Here. We. Go. If you have ever been to Anaheim for Monster Energy AMA Supercross, you already know the electric atmosphere I’m about to refer to. There is simply nothing like the energy that the opener provides. The months of anticipation, suspense, and flat out excitement are all about to explode into a new season. Anaheim is always more about questions than answers. Even the riders themselves are wondering, and none of them know anything for certain. One of the most interesting aspects, and also one of the hardest to maintain perspective on, is that Anaheim still may not answer the biggest questions. It’s such an outlier event, results wise, that conclusions taken from the opener are often proven wrong over 17 rounds. That perspective sounds wise, sure, but tell that to a rider who has a very challenging A1 and you’ll likely be met with the dirtiest look you’ll get all year. The emotion of A1 is fantastic for most. The riders, however, must keep that emotion in check and understand that it’s one round of many. It doesn’t matter any more or any less than another race a few months from now. Slow and steady may not sound like the ideal approach to supercross but the steady part certainly is. Winning A1 is special but doesn’t necessarily ensure anything. Keeping an even keel throughout Saturday and being ready for many months of the same test is much more important.
With that all said, let’s check out the track, shall we?
The start for A1 has been placed in centerfield of the baseball diamond. This is a typical spot for the start, but the right hand first corner is not. The common thought with right hand first corners is that they’re a bit more dicey as riders remove their right foot for a rudder versus utilizing it for the rear brake. This danger rarely turns out as dire as feared but it’s something to remember if we do get any big pile-ups.
As the first corner bends onto the 3rd base line, riders will attempt to straighten out and not cross jump into others on that first pass. On most laps, riders will put a few combos together, ending with a 3-1 into the corner or tripling into the corner itself. That dynamic will be determined by how the prior jumps shape up but there is nothing too outlandish here.
The next bowl berm leads to a tight on-off but I believe riders will opt to jump over the tabletop and then single to the inside. On-off sounds faster but the added distance coupled with the lack of use of any extra momentum makes it a bit useless. As riders go inside in the next left 90, they will double-single and cross the starting line sideways for the first time of many.
An open, awkward left (watch for block passes here) sets riders up to cross back over the start and into a bowl berm 180. That bowl berm exit sling shots riders past the Mechanics’ Area and yet again across the start straight.
A slight bend to the right leads to a sand section with fast rollers (exact same setup as A2 2023). Riders will hit these with a lot of speed so watch for big swaps here (think RJ Hampshire last year). It’s important to be very mindful of the front tire and not let it dig into the sand, balancing weight while cornering at speed. This is a tough section with supercross suspension but will likely be one-lined, cutting down the chance of it being a pivotal section.
A right hand berm leads to a dragon’s back section but the saving grace here is that there is no landing single to consider. Riders will land flat on the start straight and then double into a 180 bowl berm. The lack of a landing single is critical as riders will hit the dragon’s back with reckless abandon. A rider like Malcolm Stewart can use this to his advantage as he’s incredibly proficient in these sections.
The finish line jumps over the starting line (for those keeping score, yes that means the track will cross the start five times) and into a uniquely placed supercross triple. A netted bowl berm sends riders down the first base line and with it, a serious rhythm lane to tackle.
This rhythm lane holds the potential to go big for those so inclined. The biggest option will be to triple out of the berm, quad the on-off, quad another on-off, and then single into the next bowl berm. There is no faster way that I can see but this is also a very technical option. It could very easily be deemed impossible if one of the jumps is built with an awkward angle, height, etc. For the 250’s, I would look for something a bit tamer. Getting the triple out of the corner will unlock the rest of the section but they could still very easily just go on-off instead of the quad option. It will be the section to watch in the afternoon’s qualifying sessions.
The next two sections feature back-to-back whoops. Anaheim whoops can be notoriously nasty but the good news for riders is that they are both relatively short in length. The common rule with whoops is that the shorter the length of the section, the less risk. By the time you get into big trouble, you are almost at the exit of the section. With bowl berms before both sets, watch for the whoop masters to try to make passes here. They will likely rail the top of the berm before which will set them up for the inside of the next corner. If they carry that momentum, they simply need to beat the lead rider to the next apex for a block pass. This will be a critical passing zone for those with the skills to utilize it.
The next right hand 90 turns back onto the 3rd base line and onto lap 2.
Jettson Lawrence is coming into his debut 450 Monster Energy Supercross with a lot of hype and momentum. It’s well-earned, though, and many have him as the favorite. No rookie has ever won their debut Anaheim race.
Chase Sexton comes in with a brand new Red Bull/KTM and a shiny #1 plate on it. There hasn’t been much Sexton hype as of late but maybe that’s a good thing. He will want to start fast to validate the switch and regain his swagger.
The rider that everyone has been pointing to as “flying at the test track” is Malcolm Stewart. Hurt since round two of 2023, the sport has missed Malcolm. With his brother, James, in the booth at times this season, that could be a fun dynamic if Malcolm gets hot.
The great part about the opener is that I don’t really have to put anyone here yet. Unless you’re injured, everyone has a shot at round one.
Dylan Ferrandis declares his undying love for his Honda CRF450R. He and his better half, Nastasia, announce they will be exchanging rings built from a melted down CRF aluminum frame.
Vince Friese announces his return by t-boning several security guards on his way to the first practice session of 2024.
Aaron Plessinger emerges out of the Anaheim tunnel bareback on a towering quarter horse bronc.