A full-sized supercross track with zero room for error made for a tough night of racing for Empire Kawasaki riders at the final round of the 2023 Australian Supercross Championship.

Inside Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium, Lawson Bopping finished 15th in his first SX1 supercross race in four years, while Caleb Goullet was forced to DNF the SX2 final after a big crash late in the race.

Bopping received the call-up to race for Empire Kawasaki after Matt Moss was injured at Newcastle, and despite not having raced professionally since 2019, jumped at the opportunity to again ride under lights in front of thousands of fans.

After qualifying ninth, Bopping and his 2023 Kawasaki KX450 showed flashes of brilliance early in the night, when he found himself sitting third early in his heat. Two late passes saw him finish the five-lap race in fifth.

A bad jump off the gate of the gruelling 20-lap final saw Bopping sitting in the mid-pack. After some early passes, a mistake saw him give up the positions he’d gained, and he eventually crossed the line in 17th.

“It was definitely an interesting night,” he recalled. “I haven’t raced at this level for four years, so it was a cool experience to return and race in front of so many people at the biggest round of the Australian Supercross Championship.

“I had a good time out there, it wasn’t expected, but I jumped at the chance to race this weekend. My results weren’t anything to get too excited about, but I had a lot of fun for the most part and enjoyed getting back out there, and banging bars with the boys.”

It was an even rougher night in the SX2 class for emerging talent Goullet and his 2023 Kawasaki KX250.

Struggling to come to terms with the unforgiving whoops due to a recently broken wrist, Goullet finished his heat in ninth after qualifying 17th.

After circulating in 19th early in the SX2 final, the 22-year-old managed to claw his way to P15 before a big crash late in the race saw him retire. On-site X-rays determined he had broken his already-plated collarbone in the incident.

In the final championship standings, Goullet finished 17th, despite only receiving the opportunity from Empire Kawasaki to race the series after the opening round.

“My results today weren’t great, and I faded in both my heat and final from a lack of bike time,” he said. “I’ve only ridden once since Newcastle to try and make sure my wrist was as good as possible for this weekend.

“In the SX2 final, my helmet visor fell down over my eyes when I was already committed to the rhythm section, which was pretty scary! I crashed hard and it turns out I’ve re-broken my collarbone.

“It’s a tough way to end the year, but I’m thankful for the opportunity I’ve had to ride for the Empire Kawasaki team this season – I really enjoyed the chance to ride with a team of this calibre.”

2023 Australian Supercross Championship Rd3 Melbourne, VIC:

SX1 results:
1. Luke Clout 2. Dean Wilson 3. Justin Brayton 17. Lawson Bopping (Empire Kawasaki)

SX2 results:
1. Max Anstie 2. Wilson Todd 3. Cole Thompson DNF. Caleb Goullet (Empire Kawasaki)