Features 22 May 2024

Three Things: Pro Motocross 2024 form guide

Breaking down expectations for several riders heading into AMA Pro Motocross.

As the 2024 AMA Pro Motocross Championship gets ready to roar into action, the expectations are mounting on where each rider fares to slot in. We take a look at some of the key contenders, ones to watch, and dark horse in each class before the gates drop in Pala on Saturday.

Image: Octopi Media.

Title contenders

Reigning champion Team Honda HRC’s Jett Lawrence enters as the clear favorite and rightfully so as he has not lost a moto on a 450 yet. However, there are plenty of reasons to believe he can be beaten this year, even if it’s only a few motos. With injuries sidelining both Cooper Webb and Eli Tomac, Chase Sexton likely slots in as the clear next guy to challenge Jett. But we will also see the return of Sexton’s Red Bull KTM teammate Aaron Plessinger who should factor in, and last year’s runner up Dylan Ferrandis will look to put his Phoenix Racing Honda at the front. When Tomac returns around the halfway point, many will hope to see a 2022 version of Eli Tomac mix it up with Lawrence for the lead. While the 450 class looks fairly straightforward, the 250 class is really anyone’s guess as it feels like a five-sided coin flip between RJ Hampshire, Tom Vialle, Levi Kitchen, Haiden Deegan, and Jo Shimoda. Each of them won motos last year and they all likely believe this championship is theirs for the taking. A number of other riders could poke their head into this group, but for now, this appears to be the clear frontrunners heading into Pro Motocross.

Image: Octopi Media.

Ones to watch

The most interesting group in the 450 class this year could come from a mixed bag of rookies and veterans that could surprise. Incoming rookies in Hunter Lawrence and Justin Cooper both have a lot of excitement around their potential this year after they finished first and second in the 250 class in 2023. Established core riders like Justin Barcia, Jason Anderson, Christian Craig, and Malcolm Stewart are hoping to mix it up as well. Particularly for Anderson and Barcia, their Monster Energy Supercross seasons ended strong, and they could even jump into the battles ahead. But look for Hunter Lawrence and Justin Cooper to be on a mission this summer to prove their ranking in the 450 class. A large number of 250 class riders will find themselves pushing hard to just crack the top 10 this year, at least at the start. We’ll see the return of Triumph Racing’s Joey Savatgy to racing as he was ineligible for 250SX this year and has been gearing up for Pro Motocross the whole time. His teammate Jalek Swoll looked strong at the end of Supercross and is a former Pro Motocross winner. There’s also factory names like Pierce Brown, Seth Hammaker, and Jordon Smith that have shown plenty of speed in Pro Motocross in the past and they’re all entering perhaps the healthiest they’ve ever been. Several more names could be part of this group, but this feels like the key guys that will be next in line to break into that title contending five.

Image: Octopi Media.

Dark horses

The Muc-Off FXR ClubMX Yamaha teammates of Garrett Marchbanks and Phil Nicoletti were both dependable on 450s last year, as Marchbanks even got second in a moto at High Point and never finished outside of the top 10 in any of the motos he raced. They both will look to be even better this year, though Marchbanks is not 100 percent as he comes off a thumb injury. We saw privateers like Ty Masterpool, Grant Harlan, and Freddie Noren all have great seasons last year as they all finished inside of the top 10 on points and had very strong rides. Masterpool even battled for a podium spot at one point and certainly has the talent to mix it up. Another name that can’t be forgotten is Derek Drake who was incredibly fast at the start of the year last year and trailed off towards the end. Names like these will live in the shadows a lot this year, but any of them could have breakthrough top five rides at the drop of a hat. Meanwhile in the 250 class, the ‘rookie’ group of Ryder DiFrancesco, Julien Beaumer, and Chance Hymas will have close eyes on them. Beaumer is the only true rookie at this point as Ryder D has just finished his first full season and Hymas only missed much of Pro Motocross last year due to a torn ACL, but they are all the new kids on the block looking to do some damage out front. Beyond that are names like Nate Thrasher who is always fast but finds the ground a lot, or Stilez Robertson who remains a big question mark. A guy like Talon Hawkins hung out around the top 10 a lot last year and is looking to get better. The 250 class is full of question marks and there is going to be more surprises from this class that continue to impress even beyond the first couple of rounds. There are even riders still coming back from injury like Cameron McAdoo, Austin Forkner, Michael Mosiman, and more that could return to racing within a few rounds and land in a full sprint out front.