Features 1 Nov 2023

Top 10: The silliest of seasons

All kinds of major rider movements ahead of the 2024 SMX championship.

With multiple marquee rider switches, plus new teams and manufacturers entering the sport ahead of the 2024 Monster Energy Supercross Championship, next season is already becoming highly anticipated. As the fields edge closer to completely taking shape, MotoOnline looks at the Top 10 rider movements in what has been an extensive silly season to date.

Image: Supplied.

1. Sexton makes long-awaited arrival at Red Bull KTM:
Arguably the biggest move of the current silly season, 450SX champion Chase Sexton signed a multi-year commitment with Red Bull KTM Factory Racing. It was no secret that Sexton was departing Team Honda HRC following the 2023 season, linked to KTM through much of this year. Aaron Plessinger will be his teammate next year, with his extension with the team announced in August. Also of note, Sexton will switch to number four as a new career number, moving away from the previously used number 23. Onboard the team’s 250 SX-Fs, graduating amateur Julien Beaumer will join double MX2 world champion Tom Vialle.

2. All-Lawrence Team Honda HRC 450 effort:
With Sexton moving to Red Bull KTM, this effectively left a vacant seat 450 seat at the championship-winning Team Honda HRC. Naturally, Hunter Lawrence, who delivered a stellar 2023 campaign with 250SX East and 250MX titles steps up to join brother Jett in what will be a powerhouse premier class effort. Just as Sexton’s deal with KTM was no secret for some time, it was widely-known that Lawrence would step up to a 450 with the team in 2024, for much of the current season. Interestingly, it means Team Honda HRC will field an all-rookie 450SX line-up next season, but with Jett’s immense success already onboard the CRF450R and Hunter indicating – like many before him – that the bigger bike better suits his style, this should hardly be an issue.

3. Take two for Shimoda in red:
As one of the in-form riders throughout the late stages of this year, there’s no denying that Jo Shimoda’s switch from Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki to Team Honda HRC through the 2025 SuperMotocross World Championship (SMX) is one of the big moves of this silly season. Shimoda first rode Hondas in the US during 2017 as part of the Factory Connection amateur program, turning professional with the then Geico-backed team at the end of 2019. He switched to Kawasaki in 2021 upon the closure of the Factory Connection team, but now returns to Honda within the factory HRC fold. The 21-year-old will partner Chance Hymas on the factory CRF250Rs next season.

4. Webb and Star Racing strive for more glory:
While it was officially announced in September and Cooper Webb completed the SMX post-season onboard the YZ450F, the two-time 450SX champion’s reunion with Star Racing is a big one ahead of 2024. Webb won a pair of 250SX West titles between 2015-2016 in addition to the 2016 250MX crown with Star Racing, prior to stepping up to the 450 class with Yamaha’s in-house factory program for two seasons. Both of his 450SX titles (2019, 2021) came with Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, but he announced mid-season this year that he had KTM had parted ways. While his results with Star Racing in the SMX playoffs were perhaps underwhelming by his own standards, you can never count out the crafty Webb, especially in an environment where he feels at home. Partnering Eli Tomac within the team will provide an extremely strong, yet interesting dynamic, while former 250SX West champion Justin Cooper will also feature full-time in the 450 line-up. Also, it is expected that outbound 450 rider Dylan Ferrandis is hoping to be Honda-equipped from next year.

5. Seven-rider Monster Yamaha Star Racing 250 line-up:
There will be no shortage of Monster Yamaha Star Racing 250Fs on track professionally next year, with the famed outfit fielding a seven-rider 250SX assault for 2024. Remaining with the team are 250SMX champion Haiden Deegan – who has acquired number 38 as a career number – Jordon Smith, Nick Romano, Stilez Robertson, Nate Thrasher and Daxton Bennick, while 24-year-old Brazilian racer Enzo Lopes will join the ranks. Lopes was fourth last year in 250SX West with ClubMX and originally signed an extension to remain with that program. However, that won’t eventuate in favor of the opportunity with Star Racing. Crucially, Lopes’ deal so far is Supercross-only.

