Saturday Night Lights

2022 supercross season

The 2022 supercross season is set to be one to remember, with a host of contenders in the prime of their careers and ready to cash in on the sport’s greatest prize.

The AMA Supercross Championship is the richest, highest-profile, most attended and most prestigious dirtbike series in the world. MXGP has the tradition and the history, but the US-based supercross series — held before massive crowds in stadiums across the country, with TV beamed out around the world and the usual US-style hype — is what all eyes focus on and all riders want to win.

The 2022 series is shaping up to be a cracker. After two years of empty stadiums, stop-start events and general COVID interruptions, 2022 looks like it will be full steam ahead and back to a more regular schedule that will see riders and teams chase the 17-round championship across the country.

Off-track Action

The 2021-2022 off-season has been a busy one not just for riders but also team members, trainers and management. Depending on contract lengths and timing, often there can be little movement in the off-season. But with a few major players at the end of their contracts, the current off-season has seen plenty of moves and a lot of riders will be leaning over a different-coloured front guard come Anaheim 1.

The three big changes were that of Eli Tomac to Star Yamaha, Aaron Plessinger to KTM and Jason Anderson to Kawasaki. While many knew these were the worst-kept secrets of 2021, it’s not often three heavy hitters swap teams and it caused plenty of bench racing on motocross chat sites. 

Each of these riders would have their own reasons for the move, but their motivations are also so similar in one way: change. Each of them has just come from a long-term deal with their previous team, and all were looking for a fresh start with new people and a different voice to keep their career moving forward. Once these three big cards fell into place, the smaller pieces came together for teams. Team rosters filled fast as riders and teams fought over who was left on the open market.

And as mentioned, it wasn’t just the riders. Management changed at Honda with Eric Kehoe stepping down from his role and allowing Lars Lindstrom to take the reins at Honda. Wil Hahn stepped down from his role at Star Yamaha to take a gig with TLD KTM, while Seth Rarick replaced Hahn at Star before quickly moving to Rocky Mountain KTM. 

Speaking of Star, they just packed up and moved to Florida. Originally a California-based team, they purchased Ricky Carmichael’s old property (Goat Farm) and took the whole kit and kaboodle east to Florida.

Michael Byrne left Rocky Mountain KTM after five years of team management to take on a rider-coaching role with Cooper Webb. Webb had been with Aldon Baker for a few years but headed in a different direction for 2022, with Byrne now the friend/coach of the reigning champ. Webb wasn’t the only one to leave Baker as Zack Osborne is now doing his own thing and will be riding with the Lawrence boys at Reed’s old joint, while Marvin Musquin will join Dylan Ferrandis and Colt Nichols under David Vuillemin’s guidance. Malcolm Stewart, Dean Wilson and RJ Hampshire are now at The Baker’s Factory.

More Questions than Answers

1. Will Cooper Webb be able to go back to back?

Webb is entitled to enter the championship as the favourite given he is the reigning champ. He has proven to be a very smart racer, ruthless when required and amazingly consistent since moving to KTM. He is a good starter and always well positioned at the start of the race, fights until the death and has progressed in whoops, which were seen to be his biggest weakness. Does moving away from Aldon change things for Webb? He said the grind of Baker’s program was affecting his motivation, so the move to Byrne might be a breath of fresh air. Expect Webb to be there when the whips are cracking.

2. Can Eli find his mojo on the Yamaha?

Without saying it, Tomac’s shift to Yamaha was seen as a move to give him more freedom with his motorcycle. Star Yamaha have been vocal in saying they will do whatever it takes to win, and Eli was listening. Tomac will also be reunited with his Australian suspension guru Ricky Gilmore. Ricky worked with Eli back in the Honda and early Kawasaki days before going in-house at KYB. Gilmore is a good guy and has a great relationship with Tomac, and the duo are looking to add more championships to the partnership.

3. Will Roczen finally get that elusive number1?

Ken Roczen is poetry in motion on a motorcycle. No-one questions his ability to go fast or fight back from potentially career-ending crashes, but the last two years have seen him bounce between clearly being the best guy on the track to head-scratching results in consecutive weekends. Webb seemed to have the mental edge over him in 2021, but when he is feeling it and the stars align, there is no better spectacle in the sport then Ken Roczen dominating a supercross track.

