Features 14 Mar 2024

Input: ProMX predictions

Expert opinions on the 2024 title favourites ahead of round one.

This year’s Penrite ProMX Championship will open at Wonthaggi on Sunday, marking the first of eight rounds and with titles on the line. Will we see a changing of the guard in MX1 or will the long list for former champions prevail? And who will take charge in MX2, where a new champion will be crowned come QMP’s finals. A mixture of industry experts share their take in our annual ProMX predictions Input feature.

Image: Marc Jones.

Dan Milner (KTM DM31 Racing Team owner/rider):
MX1 – 1. Dean Ferris 2. Jed Beaton 3. Kyle Webster
MX2 – 1. Rhys Budd 2. Brodie Connolly 3. Alex Larwood

I’ve been training with Ross Beaton’s group of racers this season, so I’ve got a pretty good idea of how fast those boys are going. In MX1, you can’t go past Dean Ferris: he’s been very consistent the past couple of years and how that he’s back with Craig Dack, that’s a great recipe for him. If anyone can beat him, it’ll be Jed Beaton, who’s proven he’s good at both sand and hardpack tracks. I think Kyle Webster will definitely be top three and will start the season strongly. MX2 is harder to judge, but I think Rhys Budd will be really good as part of Todd Waters’ Raceline Husqvarna team. Brodie Connolly has been running a similar pace to Webster and Beaton around Wonthaggi, so I’m picking he’ll have an impressive year. As for Alex Larwood he doesn’t seem to be as quick during training, but he always seems to deliver on race days.

Byron Marsh (PodMX marketing manager):
MX1 – 1. Dean Ferris 2. Jed Beaton 3. Nathan Crawford
MX2 – 1. Brodie Connolly 2. Alex Larwood 3. Noah Ferguson

It’s like having the pick your favourite child, but It’s hard to go past Dean, simply for his consistency. Last year was a great year for him on his return, and his consistency and race craft in all conditions was impressive. It’s hard to see him having a worse year this year, especially now that he’s with one of the best teams in the pits. Similarly, I think Jed is going to shine on the Yamaha this year and he’s such a strong competitor on all types of tracks. At the same time, Nathan Crawford was really impressive at the AMX Open at Wonthaggi earlier this year. It wasn’t a full ProMX field, but I like his style on a 450; he’s a big unit and I think he appreciates the extra power. In MX2, I think it’ll be a Honda clean sweep of the championship podium. Connolly was really impressive last year, is smart, and is good in a variety of conditions. For Larwood, and Ferguson, moving to the Honda team and a new bike has been a good motivator for them. I’m hoping Yarrive Konsky will be a good influence on both of them, so they stay injury-free and consistent. You can’t deny the speed of either of them, and if they pull things back five per cent, they’ve still got the pace to win races.

Lee Hogan (ProMX broadcaster):
MX1 – 1. Dean Ferris 2. Jed Beaton 3. Kyle Webster
MX2 – 1. Brodie Connolly 2. Rhys Budd 3. Noah Ferguson

Until qualifying is done it’s all a bit of a guess, but I’d have to say the two CDR Yamaha riders – Dean Ferris and Jed Beaton – are the guys to beat. I think with how strong Ferris is mentally, and now that he’s back with Craig Dack, he’s likely to take the number-one spot. I’m struggling to split Jed Beaton and Kyle Webster for second and third and think they’re equally capable. On paper, Beaton is the strongest rider on all tracks, but his biggest weakness is his own mindset – he doesn’t have a good poker face and you can tell when he gets down. If he fixes that this year, he could be really dangerous. For Webster, I’d love for him to deliver on his potential. We all know he’s a great sand rider, but tends to doubt himself on hardpack rounds; if he can turn that self-belief around he could be a championship contender. With Wilson Todd and Nathan Crawford stepping up to MX1, the MX2 class is open for the taking. Someone who stands out is Connolly, as he was next-in-line behind them in recent years, he doesn’t get rattled and he’s not scared of anyone. I haven’t seen Budd race the Husky yet, but he knows how to win races ad seems to be on the pace so far. I don’t think he’s ready to take the title from Connolly, but he’ll make it interesting. I like Noah for third, simply because of his blinding pace and he just refuses to pull the pin. If he can control that this year, he could have a great season.

Image: Supplied.

