Fighting doubt and injury, Hunter Lawrence dominated the 250 East Supercross championship
At one point in his career, Hunter Lawrence considered supporting his brother Jett Lawrence, even if that meant giving up his own dream of racing SuperMotocross, but he fought back against the injury and self-doubt to dominate and won the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross 250 East championship.
His is a story of perseverance and fighting the odds - one of the lessons sports continue to teach.
“I was ready to [support Jett],” Hunter told NBC Sports. “He was doing really well at the moment and I was at a breaking point where I’m just like, I don’t think I can take this anymore. It may not work - what’s next for me in life? Because this sport is a huge aspect of our life, but it isn’t everything. It’s only the first 30 years of our life. There’s still so much beyond that.
“But I’m glad we [persisted]. Now we can set our legacy and continue to build an empire.”
In 2023, the Lawrence brothers each claimed championships in the two regional divisions of the Monster Energy Supercross series.
The moments of doubt for Hunter came when the Lawrence family first moved to Europe.
Supercross was not quite as big in his native Australia as it is in Europe and America, so to make a name for themselves, the Lawrence brothers had to make the jump. It was not the smoothest transition; origin stories are hardly told without mention of hard times. There were moments when Hunter described himself as a crash test dummy.
But Hunter’s philosophy in life is one where one must commit to an action and make it work. There is a difference between making the right decision and making the decision right.
“Everyone has a different philosophy on how they do things, but I’m a big believer in all your eggs in one basket,” Hunter said. “When we went to Europe and left school, I was all in. I never was dedicated to anything in school because I believed that I could do this for real. I was like, I’m just going to do this until I can’t anymore, which maybe was dumb, but at the same time I felt like it’s maybe what has gotten us as a family to this point in our life. It’s just all we know. There’s no other option. Once we went to Europe, there was no turning back. I think that’s the same way we look at everything now, we’ll figure it out. Just put need time.”
Moving to America in 2019, the results were not immediately stellar. Hunter finished 10th in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross championship that year, was 24th in the 250 West championship in 2020 and 13th later that year in Motocross. Some of this was attributable to the steep learning curve of riding against American riders and some was due to injuries.
In 2021, Hunter finished second in the 250 West Supercross championship. He hasn’t been worse than third in a title battle since.
Hunter was originally committed to running in with 250 East riders in 2022, but a minor injury to Jett during the offseason caused the Honda HRC team to make a last-minute adjustment. The West started several weeks earlier than the East and that little bit of time would give both riders the opportunity to perform at their peak. Hunter made the move to help support his brother.
It may well have been what cost him a championship that year. Christian Craig was flawless during 2022 in the West. Hunter was almost perfect, with only one result off the podium. He finished second in the championship, partly as the result of a crash in the third Anaheim race that year.
After that fall, he won the next three races. There was room for improvement, but not much.
“My stats were a lot better [in 2023],” Hunter said. “My average start position was a lot better than last year. And just being better overall. It’s just a compounding work of being healthy. I think that’s the biggest thing. This is now my third year and with no injuries now. Just being healthy and being at every race; that alone has been a huge thing. My average start definitely made it a lot easier.”
The success Hunter began to accumulate beginning in 2021 restored his confidence and his drive. While Jett recently earned his fourth consecutive title by wrapping up the 250 West division with one race remaining at Denver, Hunter matched him stride for stride.
Until the season-ending East/West Showdown in Salt Lake City, the Lawrence brothers had remarkably similar stats in terms of wins, average finishes, podiums, and fastest laps set in a race. And Hunter also wrapped up his title with one race remaining on the schedule.
“I’m not the type of person that can do nothing all off season and then have someone pump me full of confidence and say you can do this, you can do this,” Hunter said. “You have to believe in yourself to do this. But at the back of my mind, I’m going, no, you’re joking mate, I haven’t worked for this. I don’t deserve this.
“I think I’m an extremely reasonable person in everything I do. I don’t feel like I deserve anything unless I feel like I’ve earned it or worked for it. Nothing in our lives has ever really been a handout or given to us. We’ve worked for everything.”