Two weeks after the conclusion of the Monster Energy Supercross season, riders will assemble back on the starting gate to contest the opening round of the AMA Pro Motocross Championship.
The first pair of motos is set for Saturday at Fox Raceway in Pala, Calif.
Prepare to see a few familiar faces make their return from injury, other title hopefuls carrying momentum over from successful Supercross campaigns and several noteworthy names absent from the 450cc class roster.
The motocross season will involve 11 rounds of competition over the next four months.
Chase Sexton, who recently won his first 450SX Supercross championship, will lead the charge into the outdoor season on his No. 23 Honda. He finished runner-up in last year’s Pro Motocross title fight, seven points behind champion Eli Tomac.
Joining him under the Honda HRC banner will be Jett Lawrence who is moving from the 250cc division to the premier class this summer, on the No. 18 steed. The 19-year-old captured his second 250SX West championship during this year’s Supercross campaign, but admitted he is ready for a new challenge.
“It’s kind of like starting from the bottom again. We’ll see where I end up in the first round,” Lawrence said during the pre-season press conference in Pala on Thursday afternoon. “We’ve been pretty lucky at this track, and I’m just excited to start this new chapter in my life. It’s going to be fun to learn off some of these older guys.”
He also won back-to-back Pro Motocross championships in the 250cc class in 2021 and ’22.
The Red Bull KTM contingent will be spearheaded by Aaron Plessinger and Cooper Webb — both who are coming back from injury.
Plessinger has been recovering from the aftermath of a crash he sustained during practice on April 22, but feels prepared to take on the 11-round series on his No. 7 KTM.
“I’m looking forward to outdoors this year,” Plessinger said. “I’ve been waiting for outdoors ever since Supercross started and I can’t wait to get on the gate and show these boys what I’ve got.
“It’s a good opportunity to get out front and try to get a taste of this red plate, so hopefully we do that at Pala and move to Hangtown with the points lead.”
Meanwhile, Webb has been sidelined since suffering a concussion on April 29.
The No. 2 KTM rider announced on Tuesday that he was medically cleared to race and has spent a few days preparing on the bike during the last two weeks. The last time Webb raced the outdoor series was in 2021.
In the Star Racing Yamaha camp, 2021 Pro Motocross champion Dylan Ferrandis will make his return to professional competition after being sidelined following the fifth round of Supercross on Feb. 4.
The No. 14 rider will be the lone athlete representing Star Racing Yamaha, as his teammate and last year’s champion Tomac is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon he suffered at the 16th round of Supercross on May 6.
As for Monster Energy Kawasaki, Adam Cianciarulo is ready to roll into his 10th season racing motocross. The No. 9 rider enjoyed a strong Supercross campaign and collected a podium result at the penultimate round on May 6.
“I’m going into this season with a positive mindset. I’ve proved to myself that I can battle for the podium and I’m more motivated than ever,” Cianciarulo said.
Eventually, Cianciarulo will be joined by Jason Anderson, who rides the No. 21 Kawasaki. However, Anderson will miss the opening round — and perhaps more — due to a neck injury he sustained in late April.
Troy Lee/Red Bull/GASGAS rider Justin Barcia has yet to get back on his No. 51 bike since breaking his collarbone, two ribs and right shoulder on April 29. He will miss the opening round of motocross, but plans to come back at some point this summer.
“I’m nearly healed,” Barcia said. “Obviously, there are a lot of guys hurt, including myself, so I want to come back as soon as possible. But I know when I come back, I’m going to throw down hard, so I need to be 100 percent healthy.”
Neither of Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s two 450SX riders will appear on the starting gate at Fox Raceway.
Malcolm Stewart, the No. 27 rider, underwent knee surgery in early February and is still nursing his wounds. On the other hand, the No. 28 of Christian Craig is recovering from a dislocated hip and broken elbow he sustained on April 8. There is no timetable on either rider’s return.
One familiar face missing from competition will be H.E.P. Motorsports’ Ken Roczen, who finished fourth in the Supercross standings this year. He will be defending his FIM World Supercross Championship (WSX) crown over the summer, rather than racing motocross.