Supercross Live 2022 Preview
Image: Garth Milan / Red Bull Content Pool
Supercross is back! The 2022 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship returns to action on January 8. After a COVID-19 enforced hiatus in 2021, Supercross is back to its regular programming with the championship kicking off at A1 in Anaheim, California, for the season opener. The 2021 season was one to remember, especially for all of us Aussie fans, as we watched not one but two Lawrence's fighting for championship glory in the 250's. Not to mention the season-long three-way battle between Cooper Webb, Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac for the 450 title that kept everyone on the edge of their seats!
All in all, 2022 is shaping up to be a season for the ages. With plenty of off-season movement, there's going to be a lot of teams and riders coming in with a fresh mindset, renewed energy, and aspirations at an all-time high, so we thought we'd jump in and take a look at some of the key riders and changes to keep an eye on for the season ahead.
The Lawrence Brothers
Image: Garth Milan / Red Bull Content Pool
We'll kick off on the homefront, with Australian favourites Hunter Lawrence and Jett Lawrence both returning in the 250 class with the Factory HRC team. 2021 was a huge year for both of the Lawrence brothers, and though they ultimately fell short of the 250 titles, with Jett coming in 3rd in the East and Hunter 2nd in the West, it's hard to say it wasn't a massively successful year for the boys. Race wins and podiums were a consistent occurrence throughout both sides of the series as both Lawrence brothers showed their class on the biggest stage of all.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway, particularly in Hunter's case, was a season without serious injury or time away from racing. A couple of injury-disrupted years is tough for any young racer to take, and as Hunter said heading into the 2021 season, all he wanted was to put in good consistent moto's and walk away healthy when it was all said and done. He did exactly that, and along with Jett, gained a wealth of experience and confidence that is going to make both of the boy's serious title threats in the 2022 season ahead.
Honda has yet to indicate which coast the boys will be taking on, but there's no reason to think we'll see anything different from last year, with Hunter taking on the West Coast championship and Jett the East. Assuming that's the case, we'd see Hunter lining up at A1 on the all-new 2022 CRF250R, this time around back on the #96 machine. Let's go!
The 450 Championship
Image: Octopi Media / Star Racing Yamaha
Now, typically the biggest story leading into a season would be around whether the reigning champion could do it again. This year, however, the off-season movement of Eli Tomac to leave Monster Energy Kawasaki and join Star Racing Yamaha has dominated the headlines and is almost certainly the biggest talking point heading into the 2022 season. The 2020 Champion takes up a 2-year deal with the Yamaha team, a move he says had nothing to do with money and was simply putting himself in the best position to win another championship, which he believes is entirely achievable.
"It’s absolutely doable. I wouldn’t have signed a new contract if I didn’t think I could do it and we can do it as a team. That’s the only thing we’re shooting for and that’s winning." - Eli Tomac
While it's certainly going to take some getting used to, the blue #3 is undoubtedly one of the favourites heading into the new season. A change of scenery often works wonders for riders after being in the same program for a long time, and after seeing what Dylan Ferrandis did in the 2021 Pro Motocross championship, there can be no doubting that the new YZ450F is capable of winning the biggest title of all.
Image: Supercross Live
With Eli Tomac never really getting going in the 2021 season, it was Red Bull KTM's Cooper Webb and HRC's Ken Roczen that locked horns in the championship battle, and what a battle it was! With 12 wins between them (Webb 8, Roczen 4), they were clearly the dominant pair in the field, with the red plate trading between them multiple times throughout the season. It was Webb who eventually came out on top, taking the championship trophy with a 35 point lead over Roczen after the final moto in Salt Lake City. Webb reclaimed the crown he first won back in 2019, and while Roczen was undoubtedly disappointed to fall short of that elusive 450 supercross title once more, he had one hell of a season and was really the only rider to take the fight to Cooper Webb all season.
Strong performances from both riders in 2021 see them both return to their respective teams with very little change to talk about. Another year older, another year wiser, another year faster? We'll have to wait and see, but you'd be a brave man to write off either of these guys as legitimate title contenders for the 2022 450 title.
Image: Monster Energy Kawasaki
Perhaps the second biggest signing news in the off-season was Jason Anderson leaving Rockstar Husqvarna to take up the empty seat left by Eli Tomac at Monster Energy Kawasaki. The man affectionately known as El Hombre had been with the Rockstar team his entire professional career. Anderson and the team seemed to find themselves heading down different paths, as often happens in business and life in general, and it became apparent that the time to move on had come. Now, we get to see Anderson lining up for the Factory Kawasaki team alongside Team Green regular Adam Cianciarulo. It's a partnership we can't wait to watch!
