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Supercross 250 West champion RJ Hampshire: 2024 is the year of 24

After 11 years riding primarily in the 250 class, RJ Hampshire, 28, finished second in the 2024 Monster Energy Supercross season finale in Salt Lake City, Utah, to earn his first divisional championship.

The title was long in the making, but Hampshire believes the best is yet to come on his No. 24 Factory Husqvarna.

“Everybody has their own story, and I was determined to write my own and have a championship,” Hampshire said in the post-race news conference following the Salt Lake race. “To be a part of that is truly special. I’ve had so many ups, so many downs, and still people believed in me.

“I’ve always worked hard my entire life and just to be in this position, to have the team. My group’s small, but the best guys I could ask for, and that goes to show it definitely plays a big role in my results and how I am each weekend.”

Jett Lawrence remains perfect with three 450 titles and three attempts, but the season was not without challenges.

Hampshire finished second in the past two Supercross championship seasons.

Only one rider stood in his way, and the hindsight provided since then indicates there is no shame in finishing runner-up. Hampshire finished 34 points behind Jett Lawrence in the 2022 250 East championship. Last year, he was 37 points off the mark to that same rider in the Western division. After winning his fourth consecutive 250 title, Lawrence went on to win all three 450 championships of which he’s been.

Without Lawrence in the field this season, competition for the top spot was fierce. Hampshire entered the Salt Lake City race tied in the 250 West standings with Levi Kitchen, essentially making this a winner-take-all scenario. Hampshire didn’t need the victory; he only needed to finish ahead of Kitchen.

The Year of the 24

Hampshire determined midweek he would roll off the hauler as the fastest rider in the East / West Showdown. He was quickest in qualification as Kitchen struggled, but when his competition found sudden speed in their heat, Hampshire took notice.

Hampshire finished second in the West heat but allowed Kitchen to get a slightly better gate pick.

Still confident in his speed, Hampshire now knew he needed a good start — or at least one better than Kitchen. Hampshire finished Lap 1 in fourth. Kitchen was eighth.

Content to keep Kitchen behind him, Hampshire found a safe place to ride behind Nick Romano and Jordan Smith. Romano dropped out of contention for a podium on Lap 4.

Haiden Deegan: “Controversy like the incidents this year, just builds character. I just turned 18; I’m still building as a character.”

“I took a look up and saw we had six minutes left,” Hampshire said. “I knew where Levi was, and I was fine; I could click these off, no problem, and was just marking my spot. Knew where he was, knew where I needed to be. I changed some lines to not risk what I was doing. The long rhythm, inside, double whoops — I was going fast, going three-three-three.

“And then once [Smith] went down late and [Haiden Deegan] was there, I started catching him, and then I was like, ‘Dude, go! I don’t want to win this; just go! Stay away from me.’ And he was getting sketchy in the whoops ... I was trying to stay as far away from him as I could. Then he hit a Tuff Blox with like two to go, and it was way too close for comfort.”

Hampshire closed within a comfortable distance of Deegan and finished 0.802 seconds behind the race winner. Kitchen was four seconds further back, handing Hampshire the title.

The focus shifts to the Pro Motocross outdoor season, which kicks off at Fox Raceway in Pala, California, on May 25, 2024.

Hampshire is determined to make this the ‘Year of the 24.’

He will need to find some additional speed to sweep the titles. Hampshire has finished in the top 10 in the last six Motocross seasons on a 250. Four of these have been top-five results, but he has not yet finished better than fourth.

Jalek Swoll was two laps away from giving Triumph Motorcycles their first podium in the Monster Energy Supercross series until he crashed with Seth Hammaker in Philadelphia.

“I feel really good on my bike,” Hampshire said about his upcoming outdoor effort. “I know I have a really good setting to just jump on.

“I’d love to fight for a title here in the outdoors, and I believe I can. I can be the guy in outdoors also. I said at the beginning of the year 2024 is going to be for the 24, so I’m going to try and do that for outdoors also.”

Winning a 250 Motocross title is important when considering what Hampshire’s likely trajectory includes. Having won a 250 Supercross title, he has only one year to defend before moving to the 450 division. If Hampshire has his way, and he thinks he will, the 2023 250 West champion will defend his title next year and then move to 450s full-time beginning with the 2025 Motocross season.

Still shy of his 30th birthday, a 450 career will have been a long time in the making, but change will come.

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