Features 16 Dec 2022

CycleOnline AUS Awards: 2022

Annual feature highlighting the winners and events of the year gone by.

In the 2022 edition of the CycleOnline AUS Awards, we name the leading performers and storylines of the season past in a reflection of domestic and international competition. These are done purely for editorial purposes, pieced together from an Australian perspective via what we witnessed during the year both locally and abroad.

Image: Foremost Media.

National Rider of the Year – Mike Jones:
Claiming the Mi-Bike Australian Superbike Championship (ASBK) for a third time, also on a third different manufacturer, Mike Jones is certainly cementing his spot as a legend in national road racing! Making the switch to the Yamaha Racing Team for 2022, the number 46 made an immediate impact in blue, winning six races and four of the seven rounds on his way to a 52-point championship victory. He also ended a 15-year ASBK title drought for Yamaha by securing the crown this year, underling exactly why he won the title with a commanding display in Tailem Bend for the final race of the season.

International Rider of the Year – Francesco Bagnaia:
Delivering the greatest comeback in the history of the MotoGP World Championship, Ducati Lenovo Team’s Francesco Bagnaia secured his first premier-class crown at the final race of the season in Valencia. Faced with a 91-point deficit at the halfway point of the season, the Italian won four races in a row following the heartbreak in Germany to claw his way back in contention and gained the championship lead following the Australian GP, then winning in Malaysia and completing the final race of the season in P9 to get the job done.

Rookie of the Year – Senna Agius:
Teenage talent Senna Agius experienced a breakout 2022 campaign – his first on a Moto2 bike – and finished second in the European Championship, with two race wins and nine podium finishes to his credit. Throughout the year he was also given the opportunity to wildcard in the Moto2 World Championship, filling in for the injured Sam Lowes at the Elf Marc VDS Racing Team and scoring a best result of P9 in Valencia. He then returned home to compete in the final two rounds of ASBK, ending the season with a second-place finish in race two at The Bend, impressing in just his second round racing a litre bike with Penrite Honda Racing. Agius also won the opening round of the 2022 Australian Supersport Championship at Phillip Island before venturing overseas this year, and will join the Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP Junior Team for the 2023 European Moto2 Championship with the target of capturing the title.

Personality of the Year – Jack Miller:
While Jack Miller has proven he has what it takes to fight with the world’s best, his dominant victory at the Japanese MotoGP this year a prime example, he remains down to earth, charismatic and personable, always making time for the fans. This is seen by his likeable character on the global stage, and also by what he gives back to the sport at a domestic level. He adds a flavour to the sport that no other does, with his antics engaging and at a lot of times keeping people on their toes. Departing Ducati Lenovo Team at the end of this season, Miller showed integrity throughout the whole process and Bagnaia himself thanked the Australian for his support and comradery on his way to the world championship. The North-Queensalder will certainly be one to watch next year at Red Bull KTM Factory Racing.

Image: Supplied.

Series of the Year – MotoGP World Championship:
With seven different winners and five different manufacturers tasting the top step, the 2022 MotoGP World Championship kept everyone on their toes. In addition to the vast number of bikes and riders that could be a contender for victory at any given round, the title fight itself went right down to the wire with the pendulum swinging very heavily at different points in the year. It was also great to see the Australian MotoGP return as the series shifts back to normality after the pandemic, with the bout at Phillip Island to go down in the history books as a classic and was arguably one of the best races of the season.

Most Anticipated Model – KTM RC 8C:
The KTM RC 8C has been immensely popular, both since its introduction to our domestic market and also on a global scale. The KTM RC 8C is engineered to be a bespoke, no-compromise track weapon, with the latest 2023 model limited to only 200 units – which sold out within minutes! First revealed mid-last year, the KTM RC 8C is a limited-production built platform and is designed only for closed course, boasting premium components, technology and performance to optimise rider experience for its purpose. Notably, there is no street-legal version of the KTM RC 8C, but interest in the model begs the question of whether the Austrian manufacturer will roll it out in the coming generations.

Top Team – Yamaha Racing Team:
Yamaha Racing Team (YRT) entered the 2022 ASBK Championship with the firm goal of returning to the top. With a revamped approach for the season and the addition of Mike Jones alongside outfit staple Cru Halliday, the organisation was able to achieve the premier class title for the first time in 15 years – doing so in convincing fashion thanks to the performance of the number 46. Halliday too could never be counted out as a front-running challenger, despite some misfortune throughout the year, as the brand itself enjoyed an immensely successful season claiming five national championships within the series, courtesy of Jones, John Lytras (Supersport), Cameron Dunker (Supersport 300 and R3 Cup) and Harrison Watts (Oceania Junior Cup). 