4. Will the change of bike revive Jason Anderson?

Since his 2018 championship victory, Anderson hasn’t been able to consistently find the magic to take him back to the top. He has had a tough run with injuries, changed trainers, lost his previous team manager and mentor but still can’t recapture 2018’s form. So the change to Kawasaki might be the one that gets the popular Anderson back in contention. This guy walks to the beat of a different drum and the very corporate Kawasaki team might be in for a few shocks, but Anderson has what it takes and if the transition to Kawie goes smoothly, the 21 will be back up front.

5. Can AP make the KTM work?

Plessinger had a nightmare introduction to the 450 class, facing two years of injury and battling a bike he didn’t gel with. But at the start of the 2021 season and back on the Star Yamaha machine, Plessinger stated he was a new man — and he was. In fact, the new AP caught the eye of RD and now he is on KTM and hoping to keep the climb up the ranks going. The KTM intro video shows they are happy for him to keep the personality, so a happy AP is a fast one and he already proved that he can mix it with anyone in the big-boy class.

6. Can outdoor Dylan take it indoors?

Ferrandis was the man to beat in the motocross championships and showed glimpses in last year’s supercross championship. He also mentioned that supercross allowed the new Star Yamaha team to thoroughly shake down the YZ450F and find its sweet spot, which he put into action on his way to the 2021 motocross championship. So with the bike dialled, a season of experience in supercross under his belt and the confidence of knowing he has beaten everyone on the start line, could the Frenchman be the next supercross champ?

7. Can a Lawrence brother win a championship?

Does a bear poop in the woods? Of course they can — and hopefully both do. You can safely assume that Honda will race them on opposite coasts so they won’t be going bar to bar with one another. Jett clearly has the talent and style for supercross and has adapted quickly. After the championship win in motocross combined with a season completed in supercross, Jett will enter 2022 as the rider to beat no matter where he lines up. He is smart on the track and doesn’t overthink — he just races.

For Hunter, 2021 was just the season he needed. Since leaving Australia he has barely been able to string six months of riding and training together, so to get through a season unscathed will do him good. During 2021, you could see he was very robotic in supercross as he worked his way around the track. But as the season went on, he became a lot more instinctive and was able to ride freely. He looks far more at home in supercross than he did 12 months ago and will be a major player on his coast.

8. Who is the dark horse?

I’m going with Adam Cianciarulo. He hardly deserves to be put in this category, but I think he is at a point where he can and will produce his best. His speed can’t be questioned, his health should be back to 100 per cent and he has led a lot of races without that breakthrough win. With Tomac moving on, Adam may well be the number-one guy at Kawie and all it takes is just one race to get the confidence up and the momentum rolling. Not sure he will win it all, but expect him to break through for a race win or three in 2022.

9. Where is Dangerboy?

Haiden Deegan won’t be on the supercross start line for 2022. The much-hyped new Star Yamaha rider will spend another year learning the ropes in amateurs before he joins the major league. The Deegan family have lovers and haters, but from now on Haiden will be treated and judged like every other rider — on results. As much as the marketing gurus tell you that social media is where it’s at, you employ a rider to win races. If they don’t, time on the good teams and on the good dollars is short-lived.

10. Will Justin Barcia win the season opener?

For the past couple of years, Justin Barcia has burst from the blocks to win the season opener. He has done it on a Yamaha and on a Gas Gas, in wet and dry, so it’s hardly a fluke. Barcia seems to come out all guns blazing at the start of the season before dropping away in the midst of the 17-round grind. His goal is to close the gap between his best round and his worst and stay in the championship hunt right until the end. With Wil Hahn in his corner, expect him to be a threat all season long.

11. Bonus question: The Oz Connection

Yarrive Konsky will again have a presence in the championship with his Muc-Off Honda team back for another season. Moving the team’s base out to the Millsaps Training Facility (MTF) and running two good riders in the 250 class, the team will look to build on their 2021 season. We also expect another rider to be added by the time we go to print, potentially an Australian, so keep your eyes peeled. Hats off to YK for going all in and running two teams at opposite ends of the world. It can’t be an easy thing to do.