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Gaffney's Biggest Storylines Going Into the 2024 Monster Energy Supercross Season

With less than a month until the start of the 2024 Monster Energy Supercross season, anticipation for what should be another loaded Anaheim 1 has already been building up. Both Lawrence Brothers are on 450s now, Chase Sexton leading the Factory KTM charge, and Eli Tomac is back for what might be his last rodeo. And not to mention, MXGP Champion Jorge Prado is in town for the first few rounds. Between those and a few other big talking points, here are the seven big things I'm looking forward to as we inch closer to A1.

Triumph and Tribulations

After well over a year of planning and building a factory program for SMX and MXGP, we're about to enter the Triumph era. A top-notch group with names like Bobby Hewitt, Scuba Steve Westfall running the ship along with brand ambassador Ricky Carmichael, and test rider Ivan Tedesco doing some on-the-ground work with the bike itself, not to mention Clement Desalle on the other end of the Atlantic with the MXGP program. It won't be until the opening weekend of Feburary until we see the TF-250X in race action, but this has been a long time coming for a ton of people.

My biggest question would be, what are the internal expectations in year one with this bike? I don't think anyone is expecting Triumph to blow the doors off the joint in year one, but in what areas will the bike be strong by the time we get to Detroit, and in what areas will they potentially be trying to make up ground in the weeks to follow?

Well, the one thing we do know, is that Triumph is hammering the point home that their all-new 250 machine has a "class-leading power-to-weight ratio", and the listed wet weight of 229 lbs. That, and according to Triumph MX2 rider Camden McClellan, the bike is "easy to steer and very light and easy to maneuver, then on the engine side it’s like nothing I’ve ridden before, really high revs and a lot of power." Also, if you are potentially in the market for one of these, it's just a hair under $10,000, but you can add some parts/accessories, most notably an Akrapovic exhaust.

Now, onto the riders. While the expectation is that they have Jalek Swoll under contract despite some Instagram story trolling as of late, as well as Evan Ferry, they 100 percent have Joey Savatgy on an MX and SMX deal. No Supercross since he pointed out some years ago, the Steering Committee (Feld and the Teams) will not give him and the team their blessing to run him on a 250 for Indoors. Normally, I'd be pretty indifferent, but given the abnormal circumstances in this specific instance, what's the harm in allowing Savatgy to drop down just for this year? This is not a 'they have no room/budget for another 450 guy' issue, it's a 'they don't have a race-ready 450 bike for him to ride' issue.

It feels a bit silly, but they made their decision. It's worth noting that at least one 250 rider, R.J. Hampshire, publically stated that he'd be okay with a Savatgy drop-down. I'd assume he's not the only one either, for that matter. Regardless, I'm very interested in how everything plays out for this team in year one.

The Mookie Fever Pandemic 2k24

When we get to Anaheim, it'll be roughly 50 weeks between any form of race start for Rockstar Husqvarna's Malcolm Stewart after he missed all but two races in 2023 with a knee injury. As of about the beginning of November, the former 250 East Supercross Champion is back on the bike, which means Mookie Fever Watch is back on. Despite the injury, Stewart looked excellent in the opening pair of rounds of 2023, but two main event crashes didn't reflect that too well. That pace appears to be around for the long haul, according to his running mate Christian Craig.

Based on how good he was looking at A1 last year, and it is believed that he's actually in the best shape of his life, I see no reason why Mookie doesn't finally click off that first win. In a 17-round series, everything will click together once, right? Right? If so, that win will hit like a Looney Toons ACME stick of dynamite. That'd be one of the more popular wins ever, I'd like to think, at least.

What Would Constitute a Successful Stint for Jorge Prado?

Outside of Eli Tomac returning from a torn Achilles, the biggest story going into Anaheim 1 is MXGP World Champion Jorge Prado committing to the opening three rounds of Supercross before he begins his title defense. Expected to come to America full-time in 2025, this will be a fantastic opportunity for the Spaniard to gauge himself ahead of schedule. He's had the chance to train for some time in California, even turning laps with Supercross Champion Chase Sexton to boot.

The big question right now is what would it take for Prado and GasGas as a brand, to consider this escapade successful? Prado's speed is as good as it gets anywhere in the world, and his long run pace issues appear to be a thing of the past, but this is a whole new field of guys in what might as well be an entirely different sport with the way the bikes are set up between SX and MX. But with how good of a starter he is, and given that not everyone will have a clean start to the year, would Prado sitting around 8th-12th in points be considered a relative shock? Personally, that seems like a relatively fair expectation for the newly minted No. 111.