Matt Moss (multiple MX1 and MX2 champion):
MX1 – 1. Dean Ferris 2. Luke Clout 3. Kyle Webster
MX2 – 1. Rhys Budd 2. Reid Taylor 3. Ryder Kingsford

As Ferris is the defending champion and now being with the CDR Yamaha Monster Energy team, you’ve got to give him the first pick to back his title up. I’ll give Luke Clout the nod for second; I’ve only heard good things about how he’s gelling with the bike and team, and he’s a former champion who knows how to get it done. As long as Kyle Webster stays on two wheels, I think he could also win the title this year. Everyone expects him to start strong this weekend, and it’ll be a matter of whether he can keep it together on the hardpack tracks. In MX2, I’m picking Rhys Budd, only because he has to this year. He’s been in the class for a while, is on a good team with Todd Waters, and there’s no denying his determination and fitness. Reid Taylor’s raw speed is unbelievable and he’ll win races this year, no doubt. He might have an up-and-down season, but if he believes in himself like we do, he’ll surprise a lot of people. Ryder Kingsford has amazing riding skills, and how that he’s on a great bike with the Yamalube Yamaha team, he doesn’t have any excuses.

Dylan Wills (Foremost Media/MotoOnline):
MX1 – 1. Dean Ferris 2. Luke Clout 3. Nathan Crawford
MX2 – 1. Brodie Connolly 2. Rhys Budd 3. Byron Dennis

I’m giving the nod to Ferris, he’s last year’s champ. He’s also made the move over to CDR Yamaha Monster Energy team, which we know is a powerhouse in the ProMX paddock and they’ve seen success together in the past. But in saying that I’m really liking what I’m seeing and hearing from a few others. Clout is on this all-new KX450, and I’ve only heard good things about that. Same with Crawford, he’s stepped up and I absolutely love what I’m seeing. He suits the 450 down to the ground. I almost feel I’m doing a discredit putting him P3, he’ll be a dark horse when this championship comes to a close. For MX2, Connolly has it all. He’s got the speed and attitude to step up and take the reigns of this class now that it’s up for grabs, and so does Rhys Budd. I’m keen to see how it plays out over the course of the season between these two. I’ve got Dennis in third, this pick might be a bit out there. But I really, truly believe that Dennis has the whole package. He’s got his head screwed on and is wise beyond his years. He’s the kind of kid that might not even win a race or an overall, but in being there every round, he’ll be in the hunt. He’s just not your typical rookie.

Nic Still (MotoOnline):
MX1 – 1. Dean Ferris 2. Luke Clout 3. Nathan Crawford
MX2 – 1. Brodie Connolly 2. Rhys Budd 3. Noah Ferguson

Ferris is the favourite to grab another title, and with a great bike and a team he knows, you’ve got to give him the nod for the win. Luke Clout is now one of the more experienced racers in the MX1 class and having left that CDR team, he probably feels he has a point to prove, but at the same time he’s looking great on the Kawasaki and is coming into the season healthy. Nathan Crawford is technically still a rookie, but his pre-season has been incredible. He might have rounds that don’t go his way, but he’s always a fierce competitor. For MX2, it’s hard to go past Brodie Connolly. He was one of the only riders to give it to Wilson Todd last year and had success with both the bike and team he’s on. With discussions I’ve had with Rhys Budd, he’s fitting in well with his new team and has had plenty of pre-season success, so that should see him have a great 2024. Third is a tough call between Reid Taylor and Noah Ferguson, but my gut goes with Noah. He’s got so much determination and raw speed, and if he can eliminate those unlucky motos he’ll be a contender.

Simon Makker (MotoOnline):
MX1 – 1. Dean Ferris 2. Jed Beaton 3. Wilson Todd
MX2 – 1. Brodie Connolly 2. Rhys Budd 3. Byron Dennis

Last year Ferris came out of the woodwork to win the title, and I think that now that he’s with CDR Monster Energy Yamaha – the same team he’s enjoyed success with in the past – he’s got all the pieces of the puzzle completed to go back-to-back. In saying that, I think Jed Beaton will again give him a good run for his money and will notch up race and round wins this year. It’s going to be a fascinating battle to see them both go head-to-head on the same machinery. My third pick is a toss-up between Crawford and Wilson Todd, but I think Todd really suits the 450 and his racecraft is some of the best in the business – he knows when to push, but he also knows when to bank solid points, rather than risking everything to finish one position better. In MX2, I think Brodie Connolly will start the season strongly and that will feed his confidence and pace for the rest of the year. Rhys Budd has looked great in pre-season races; he’s obviously in form and I’m expecting him to carry that into the championship. Byron Dennis is more of an outside chance for me. Yes, he’s a MX2 rookie, but even last year he ran comparable lap times to the MX2 class, and if he can stay consistent all season, I think he’ll sneak home with a top three championship result.