Features 14 Mar 2024

Top 10: Topics to follow in Supercross

Key points to be aware of at the halfway stage of the 2024 season.

Words: Simon Makker

The first half of the 2024 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship has delivered some of the best racing we’ve seen in years, with multiple contenders still in the hunt across the 450SX, 250SX West and 250SX East classes. MotoOnline takes a closer look at the Top 10 topics to follow as the series heads into the second half.

Image: Octopi Media.

1. Jett edges ahead:
After breaking all sorts of records on his way to a perfect 450MX campaign last year, Jett Lawrence entered his first 450SX championship as the odds-on favorite to take the fight to the established racers in the premier class. The Team Honda HRC rider wasted no time making his intentions clear with a convincing seven-second win at the championship opener at Anaheim 1, but then promptly lost the lead at a rain-soaked San Francisco. A series of errors and average starts saw him finish off the podium for the next four rounds, before he again found his form and won at Detroit. But Lawrence has proved to be an incredibly quick learner, storming Eli Tomac’s stronghold at Daytona to take the win there, then backing it up with a second consecutive victory – the first of any rider this year – last weekend at Birmingham. Generally speaking, whoever leads the championship after Daytona goes on to win the title, with Lawrence now enjoying a 13-point lead in the title race.

2. Three-way battle for 250SX West:
All the ingredients are there for the 250SX West championship to go down to the wire, with just five points separating the top three racers halfway through their 10-round series. Despite only claiming one overall win at Anaheim 2, Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha’s Levi Kitchen has been the most consistent so far, and carries the red plate into Seattle next weekend as a result. But it’s a far-from-comfortable lead, his team-mate Jordon Smith is re-energized and looks really strong, finishing on the podium at the first three rounds and is just four points behind. Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s RJ Hampshire is currently one point further back in third, but is the only rider in the field to win two rounds (Anaheim 1 and Glendale). Aside from two tough rounds in the mud at San Francisco and San Diego, Hampshire has probably displayed the most speed this year. Whichever way the chips fall from here on, it should be an entertaining finish.

3: Vialle jumps to the front in 250SX East:
Red Bull KTM’s two-time MX2 world champion Tom Vialle is hitting great form at just the right time, suddenly leaping to the top of the 250SX East standings with an emphatic wire-to-wire win around the rutted Birmingham circuit. It was the Frenchman’s second win in as many rounds, following a break-out victory at Daytona the weekend prior, and a podium performance at Arlington’s second round. Vialle was one of the many riders caught up in the first-turn crash at the season opener at Detroit, which saw him finish well down the order in 18th. Even still, 2024 is shaping up to be an impressive year for the 23-year-old, who’s proving to be an incredibly quick learner and is rapidly adapting to the formats and skills required for supercross.

4: Tomac needs to unleash beast mode:
Did anyone ever imagine that we’d reach the halfway mark of the season and still see two-time Supercross champion Eli Tomac without a round win next to his name? The Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing legend typically works his way into a season and becomes a near-unstoppable force by the time the championship heads east, but even by his standards, it’s been a slow start to 2024. We’ve seen flashes of his trademark ‘beast mode’ this year (such as Arlington where he recovered from an early crash to slice his way through the entire pack to finish P2), and he’s finished runner-up four times in nine rounds, but some disappointing results at Anaheim 1, San Diego and Detroit have left him sitting fourth, and 26 points off the red plate. If the three wants to secure title number three, he’s going to have to tap into that beast mode regularly and hope some luck goes his way over the remaining eight rounds.

Image: Octopi Media.

5. Webb and Sexton hang tough:
The list of 450SX title contenders is slowly being whittled down, and the remainder of the season is shaping up to be a three-rider battle between Lawrence, Cooper Webb and defending champion Chase Sexton. Besides Lawrence, Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing’s Webb is the only rider to have secured multiple wins this season (Anaheim 2 Triple Crown and his customary stronghold at Arlington), but finishing behind the series leader over the last two rounds has seen the margin between the two extend to 13 points. At the same time, Sexton – who’s trying to race his way back into form after a practice crash injured his hand – is now 20 points behind his former team-mate Lawrence. The Red Bull KTM rider logged an emphatic win at the rain-drenched San Francisco round and is steadily getting stronger again, but he needs to consistently finish ahead of Lawrence if he wants to grind his way to the top of the standings.

6: AC’s final year?:
Speculation is mounting that 2024 could be the last year we see Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo racing full-time as a professional racer. The likeable Floridian broke his finger in a tangle with Jorge Prado (Troy Lee Designs Red Bull GasGas) at the season opener, and after riding through the pain at San Francisco and San Diego, he sat out four rounds to recover. Cianciarulo, whose career has been riddled with injuries, returned at Daytona to register an 11th at his home race, then finished P12 at Birmingham. He’s now 14th in the standings and regardless of the rumors, you can guarantee that he’s going to want to finish the rest of the series strongly.

7. Pressure rises for Deegan:
Most people assumed this would be the year that Haiden Deegan took command of the 250SX East championship, but it’s been far from a smooth ride for the Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing rider. After getting taken down in the huge first-turn pile-up at Detroit, ‘Danger Boy’ put in the perfect rebound by winning the next stop at Arlington. A fourth place at Daytona saw him climb the standings further, but at the weekend’s most recent round at Birmingham, he let his emotions get the better of him. AMA officials deemed he gained a points’ advantage after getting shunted off-track early in the main event, then he made an aggressive, physical pass on Coty Schock (Muc-Off/FXR/ClubMX Yamaha) in the final turn to cross the line in P7. Not only did the move result in a broken collarbone for Schock, Deegan was penalized two positions for his off-track excursion and officially ended the night in ninth. Deegan sits fourth in the standings, just 12 points off the lead.

Image: Octopi Media.

8. Shimoda needs to lift:
Another rider who was expected to be a title favorite in the 250SX West division is Jo Shimoda, but he’s yet to finish a main any higher than third. Poor starts at every round, and a DNF in the San Francisco mud, have cost the Team Honda HRC pilot dearly. He’s currently fifth in the points and 32 markers off the top spot, but the three-rider log-jam at the top of the standings means he needs to bridge a 27-point gap, just to get himself on the podium. With five rounds remaining, Shimoda faces a tough second half of the championship where he’ll need to dig deep at every race.

9. Heartbreak for Anstie:
Until Birmingham, 2024 was looking like a breakout year for Max Anstie and the Fire Power Honda team. The affable Englishman used consistency to find himself holding the red plate after the first two rounds of the 250SX East Championship, courtesy of 2-4 results at Detroit and Arlington. Despite a P8 result at Daytona and some mid-pack starts in the mains, Anstie still held onto a slender lead heading into Alabama. Another average start saw him spend the first the first half of the Birmingham main fighting his way into the top 10, before a non-OEM part in the head failed and his bike ground to a standstill. It was a heartbreaking way to extinguish the title hopes of both Anstie and the team; his DNF has seen him tumble down to eighth in the standings, but it’ll be worth keeping an eye on how they bounce back from this disappointment.

10. Upcoming mixed-format races:
Although we’re over halfway through the 2024 championship, we’ve only had one Triple Crown format race so far, with every other round being the traditional supercross format. That’s about to change for the back half of the season, though, starting this weekend at Indianapolis. Indy will host the second of the Triple Crown races, followed two weeks later by the third and final of that format at St Louis. Two rounds after that, at Nashville, we’ll see the first of the two East-West Showdowns, then, as always, the second Showdown will be held at the final round at Salt Lake City. The variety of formats we’re going to see in the second half of the series could throw up some real twists in the title fights and we’re looking forward to see how all three championships play out.