Brother x Brother

We've gotten the chance to see Jett vs. Hunter in Motocross for a handful of seasons, but never in Supercross for a full slate of rounds. We got an early preview of it at Paris Supercross, but that'll change on a full-time basis in a matter of weeks. I feel confident enough to say I'm significantly more interested in seeing how Hunter performs than Jett, an opinion I don't see myself alone in sharing. We know what to expect from Jett by now, but we've only seen Hunter on the 450 in race action once. In fairness, I thought he looked very comfortable on the 450 and showed some good pace, but I'm fascinated to see how he shakes up by season's end in 2024. Does he compete for a Championship as a rookie?

Changing of the Guard in the 250 Class

This year especially feels like the beginning of a new era in the 250 class, but this isn't a wholesale reset either. Both Lawrence brothers and Justin Cooper are now up in the Premier Class, three guys who've been at the top of the 250 food chain for the last several years. Several mainstays and emerging stars like Jo Shimoda, Ryder DiFrancesco, Max Vohland, and Levi Kitchen have jumped teams, and there's a fairly notable rookie class in 2024, featured by Julien Beaumer, Casey Cochran, Gavin Towers, and the aforementioned Evan Ferry. Then, of course, there's the year two riders like Haiden Deegan and Tom Vialle, both trying to make that second-year leap. Although for the former, that may be a bit hard based on his 2023 success.

Circling back to the rookies, the guy I'm most interested in seeing in the 2024 Supercross season is Red Bull KTM's Beaumer. By the sounds of it, he'll be the one to kick off the season running 250 West, meaning he's likely going to stack up with guys like Shimoda, Hampshire, Kitchen, etc. Outside of some crashes in SX Futures last year, I thought he looked excellent otherwise, and he also put together a great day at the Budds Creek National back in August, going 11-9 for ninth overall. KTM got him to flip from Star Yamaha, so they wanted him in the Orange Brigade system, and he's going to be a guy to watch out for in the first month of the new year.

By the sounds of things right now, it appears that Deegan and Shimoda are probably set for opposite coasts (Shimoda West, Deegan East), which sets up some interesting scenarios on both sides of the aisle. Who amongst the rest of the two fields will make that jump into being Championship caliber riders? Vialle? Hampshire? Enzo Lopes, now with Star Yamaha? Levi Kitchen and Max Vohland, now with Pro Circuit Kawasaki? What about guys like Nate Thrasher and Stilez Robertson coming off injuries? Do we even get a surprise Champion or two? My knee-jerk reaction was that I didn't like the idea of Shimoda and Deegan not being in the same series, but this may end up creating a pair of fun title battles now instead.

New Digs for the Champ

A lot is different for Chase Sexton these days. Ditched the Monster Energy helmet for a Red Bull look, went from No. 23 to No. 4, and his weapon of choice is a KTM 450 SX-F instead of a CRF450. This was the least shocking switch of the bunch that happened in October whispers of this started popping up over a full year ago. Even throughout 2023, you heard some rumblings of Sexton not being too happy with the setup of the Honda, and obviously, these bikes aren't exactly one size fits all. But the one thing that jumped out to me since he made the switch, is he's brought up KTM's willingness to do anything to win, specifically mentioning just that on Plugged In with Adam Cianciarulo.

Bringing up the issue of changes to the bike is interesting for a few reasons. That seemed to be a sore spot with Eli Tomac when he was on the way out with Kawasaki, and he's certainly not the only one. But another topical name is Cooper Webb, who departed Red Bull KTM midway through the outdoor season. He wasn't too thrilled with the KTM on the way out (just a guess on my end, I'd assume since the major changes in 2022 if you want to go that far), and there was the whole split from Aldon Baker as well. I bring that up because A) Sexton has been pretty open about what he's liked about the KTM so far, and has gone out of his way to mention their will to win. And B) He is not training at the Bakers Factory. I'd love to know at what point the latter was negotiated. Aldon Baker certainly isn't for everyone, but that's KTM's top dog saying no thanks. Gonna save the rest of my Sexton thoughts for the season previews, but the TLDR is I like this move for everyone involved.

Just Enjoy the Ride with Eli Tomac

With all-time greats in any sport, you can tell when it's nearing closing time, and that 100 percent feels like the case with Eli Tomac. Had Denver not happened last year, I believe 2023 would have been his curtain call, and the fact he is giving it a go post-Achilles rupture at 31 years old will be fascinating theater. We could talk about getting another year of him vs. Sexton, what may be the only chance to see him vs. the Lawrence brother, or if he can win a third 450 Supercross Championship, but enjoy this. We're getting the chance to see a borderline Mount Rushmore rider in this sport hopefully close things out on his terms when he could have justifiably retired. My gut says we see him at a few Outdoor rounds and then SMX, but this is probably the last ride for ET3.


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