Image: Supplied.

6. ‘The Chef’ looking to serve up at Pro Circuit:
One rider to leave the Star Racing camp was Levi Kitchen, switching to the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki team for 2024. Kitchen has shown flashes of potential and the ability to win races onboard the YZ250F, and his change in scenery to Mitch Payton’s squad could be what he needs to consistently deliver with his proven speed. Additionally, Maximus Vohland makes the switch to a KX250 with the outfit after a three-year stint with Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, joining returning riders Austin Forkner, Cameron McAdoo and Seth Hammaker for the 2024 season. Outside of that, both Jason Anderson and Adam Cianciarulo are both back for Kawasaki’s premier class program.

7. Triumph enters the frame and means business:
It’s always exciting when a new manufacturer enters and that’s exactly Triumph are doing in the 2024 SMX championship. The US effort will be supported by Triumph’s in-house off-road design engineering department and managed by Stephen Westfall, operated in partnership with championship-winning owner and manager Bobby Hewitt as team principal. Additionally, SX/MX legend Ricky Carmichael is an ambassador for the project, while Ivan Tedesco and Clement Desalle in Europe are the test riders. The brand will compete in the 250 class in 2024, before entering the 450 class also from the 2025 season. Joey Savatgy revealed he signed a two-year factory contract with the brand to ride the 250 category next year, then on a 450 the following campaign. Of note, he will only be able to compete onboard a 250 in Pro Motocross, since he had previously pointed out of 250SX despite not winning a title in the category.

8. Youthful Ryder D set for fresh charge with GasGas:
After commencing his professional career with Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki, promising 18-year-old Ryder DiFrancesco makes the switch to Troy Lee Designs Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing for 2024. Some would argue that perhaps the factory-backed Kawasaki outfit lost faith in the number 75, and it was clear he was riding to make a statement in the SMX post-season. A change in environment and the nature of the GasGas brand could really suit DiFrancesco, and he will certainly be one to watch in his rookie 250SX campaign next year. Of note in relation to GasGas’ US program, MXGP champion Jorge Prado has been testing Supercross, however, he has stated he has a contract for MXGP next year, but is certainly considering a move to the US after that. Justin Barcia (450) and Pierce Brown (250) will again continue with the team.

9. Nichols joins Beta for its inaugural 450SX season:
Another new manufacturer entering Monster Energy Supercross next year is Beta. However, unlike Triumph which will only field 250 entries for next year, Beta’s focus is exclusively on the 450 class. Spearheading the manufacturer’s 450SX challenge is Colt Nichols, the former 250SX East champion competing in this year’s AMA Supercross series with Team Honda HRC, before joining Rick Ware Racing for the World Supercross Championship (WSX). Nichols is on a two-year 450SX agreement with the Liqui Moly Beta Racing Team, and will line up alongside Benny Bloss in the inaugural Supercross season for the Italian-bred Beta Motorcycles organization.

10. New and existing for Rockstar Husqvarna:
It will be a mix of new and existing riders in the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team for 2024, with Spaniard Guillem Farres added alongside RJ Hampshire and Casey Cochran in the factory 250 class program. The former EMX250 regular immediately displayed front-running potential with a series of top 10 results. He continued that trend in the opening part of the 2023 series and scored a top-five moto finish with Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing at the beginning of the outdoors, however, was unfortunately injured in round three and didn’t return to action. Cochran will turn professional with the squad full-time next year after an outstanding final year in amateur competition, and gained immense experience in his first pro-level appearances across the final two rounds of this year’s AMA Pro Motocross Championship at Budds Creek and the Ironman National. Meanwhile, proven race winner Hampshire has signed an extension with the organisation through the 2025 season, set to remain onboard an FC 250. In addition to its three-rider 250 team, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna will continue to field Malcolm Stewart and Christian Craig – both returning from injury for the coming season – in the 450 ranks.