Cianciarulo himself is always an interesting topic heading into a new season. You can never doubt the outright speed that AC brings to the start line (his qualifying performances throughout 2020 and 2021 are testament to that), but it's the ability to stay on two wheels that seems to be his achilles heel. As one of the most likable guys in the field, it's hard not to be a fan of AC, so we're definitely pulling for him to put it together in 2022 and show what he's truly capable of. Another year of experience under his belt and a very familiar set up with the Kawasaki team could be just what he needed to make it happen.
Image: Supercross Live
On the subject of speed, both Chase Sexton and Dylan Ferrandis head into their second season of 450 supercross action full of confidence. No strangers to winning supercross titles in the 250 class after taking out both 2019 and 2020 titles, these guys have shown they have the speed to be up front. Chase Sexton in particular showed race-winning speed in his debut year in the 450's, though much like Cianciarulo, couldn't keep the bike on two wheels long enough to grab his first win or factor in the championship chase. Still, it was a very impressive debut season for the HRC man, and he's certainly one to keep an eye on to potentially challenge for the title outside of the obvious favourites.
Ferrandis is a bit of a different story, having struggled to find his groove in the supercross series throughout 2021. The Frenchman came to life in the Pro Motocross series, however, absolutely dominating the competition to claim the title in his rookie year. Though there's a big difference between the indoors and outdoors series, the way Ferrandis seemed to be gelling with his YZ450F would have his competitors looking over their shoulders heading into the supercross championship. Throw in the challenge of new teammate Eli Tomac pitting under the same truck and we've got ourselves a very enticing matchup heading into the 2022 season!
Image: TLD Race Team
TLD Race Team star Justin Barcia is well worth a mention as we head into the 2022 season. A third consecutive victory at the season opener in 2021 showed that Barcia no doubt has the speed and experience to be a race winner and championship contender. That win ended up proving to be his only one of the season, though he did go close on a number of other occasions, and ended up finishing the championship in a very respectable 4th place.
Barcia is always a hard one to tip heading into a new season, even if we can all be confident he'll come out and win A1 (again). Turning 30 in March, there's no doubt that he's heading into the latter stages of his racing career, but on his day he still has the speed to run with the best of them. A year of experience under his belt with the new GASGAS / Troy Lee Designs team will have him feeling confident heading into a fresh championship, but it will be interesting to see if he can keep the week-to-week consistency he's been lacking to truly challenge for the title in 2022.
Images: KTM / Husqvarna
Two more high profile transfers in the 450 class ahead of the 2022 season saw Aaron Plessinger join Cooper Webb and Marvin Musquin on the Factory Red Bull KTM team, while fan favourite Malcolm Stewart signed a 2-year deal with Rockstar Husqvarna team. With Plessinger and Stewart finishing 5th and 6th respectively in the 2021 season for their previous teams, there's no doubting these are two extremely capable riders that can play a huge role in the 2022 championship. Do they have the speed and consistency to challenge the likes of Webb, Tomac, and Roczen for the title? We'll have to wait and see, but as we mentioned above, a change of scenery can work wonders for a rider, and we can't wait to see these guys on the line onboard their new machines!
“I’m really excited for the opportunity to join Red Bull KTM and work alongside everyone associated with the factory team effort. To be honest, I’m pretty excited to bring a new vibe to the team." - Aaron Plessinger
On the subject of KTM and Husqvarna, we know Musquin is back again for a supercross-only deal with the KTM team this year. Musquin has been a consistent race winner, podium, and title threat for years now, and the latter stages of the 2021 season saw the Musquin of old as he took a race win and pushed teammate Webb right to the line in the final race of the season. It will be interesting to see where he stacks up in 2022, but don't be surprised to see the wily Frenchman fighting up front all season. Husky star Zach Osborne recently announced his retirement from professional Supercross and Motocross racing, while they have another fan favourite in Dean Wilson who is expected to be with the team for another season at least.
Images: Max Anstie / Justin Bogle Instagram
Elsewhere in the paddock, we see Max Anstie and Shane Mcelrath join Joey Savatgy on the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC KTM team, while Justin Bogle jumps ship to the HEP Twisted Tea Suzuki team. Alex Martin is jumping up from the 250 class to join the ClubMX 450 Yamaha team with Phil Nicoletti, while veteran Justin Brayton is gearing up to go around for yet another season. We also see Justin Hill return from a year-long hiatus to take on the 450 championship with the PRMX Racing Kawasaki team.
