By Thanksgiving, you’ll already be overrun by Black Friday ads, and the rush to get and receive gifts between now and Christmas. But fans of this sport already know what presents are under tree. Unfortunately, we have to wait a little extra before they get unwrapped. The new racing season will begin January 6, a bit after Christmas, but the excitement is the same. There’s quite a bit to unpack for 2024, but this is really, really good stuff. So, this Thanksgiving, we’re thankful for the bench-racing Moto Gods have given us so much to look forward to. Here’s a sampling:
Eli Tomac Returns
It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of Eli Tomac or not—nobody wanted to see the champ end his career on a ruptured Achilles tendon, especially when he was inches from securing another 450SX title. Thankfully, he’s decided to slide his healed foot/ankle back into an Alpinestars for another season, and we the fans are the benefactors. Tomac is just so fun to watch on a bike, and whenever he’s on the track the, “will he or won’t he” factor of him going into beast mode always injects electricity into the air. At least one more season of a living legend? Yes please!
Eli vs. Jett
Next year Jett Lawrence will make his 450SX debut, which means we’ll finally get to see him square off against Tomac. This is something we all wanted to see in 2023 in the AMA Pro Motocross Championship, but never got the chance. Both of these riders are generational talents, albeit from different generations, and actually getting to see them battle makes us incredibly grateful. It sounds cliched, but it really is a clash of the titans! If you’re not excited to see them go at it, you’re not from this planet.
Sexton to KTM
This is without a doubt the biggest team changes question of the off-season. Chase Sexton is the supercross champ, for crying out loud! There’s an equally big story below with Cooper Webb, but we’ve at least seen Webb race his new Yamaha a few times. For Sexton, we won’t get any data until Anaheim. We all saw the troubles he had with losing the front end, and various other crashes, in his first few years in 450SX. We also saw just how fast Sexton is when he doesn’t make those mistakes. Sexton was the only rider to offer any consistent resistance to Tomac in 2022 and 2023, and to Lawrence during the summer. If he clicks with the new bike and team, he’ll be dangerous. Or, it could turn out horribly! Either way, the great unknown is part of what makes a new season so exciting.
Webb to Yamaha
It’s weird to think that Cooper Webb, after winning a pair of 450SX championships with Red Bull KTM, would need a change of face and pace to succeed, but hey, that’s the way it goes sometimes. When he was with Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing on a 250 he was ridiculously strong, and won two 250SX titles and a 250 National Motocross Championship. He left before Star took over the 450 effort from Yamaha though, so we never got to see just how good they could perform together in the big leagues. This likely means the usual Webb feistiness, but probably at a higher level. Will the results be better, though? We’re fortunate to see this play out in 2024.
Deegan the Sophomore
If you say you weren’t surprised by Haiden Deegan this year, you’re either lying or didn’t watch any races. It’s not like anyone expected him to be horrible, either—he just overdelivered in spades! Especially when he really found his stride during the summer and ended the year by winning the first 250SMX SuperMotocross World Championship. There was also drama along the way, like when he raced his teammate, Jordon Smith especially hard in a heat race, and threw a little shade at Hunter Lawrence over the summer. Depending on where you stand, you’re either looking forward to watching him getting his ass kicked or are excited to see him crush it in 2024. Deegans aren’t bothered by any of it, and they’re ready to be the center of the show. Either way, get ready to take your thrill pills!
The Resurgence of Roczen and Suzuki
Yeah, this started last year, and yeah, we’ve all heard ‘Kickstart Kenny’ about eight million times more than necessary, but if the alternative is not getting to see Roczen race, we’ll gladly endure the kickstart jokes, and make a few of them ourselves, in 2024. Roczen is a top-shelf racer, and watching him get back to his extremely fast, and fun-loving, ways with Suzuki has been awesome. He’s also clearly a whole lot better on the Suzuki in November of this year than he was a year ago. He’s been very good lately, so this is a story we’re not ready to be done reading yet. We’re thankful Roczen and Suzuki are collaborating on more chapters!
Ferrandis the Underdog
Those are not two words we ever expected to appear in the same sentence. Yet, following a tough couple years for the 2021 450 AMA Pro Motocross Champion, here we are. Dylan Ferrandis simply did not get along well with the updated YZ450F, and it showed. He clearly was not the same guy who absolutely dominated the 450 class in the summer of ’21, but now he’s with Phoenix Racing Honda and has a chance to get back to where he once belonged. Hey, a similar situation worked for Roczen last year, so why not Ferrandis, too?
