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2024 AMA Pro Motocross Recap - Pala

With Supercross now in the rearview, the 2024 rendition of the Great Outdoors has officially begun, once again on the outskirts of San Diego and Los Angeles at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. It's another summer with some key injuries in the 450 class coming in, but luckily this year, nothing that should keep anyone out for the whole tilt, namely Eli Tomac, Ken Roczen, and Cooper Webb. But all eyes are on undefeated Champion Jett Lawrence, who paced things at what's been his yard for the last several years in qualifying.

This year's 250 class is all but guaranteed a first-time Champion in the absence of both Lawrence brothers and with veteran Jeremy Martin on the mend for the time being. Names like Tom Vialle, Haiden Deegan, Joey Savatgy, Levi Kitchen, and even a late-entry surprise into the class are some key names to keep in mind, but this was the first real test to see who would get the early momentum in this 22 Moto marathon of a season.

Press Day Injuries

It's not great when a couple of notable names don't even make it to Saturday because of incidents on Thursday, and that was the case for both R.J. Hampshire and Garrett Marchbanks. I'd assume most saw the video of what happened to the latter, but in case not, here's what sent Marchbanks down, injuring his thumb, which he had fixed up not too long ago.

How there is not a flagger in that section to begin with, nor anyone attempting to get up to the top of the tabletop impromptu, is unfathomable, but that's what will almost certainly keep the Club MX rider out of the SMX playoffs.

As for the reigning 250 West SX Champion, Hampshire, he also went down on Thursday's press day session, injuring his wrist in a crash that required an operation that same day. Needless to say, he's going to be out for a while, which leaves just Casey Cochran as the only 250 rider for Nathan Ramsey's factory outfit.

Masterpool to Pro Circuit

Another big piece of news that dropped before Saturday was the confirmation that Ty Masterpool got the call from Mitch Payton to fill in for his (once again) injury-laden Pro Circuit team. Austin Forkner, Seth Hammaker, Cameron McAdoo, and Max Vohland are now all on the mend, which leaves only Masterpool and Levi Kitchen as the two riders for Payton, likely for the bulk of the summer at the minimum.

Now, seeing as this is for Pro Circuit and not for the 450 factory outfit, I'd be stunned if we didn't see Kawasaki test rider Broc Tickle get the chance to do some Nationals with Adam Cianciarulo retired. Even so, this is a deserved factory opportunity for Masterpool, especially given the short leash Star Yamaha gave him some years ago.

Daytime Program/Injury Notes: 

- Hunter Lawrence was sporting an Ayrton Senna kit for Monaco GP Weekend/it being a little over 30 years since his passing.

- Seeing lap times above a minute, let alone two minutes, was sorely missed after a whole season's worth of sub-55-second Supercross tracks.

- 250 Fastest Qualifier: No. 47 Levi Kitchen (2:22.285)

- 450 Fastest Qualifier: No. 1 Jett Lawrence (2:18.467)

250 Class Recap

1st - No. 38 Haiden Deegan (Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha) (1-1)

After a SIX-HOUR REVIEW PERIOD (yes, that is accurate), the AMA finally determined that there would be no disciplinary action for Deegan cutting the course in Moto 2. I can't say I agree with the process or result based on the view in real-time, but so be it. Now, two things can be true: he was going to beat Levi Kitchen no matter what, something that the Pro Circuit rider admitted himself. They also penalized Tom Vialle for doing roughly the same thing in a different section a Moto prior, so there's also that.

Regardless, Deegan started his 2024 outdoor campaign on the back of two great starts, and his race pace was superb all afternoon. Especially considering he was about two seconds off the pace in that final qualifying session.

2nd - No. 47 Levi Kitchen (Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki) (2-2)

Quite the eventful day for the leopard print-haired Master Chef on Saturday. I can't say I've ever seen a rider get one of the yellow track markers stuck to their boot before, but that's surprisingly only the second-oddest boot-related incident he's had this year. Hard to be too upset with a 2-2 through. He spent a lot of time out front in Moto 1, and that's more than enough to carry him into Hangtown.

3rd - No. 16 Tom Vialle (Red Bull KTM) (4-3)

The course cut Vialle did in Moto 1 ultimately didn't hurt him, which works out great, but he was unable to capitalize on his best start in an AMA Motocross race to this point during Moto 1, which stings, but a 4-3 is a notably better start than he had a year ago, which should bode well the rest of the way.

4th - No. 48 Chance Hymas (Honda HRC) (3-4)

Lars Lindstrom and co. should be thrilled that Hymas showed up in '23 High Point form because he impressed me plenty in his birthday outing. With just about no one having the pace that Deegan or Kitchen did, Hymas showed some decent late-race pace in Moto 2, falling off on pace much less than what Vialle did despite finishing behind him. Assuming he can get better starts moving forward, Hymas should be in contention for multiple Moto wins this year if this was any indicator. I think you will see some better high-end speed if he gets closer to the point in those first 10 minutes.

