Double MX2 World Champion Tom Vialle made his AMA Supercross debut in Houston for round five of the 2023 season and the opening date of the 250SX East series. The 22-year-old led two laps and was in podium contention for the majority of the main event until two small mistakes in the closing stages dropped him to 7th spot.
Houston was the Frenchman’s first ever supercross race and marked the end of a frantic period when he claimed the 2022 MX2 title during the last laps of the last moto of the final Grand Prix of the season in Turkey during September and then jetted straight to Florida. The transition to the North American wing of Red Bull KTM was swift, so much so that Vialle could not commit to Team France for the Motocross of Nations at RedBud and he quickly had to acclimatise to the demands of supercross.
The challenge of migration, the team switch and getting to grasp with supercross was daunting for the rider who only made his debut at world championship level in 2019 and claimed two crowns in four years.
“After the first month I was like ‘uf, this will be hard’. In fact, if I had to make the move from motocross to supercross again then I’m not sure if I would do it,” Vialle admitted in an interview that will appear on KTM’s official Blog (www.blog.ktm.com). “It was the riding: people you’d never heard of were very fast, they turn so fast, the bike is very different and everything was just so radical compared to what I knew. It took a few months and a lot of work and it was only in the last few weeks before the first round where I made some big steps and improved a lot. We’ll have to see how the races go but the progression was hard.”
Vialle focused his attention on the eight-race East division to benefit from the later start date. His training regime with famed specialist Aldon Baker wasn’t such a curveball but the specifics of supercross were a new boundary. “The training I did with Joel [Smets, Red Bull KTM MXGP Trainer] in the last three-four years was very tough so I know what it is like to push hard: I don’t think I can train any more than I did in preparation for the GPs,” he said. “It was a lot. So, the work with Aldon was not harder. What was tougher was riding so much supercross; it was hard on my body and the higher rate of breathing. Also, the heat and humidity in Florida, wow.”
Vialle is seeking fresh additions to his impressive CV in the United States and the transition followed a remarkable 2022 MX2 duel with Monster Energy Yamaha rival Jago Geerts; a rivalry that stretched back to 2020. “Turkey was the decider of a year-long championship in just thirty minutes: one moto,” he recalls. “We started that race and whoever finished ahead was champion; it was like we’d done the whole season for nothing! It was pretty crazy…but I’ve always felt good in Turkey and when I won the Qualification Heat on Saturday it set up the weekend. I knew I was going to be good. I felt comfortable. I was strong and it helped me a lot.”
28 was not without empathy for his Belgian peer. “For sure, it must have been really hard when you fight so hard all year and lose by such a small margin. It must be tough…I can’t relate completely because I did not feel that emotion…but it must have been very hard.”
Aside from the success, the lightning starts and the maturity, Vialle made such a large impact in the world championship thanks to his rapid learning curve: from EMX European Championship obscurity to 4th in MX2 and with seven podium appearances in a few months and by the end of his first full season. If he can apply the same rate of development to supercross then he will soon be touching new heights. Vialle, typically, is aware of the task he faces. “Hmm, I think so [can learn quick] but we have many less races here, just 8-9, compared to a full Grand Prix season,” he reasons. “But I want to come in and just build-up as much as I can. When I entered the world championship I’d never raced GPs regularly and it went well and I’d like the same effect here. That’s the goal.”