With more team and rider announcements on the way as we get closer to the 2022 season gate drop, it's proving to be a tantalizing lineup of star power that's going to provide an incredible championship. An offseason as busy as this always proves for interesting results as riders look to find their feet quickly in new surroundings, and those comfortable in their setups look to press the early advantage. We're not sure what way the title is going to go this year, but one thing is for certain, it's going to be great to see supercross racing back on our TV's here in Australia!
Catch up on the 2021 450 Championship highlights in the video below.
The 250 Championship
We've already touched on our Aussie stars in the Lawrence brothers, but there's plenty more depth in the 250 field this year and as always, a host of relative unknowns and hyped young prodigies coming through to make their pro debut. Let's take a look at those most likely to challenge Hunter and Jett for the 250 titles!
Image: Star Racing Yamaha
The reigning champs definitely get first mention here. Both Justin Cooper and Colt Nichols return with Star Racing Yamaha to defend their titles on their respective coasts and we love to see it! They say defending your championship is always harder than winning it in the first place, so it always makes for interesting viewing when a 250 champion returns to try and do it over again. Both these guys thoroughly deserved their championships in 2021, with good clean racing all season long against top-quality opposition, and we can't wait to watch them go again in 2022.
It's been a busy offseason for the Star Racing Yamaha team as they moved their base of operations to the GOAT farm in Florida. This also meant the departure of team manager Wil Hahn, who had played a huge role in the success of the team and its riders, so it will be interesting to see if these off-track situations could potentially affect rider performance early on in the new season. There can be no doubting the supreme performance of the Star YZ250F machines, so there's no reason to think both Cooper and Nichols won't be back in the championship mix this year.
Both Jeremy Martin and Christian Craig return with the Star Yamaha team alongside their championship-winning teammates, making it one of the most formidable 250 rider lineups you'll ever see. Injuries hampered both Martin and Craig throughout the 2021 season, but if they can stay healthy throughout the season, there's no doubting both of these guys are capable of taking championship glory.
Image: Pro Circuit Kawasaki
Jo Shimoda wasn't even part of the PC Race Team heading into the 2021 season, but an 11th hour call-up gave him a well-deserved spot. Fast forward to the end of the season and Shimoda was the top rider on the Kawasaki team, finishing 2nd in the 250 East championship behind Colt Nichols. Jordon Smith has since departed the team, but Shimoda heads into the 2022 season alongside returning PC riders Cameron McAdoo and Seth Hammaker, as well as talented young rookie Jett Reynolds. Jett is another star touted with having a huge future ahead of him, so it should be an exciting season ahead for the Pro Circuit Kawasaki team.
Of course, there is one more rider on the PC team in Austin Forkner. It wasn't so long ago that Forkner was the undisputed fastest rider in the 250 field, and yet, he has no championships to show for it. Inconsistency, crashes, and injuries continue to plague Forkner's once-promising 250 career, so it would be good to see him get through 2022 healthy, regardless of championship glory or not. The pressure of being the highly touted young kid expected to win has passed, but now Forkner faces a different kind of pressure - being a seasoned racer not living up to expectations his early career provided. It will be interesting to see what kind of Austin Forkner we get on the track throughout the 2022 season.
Image: Husqvarna Motorcycles
RJ Hampshire had a rough go in the 2021 supercross championship but is always a race-winning threat whenever he's on the track. Outside of the championship favourites at Star Racing Yamaha and HRC, Hampshire heads a list of riders including Michael Mosiman, Jalek Swoll, Pierce Brown, Max Vohland, and Stilez Robertson from the KTM, Husqvarna, and GASGAS factory trucks who are all aiming to put their hands up as genuine title threats. Much like Forkner, these guys have shown they have the capability to win races, but it's the things they do on the nights that don't go their way that will define their season and where they end up come championship end.
As with any 250 championship, there is a deep field of relatively unknown and unheralded riders joining the factory guys on the start gate, and as has happened plenty of times in years passed, any one of these guys could have their breakout year in 2022. When it comes down to championship glory, it seems like the factory guys will have it under lock and key, but this 250 class loves to throw up surprises. One thing is for certain - it's going to be an entertaining season, and we cannot wait!
Get excited with the highlights video below of the East-West showdown at Round 17 of the 2021 250 championship:
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