Best Event – The Bend ASBK:
Building on a successful event last year, the ASBK season finals at The Bend continued to elevate in 2022 with a host of international talent – headlined by Jack Miller – returning to compete in South Australia. Providing the Australian fans with the opportunity to see our top domestic contenders take on riders from different series around the world, the racing didn’t disappoint with the competition on the premier class extremely intense and competitive. Adding to the thrill, each of the championships was still to be decided in Tailem Bend, and the magnitude and attraction of the event showed in the broken records for spectator attendance and viewing numbers via social media, live stream and live TV numbers.

Hottest Topic – Suzuki quits, GasGas enters:
Shockwaves were sent through the MotoGP World Championship paddock with Suzuki announcing it would exit the series at the end of the 2022 season, just two years after claiming the title with Joan Mir. An announcement was released regarding Suzuki’s intended exit in May, with the decision officially confirmed in July. Despite disappointment from fans of the brand around the world, Alex Rins was able to deliver the Hamamatsu factory a dream send-off, winning its final race in Valencia, also standing on the top step at Phillip Island as the season drew to a close. While one manufacturer left the series, another joined in the form of GasGas, with a rebrand of the Tech3 KTM Factory Racing operation to see GasGas Factory Racing enter the championship in 2023. The platform will essentially be a rebadged KTM RC 16, with the organisation featuring the line-up of Pol Espargaro and Moto2 world champion Augusto Fernandez.

Image: Foremost Media.

Greatest Disappointment – Remy Gardner out of MotoGP:
Claiming the 2021 Moto2 World Championship, Remy Garnder made the highly-anticipated step up to the premier class this season with Tech3 KTM Factory Racing. However, well before the end of the season it was made clear that Gardner would not have a place with the team in 2023, unable to find another seat in the class for next year. The revelation highlights the cut-throat nature of the MotoGP paddock, with Gardner outperforming teammate Fernandez on numerous occasions. However, with the RC16 arguably one of the least competitive platforms in this year’s series, the only other real measuring sticks he has are Oliveira and Brad Binder, who have years of MotoGP experience on the KTM. Making it harder for the Moto2 world champion to remain in the premier class, no replacement team filled the vacant grid slots from Suzuki’s exit at the end of the year, effectively pulling two seats out of the metaphoric game of musical chairs for riders looking to land a MotoGP ride in 2023. Some consolation for Gardner is that he was able to secure a ride in the 2023 Superbike World Championship (WorldSBK), joining GYTR GRT Yamaha next year.

Most Surprising Moment – Herfoss switch from Michelin to Pirelli:
After two years with Michelin (notably shortened due to the pandemic), including six premier class race wins and a single-round victory at Wakefield, Herfoss and Penrite Honda Racing made a shock switch back to Pirelli as the 2022 ASBK Championship opened at Phillip Island. It was highly-speculated in the latter stages of the pre-season that Herfoss had been testing on Pirelli and a transition could be on the horizon, ultimately confirmed in FP1 at round one. The year itself was ultimately one of rebuilding for the number 17 following major injuries sustained at Hidden Valley last season, capped off with a return to the top step at The Bend in race one. Resigned with Penrite Honda Racing for 2023, it would not be surprising to see Herfoss feature in the title-fight next year.

Social Standout – Jack Miller/Team Miller:
There is no question that the presence of Jack Miller raises the profile of the sport, at a domestic and international level. Returning home to compete at The Bend once more this year, Miller’s quality promotion and content through his own social media channels, and through fielding Team Miller were certainly standouts in this aspect. With immaculate presentation both on and off the track, Team Miller – consisting of Jack Miller (Ducati), Endurance world champion (EWC) Josh Hook, German Moto2 contender Marcel Schroetter (Yamaha) and Harrison Voight – were all key attractions in South Australia, greatly increasing the span and interesting surrounding the event.

Special Mention – Wayne Maxwell:
Following a 20-plus year tenure competing at the top level of Australian domestic competition, Boost Mobile Ducati with K-Tech’s Wayne Maxwell closed the curtains on his full-time racing career after the races at Tailem Bend. Throughout his career, Maxwell achieved three premier-class titles – two for Ducati and one with Suzuki. The number 47 has also competed at an international level, notably as a wildcard in the Moto2 World Championship and in the Suzuka 8 Hours. He has set a high standard in domestic superbikes for numerous years and has been a continual race-winning and podium presence. Maxwell is also giving back to the sport and is instrumental in providing a pathway for young riders through the FIM MiniGP Australia Series, assisting emerging and existing talent hone their skills on Ohvale GP-0 and GP-2 machinery.