What's emerging in the opening rounds of the 2024 championship.
Words: Simon Makker
As the Glendale round of the 2024 Monster Energy Supercross Championship approaches this Saturday, the tone has been set in a number of different dynamics that are surfacing across the series. In this edition of Countdown, MotoOnline takes a closer look at a selection of trends that are emerging following the opening five races of the year.
8. Nine different winners in five rounds:
What a start it’s been to this year’s championship, across both the 450SX and 250SX categories. Here we are, five rounds in, and we’ve seen four different winners in the premier class (Team Honda HRC’s rookie Jett Lawrence became the first two-time winner at Detroit), four winners from four rounds in 250SX West, and Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Austin Forkner opening the 250SX East series with a win on the weekend. Any one of the top seven fastest riders of each championship is capable of winning main events, which shows the extraordinary amount of depth we have across the board this year. It’s also exciting that despite being almost one third of the way through 450SX, we haven’t seen many significant injuries to the factory riders, with the exception of Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo (broken hand) and Liqui Moly Beta’s Colt Nichols (shoulder).
7. New manufacturers enter the scene:
This season has seen two new manufacturers – Beta and Triumph – enter the scene, bringing the tally of brands on the starting gate to a record-breaking nine. With Nichols out, Benny Bloss is the sole regular Liqui Moly Beta representative, alongside fill-in rider John Short. After failing to qualify for the main event at the first two rounds, Bloss has put Beta in the big show for the last three rounds, with his season-best being a decent 15th at the challenging San Diego round. Meanwhile Triumph elected to debut its new TF 250-X at Detroit for the start of 250SX East, piloted by Jalek Swoll and Evan Ferry. Swoll put an early crash behind him to finish a remarkable P6 aboard the all-new motorcycle, while Ferry was also involved in the huge first-turn pile-up and forced to DNF. Despite Ferry’s result, Triumph will be pleased to have been represented so high up the points at their debut race, signaling that they could be a real threat in the future.
6. The Lawrence brothers debut in 450SX:
After taking the 250SX championships by storm, then both clinching the 250MX and 450MX Pro Motocross titles last year, all eyes were on Team Honda HRC pairing Jett and Hunter Lawrence as they debuted in 450SX for 2024. The opening round at Anaheim 1 threw up polar opposite fortunes, as Jett led wire-to-wire to convincingly win the main event, while Hunter failed to qualify. Since then, Hunter has consolidated and has consistently been a top 10 guy, with his best performance – a P6 – coming in the San Francisco mud. Meanwhile, Jett became the first rider to win two rounds last weekend in Detroit and is just one point behind his former teammate and defending 450SX champion, Chase Sexton (Red Bull KTM) in the points hunt.
5. Aaron Plessinger’s redemption:
Last year Red Bull KTM’s Aaron Plessinger came heart-breakingly close to winning his first-ever Monster Energy AMA Supercross 450SX main event, when he crashed out of the lead on the final lap at Detroit. Less than a year later, ‘The Cowboy’ finally became a premier class winner, when he stormed to the front of the muddy San Diego round and didn’t look back. Plessinger’s victory was a popular one with both the fans and his rivals, and he then carried the championship-leading red plate into the following rounds at Anaheim 2 and Detroit. A come-through-the-pack P5 performance on the weekend saw him lose his grip on the series lead, but he’s still right there with plenty of rounds left to run. 2024 has seen the emergence of a faster, smoother, more aggressive Plessinger, who has now proven he’s a legitimate front-runner this year.
4. Two red plate holders in 250SX West:
The wild west is living up to its name, with some top-shelf racing taking place over the opening four rounds of the 10-round series. It was RJ Hampshire (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna) who took honors at the season-opener, before Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing’s Jordon Smith and Nate Thrasher mastered the rain in San Francisco and San Diego, respectively. Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Levi Kitchen made it four separate winners from four rounds by claiming the Anaheim 2 Triple Crown round, and took joint red plate ownership with Smith in the process. Hampshire is just eight points behind in third, having endured a tough time at the two mud races. Despite bouncing back to win San Diego, it’s been a slow start for Thrasher, who DNFed Anaheim 1, then finished down in 18th at San Francisco. Team Honda HRC’s 250SX new signing Jo Shimoda has also had a torrid start to 2024, having to scramble through the pack from poor starts and crashes, and suffering a DNF at San Francisco. He’s currently placed sixth in the standings.
3. All to play for in the East:
We’ve only seen one round of 250SX East so far, but a dramatic first-turn incident that claimed a number of the favorites meant we didn’t get many answers to our questions at Detroit. While Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Forkner cruised to a popular victory over Max Anstie (Fire Power Honda) and rookie Daxton Bennick (Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing), the first-turn crash claimed Haiden Deegan (Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing), Red Bull KTM’s Tom Vialle, and Forkner’s teammates, Cameron McAdoo and Seth Hammaker, ensuring they all finished at the rear of the pack. It’s a big blow to the title chances of each of these guys, who will now have to bounce back when the eastern region resumes next weekend. At the other end of the spectrum, Forkner’s comfortable win over some of his biggest rivals puts him in a great position in the short nine-round series.
2. Championship threats still to win:
In a testament to just how deep the 450SX talent runs in 2024, a number of the usual front-runners have yet to light the candles, despite us now being five rounds through the series. Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing’s Eli Tomac did take one of the Triple Crown race victories at Anaheim 2, but has only stood on the podium once so far this year. It usually takes the two-time Supercross champion a few rounds before he starts to win races, but even by his standards, 2024 has been a slow start, especially when he could only circulate to an uncharacteristic 10th at Detroit. Meanwhile, fifth-placed Jason Anderson (Monster Energy Kawasaki) and Progressive Insurance Ecstar Suzuki’s Ken Roczen (seventh) are also yet to find themselves in the winner’s circle.
1. Tight points chase in 450SX:
Despite Lawrence becoming the first racer to win two 450SX rounds this season, there’s still no clear favorite to take this year’s title. As we enter Glendale’s sixth round, a mere six points separate the top four riders, as Sexton holds a slim one-point advantage from Lawrence and Plessinger, just one point further back. The always-determined Anaheim 2 winner Cooper Webb (Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing) holds down fourth position, just four markers behind his former KTM teammate Plessinger. While the front-runners for the 2024 title are starting to emerge, momentum shifts are a very real thing in Supercross – if the likes of Tomac, Roczen and Anderson find sudden form, the points chase could tighten up significantly as we head towards the crucial middle part of the season.