5th - No. 33 Jalek Swoll (Triumph Factory Racing) (6-5)

I'm ready to say this: Triumph deserves a ton of credit for this 250 platform because it's clearly competitive both indoors and outdoors right away, and Jalek Swoll looks as good as he's ever had and, more importantly, comfortable on the motorcycle as he's ever been. That would lead me to believe, based on Saturday and the bulk of Supercross, that we're going to see a lot more outings like this for Swoll this summer, and good on him. He has the talent to be a factor and clearly has the best guy in his corner with Bobby Hewitt.

250 Class Pala Top 10 (Plus Points Standings after Round 1)

1st No. 38 Haiden Deegan (1-1) (50 Points)

2nd No. 47 Levi Kitchen (2-2) (44 Points)

3rd No. 16 Tom Vialle (4-3) (38 Points)

4th No. 48 Chance Hymas (3-4) (38 Points)

5th No. 33 Jalek Swoll (6-5) (33 Points)

6th No. 30 Jo Shimoda (8-6) (30 Points)

7th No. 57 Nate Thrasher (11-7) (26 Points)

8th No. 39 Pierce Brown (10-8) (26 Points)

9th No. 17 Joey Savatgy (5-13) (26 Points)

10th No. 34 Ryder DiFrancesco (9-12) (23 Points)

450 Class Recap

1st - No. 1 Jett Lawrence (Honda HRC) (1-1)

Well, we all saw some history on Saturday. With Jett's 23rd and 24th consecutive Moto wins, two separate winning streaks from Ricky Carmichael (30 straight and 31 straight Moto wins) are the only two win streaks longer than the one he's on right now. Chase Sexton and Hunter Lawrence didn't make things easy on him, but much like last summer, they weren't handing out awards for tough riding. It was another superb outing by the defending Undisputed Champion (I think I'll stick with that for now).

2nd - No. 96 Hunter Lawrence (Honda HRC) (2-3)

Sporting a kit in honor of the great Ayrton Senna, Hunter was on rails in that opening Moto and was able to take the fight to his kid brother in spurts, and he gave everyone else the blueprint to go all out on that final outside corner before the finish section, with Chase Sexton admitting verbatim that he got the idea to do that from Hunter. I can't say I blame him for taking things safe in Moto 2, given the absurd pace Jett and Chase were going, but A+ 450 outdoor debut by any standard. Should be a matter of when, not if, that first win comes.

3rd - No. 4 Chase Sexton (Red Bull KTM) (4-2)

Although Sexton ran back the hits of mistakes in both Motos, his pace was electric and, at times, looked notably better than anyone else, Jett included. Speaking off, he almost made a massive mistake with two to go, taking things a bit easier because Sexton made up shy of a full four seconds on that lap after losing 1.5 the prior lap. I thought the mid-Moto comment Stew (so good, by the way) made about his stiff rear suspension was a bit interesting, so that'll be worth keeping tabs on next weekend. Also, this sequence to get by Hunter Lawrence was preposterous.

7th - No. 21 Jason Anderson (Monster Energy Kawasaki) (10-4)

Coming across the line 37th after lap one of Moto 1, Anderson's near eight-lap hot lap session to close things out gained him a crisp 27 spots and salvaged what could've been a disastrous weekend for him. 20 points in the hole certainly isn't great, but he showed some electric race pace and, for better or worse, got plenty of opportunities to move around and make meaningful passes.

10th - No. 36 Phil Nicoletti (Muc-Off/FXR/Club MX Yamaha) (9-9)

I would be lying to you if I said that Phil Nicoletti running one spot shy of the lead in a real-life AMA Pro Motocross National wasn't a near out-of-body experience, and...uh...I can't say that was on my bingo card. In any event, 9-9 to kick off your final rodeo outdoors is a great way to begin. I loved the fight he showed, holding off Hunter and Chase for as long as he did. Things unraveled from there, but I can't put that on him.

450 Class Pala Top 10 (Plus Points Standings after Round 1)

1st No. 1 Jett Lawrence (1-1) (50 Points)

2nd No. 96 Hunter Lawrence (2-3) (42 Points)

3rd No. 4 Chase Sexton (4-2) (40 Points)

4th No. 14 Dylan Ferrandis (7-5) (32 Points)

5th No. 51 Justin Barcia (6-6) (32 Points)

6th No. 32 Justin Cooper (5-8) (31 Points)

7th No. 21 Jason Anderson (10-4) (30 Points)

8th No. 7 Aaron Plessinger (3-12) (30 Points)

9th No. 27 Malcolm Stewart (8-7) (29 Points)

10th No. 36 Phil Nicoletti (9-9) (26 Points)

Pala Lit Kit:

Main Image via Honda HRC


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