Supercross

Jett Lawrence Wins Debut 450 Race At Anaheim 2024 AMA Supercross Opener

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Photo od supercross rider Jett Lawrence at the start of the 2024 Supercross season
Jett Lawrence (18) found his way to the front after a few corners and was never challenged going on to win his maiden 450SX race. Photo: Feld

Australian Jett Lawrence became the first athlete to win his first 450SX Class Main Event with a decisive victory at the opening round of the 17-round 2024 Monster Energy Supercross season.

Anaheim’s Angel Stadium hosted its 33rd season opener. For the fourth year in a row, and the tenth time in 11 years, the event sold out. 45,050 fans enjoyed the thrilling 2024 A1 race action.

Jason Anderson took second place in front of a packed Angel Stadium while Chase Sexton earned the final podium spot in the first race of the year that marks the 50th anniversary season of AMA Supercross. In the Western Regional 250SX Class, RJ Hampshire earned the first win of that 10-round championship ahead of Jordon Smith and Levi Kitchen.

Lawrence only had a few corners of traffic to contend with before breaking out into the lead and from there went on to complete the race unchallenged.

“It’s an unreal thing to kinda grasp. Really because you just think with how many years this sport’s been around you’d have thought someone has done it before,” Lawrence said of his feat. “But it’s cool that it took that many years for someone to do it. I’m definitely grateful and I’m happy to do it for Honda and Red Bull. They’ve been behind me for a very long time now so it’s good to give back in that type of way and get up in the history books for them.”

Jason Anderson followed closely in second place for most of the race before dropping back a little towards the end but controlling his second place. Heat winner Cooper Webb through in a late race challenge for the second spot but crashed over the bars on a relatively slow part of the track.

“I definitely didn’t want him [Cooper Webb] to pass me [for second],” Anderson said. “So I think we kind of slowed our pace down trying to have that battle for a second and let Jett get that little three-second gap… But at the same time I [made a few] mistakes and stuff like that, and Cooper was able to get on me and be able to get close enough to make that pass. But I think me, Coop, and Jett, for a good 15 minutes of that moto were pretty even. It was tough to make time.”

Defending champion Chase Sexton scrapped onto the podium with third after Webb crashed out of the position.

A costly fall in the first turn of his Heat Race had Sexton down the order, and meant he had to charge from the rear of the field to get back into transfer position. True to champion form, he would do just that, surging his way into sixth place by the time the checkered flag flew.

A top-five start in the Main Event put him right in the fight as the gates dropped, moving forward as the race unfolded. With consistency a main contributor to winning titles, he posted a calculated ride on the technical Anaheim circuit to seal third place.

“I come out here to win and be upfront, so not only Jett but everybody else, I gotta go out there and race as hard as I can and try and win,” a frustrated Sexton said. “But I’m happy to be on the podium. It wasn’t, like I said, my best riding, but it’s a long season; and like last year shows, you gotta be there for every race. I feel like my consistency is better this year, I just gotta get a little bit more speed. I had really good speed last year and now we gotta get that back and we’ll be in a good spot.”

While it was a good night for Jett Lawrence, his brother Hunter Lawrence had the exact opposite night after crashing out of his heat race and then missing the cutoff in the LCQ to miss the nights main event.

In the opening round of the Western Regional 250SX Class RJ Hampshire racked up first-place points and the early-season lead. Jordon Smith battled up to second place while Levi Kitchen brought home the third-place spot for his new team for 2024.

Hampshire was fast as soon as bikes were on track with the title contender rocketing to second position during the afternoon’s qualifying sessions.

That momentum continued for into his Heat Race, where he pieced together a ride that very nearly earned him the win, before crossing the line in second place and setting the stage for a strong Main Event.

Launching out of the gates for a top three-start, Hampshire exercised patience in the opening laps behind Julien Beaumer and allowing the race to unfold, before making his way into the lead and taking control from there, eventually capturing the victory and taking hold of the series leader’s red plate heading into Round 2.

Photo od supercross rider RJ Hampshire at the start of the 2024 Supercross season
RJ Hampshire drew first blood in the Western Regional 250SX Class. Photo: Simon Cudby

Hampshire downplayed the importance of one win to establish himself early in the season as the front-runner.

“I know how fast it can change and how up and down it is, Stay level-headed and take next weekend the same as we took this weekend, Hampshire said. “Stay in the fight, give myself a chance. If the win’s there, awesome, if not, take what the night gives me. …[I’m just trying to] enjoy this. Especially enjoy an Anaheim 1 victory, which was massive.”

With Hampshire in the lead after overcoming early race leader Julien Beaumer, Jordon Smith took up second and focused on his position for the rest of the race

“RJ had a pretty big lead by the time I got into second. There weren’t a whole lot of separators on the track tonight. It was tough to get that long rhythm but I mainly wasn’t focused on going for the win I was just focused on putting my laps in, just trying to stay focused in the whoops. They were not hard tonight but they got tricky in the Main Event. They were pretty torn-up.”

Levi Kitchen rounded out the podium with a solid third place but still thinks he has more to go.

“I think I got more in me for sure, but tonight was still positive… To get it back together after that heat race incident, and early on I panicked pretty bad in that main,” Kitchen explained. “These guys [Hampshire and Smith] were riding really good, too. They blew by me, so I had to regroup, which was a positive for me also. But like RJ said there are ups and downs and it’s a long season, so to get out of here healthy with a podium, I can’t complain.” – Levi Kitchen, when asked if he has more under the hood for future races.

Round two takes the action to Oracle Park in San Francisco on January 13th.

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