he would be much higher on this list if that could be eliminated. 39 points was his final advantage over Jeremy Seewer in the championship standings, so Jonass was clearly the best guy. The fact that all of his averages hover around third and fourth proves that there were few holes in his game.

Jordi Tixier (2014)

Avg. Qualifying

6.29

Avg. Moto Finish

4.35

Avg. Overall Finish

4.00

Avg. Starting Position

5.47

The MX2 class is supposed to be a class where mistakes are prevalent, and the champion is often the guy who makes the least mistakes. Welcome to that portion of the list! Jordi Tixier won the 2014 title with two overall wins. Crucially, however, he did not drop outside of the top five from round five on and that allowed him to capitalise on the mistakes that his peers (namely Herlings) made. An interesting stat from that 2014 season is that Tixier was one of just three riders to score points in every moto (alongside Romain Febvre in third and Jeremy Seewer in tenth). Sometimes being in it to win it is half the battle.

Vergrößern

Site-Jordi-Tixier

Ray Archer

Tim Gajser (2015)

Avg. Qualifying

7.06

Avg. Moto Finish

4.44

Avg. Overall Finish

4.59

Avg. Starting Position

7.91

The 2015 FIM Motocross World Championship was really a fight of who could make the least mistakes, as no riders scored points in every moto. That is bonkers! Tim Gajser did not score in four of those motos and spent another four races floundering in the lower half of the top 20. There were five crucial overall wins in there though, which pushed him over the edge. That inconsistency obviously hurt his averages and that is why he is down near the bottom of this list. Gajser has the worst average starting position of all the MX2 champions by a significant margin. It is rare to win a championship when fighting from outside of the top five more often than not, so that deserves a tip of the hat.

Antonio Cairoli (2005)

Avg. Qualifying

4.44

Avg. Moto Finish

6.25

Avg. Overall Finish

4.81

Avg. Starting Position

6.09

It is baffling that Antonio Cairoli had the worst average overall finish of all the MX2 champions whilst going for his first world title, but there is a very obvious reason for that. An awful day at Matchams Park left him in twentieth overall (one position behind Tommy Searle in his first Grand Prix funnily enough) and that has pulled his average overall result down to 4.81. Remove that and his average overall falls to 3.8, which would place his 2005 campaign just above Jordi Tixier. There were six overall winners that season, but Cairoli had the most with six. Perhaps it was a sign of things to come?

Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Ray Archer

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