The number of times Malcolm Stewart has seemed to be on the brink of breaking through and winning a 450SX race boggles the mind. Each year he comes in faster, and seemingly even more aggressive in his effort to light the torches, and each year the fans wholeheartedly throw their support behind him. Seriously, he’s consistently a fan favorite no matter what stadium Monster Energy AMA Supercross happens to be in! Unfortunately, last year was cut short pretty early with an injury, but not before he once again showed race-leading pace. Who thinks 2024 is the year he gets it done?
You don’t have to be a fan of MXGP to know who Jorge Prado is. The reigning MXGP champion has been hanging in the Unites States, too, and has been seen practicing supercross at the KTM test track. Word is, there’s a chance he’ll make an appearance in a few supercross races at the beginning of the season. This will-he won’t-he drama will keep things interesting throughout the month of December. Yes, we’ve seen some European riders struggle with supercross at first, but Prado is a champion, and one thing champions don’t do is phone it in. It he races, it’s going to be very exciting to see where he fits in with the rest of the boys.
Triumph entering the AMA fray with an all-new motorcycle is one the best pieces of news we’ve heard all year. More motorcycles in dealerships to choose from, and more employment opportunities in the pits for riders and team personnel. There’re so many wins in that sentence we lost count! [Editor’s note: It’s two, Hansel. Two.] Will the new team vie for a championship in their first season? Most likely not, but they do have extremely solid riders in the form of Joey Savatgy (who is underrated and will be racing the 250 class in AMA Motocross with the team in a few months) and Jalek Swoll. Ricky Carmichael has also been heavily involved with the program, so you know it’s a legit effort. Let’s see what happens when they line up!
Shimoda, Kitchen, and Vohland
The title to this entry sounds like the beginning of a joke about three factory riders walking into a bar. In fact, someone come up with something and put it in the comments below, please. Seriously though, anytime top-tier riders change teams, especially ones like Jo Shimoda (Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki to Honda HRC), Levi Kitchen (Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing to Pro Circuit), and Max Vohland (KTM to Pro Circuit), who have all, at times, seemed like they were on the verge of stepping up to the next level, it’s a big deal. Will the team changes be just what this trio of riders needs to level up?
New Kawi, Who ‘Dis?
If you watched MXGP at all in 2023 you probably noticed Romain Febvre laying the smack down on his Kawasaki. Well, that wasn’t the same bike that Jason Anderson and Adam Cianciarulo had in 2023 (MXGP operates under different rules regarding equipment), but they will be competing on that machine in 2024. Anderson is a 450SX champion and had a big resurgence in 2022. Cianciarulo is ridiculously fast also and could be poised to have a breakout season of his own. Will the new machinery be enough to propel the Kawi boys back to the winner’s circle?
Bonus: Your own riding season! (Mitch Kendra)
Okay Hansel, enough with all the talk about the fast guys who get paid to race. Us slow, weekend warriors now get our time to shine! For those working in the moto industry, there are several pros and cons. Getting paid to travel to and cover AMA Supercross and Motocross races is a pro. Being away from family and friends and losing your weekends is a con (although, let’s be honest I cannot complain about much more than this). While you would think we get to ride all the time, that is not the case. Maybe test riders like Kris Keefer or Motocross Action Magazine’s Josh Mosiman to name a few, get to ride rather frequently, us non-test riders are much more limited in when we get to ride and for how long. Throw in that the off-season is only a few short months and right when it starts, East Coast weather becomes winter season, the riding is more sparce than you’d imagine. Although slow to begin with and rusty between days at the track, those days we do get are awesome. Being at the track on practice days, racing events such as Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) events, vintage races, and my personal favorite, the annual Big Dave Vet Homecoming, bring me, my fiancé Caity, my family, and my good friends out to the track for some fun times. I am sure you have your own races, tracks, and friends you enjoying seeing at your local events. Even when your results aren’t great or your riding isn’t the best, if you leave healthy you probably had a great time. And I do not take those days for granted, especially on this holiday. Cheers to more (and safe) seat time for me—and you—in 2024.