The final round of the 2020 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship took place over the weekend at Fox Raceway at Pala in Pala, California. Long time pro Jason Thomas was in attendance carefully analyzing the action from the sidelines. As such, we fired some questions off to JT to get his thoughts on what went down—plus a quick look to 2021.
Thoughts on Dylan Ferrandis' title run?
He was the best rider in the class and barring injury, that’s a recipe for a title. He had a few tough rounds in there and that RedBud crash could have ended his run completely. It was a bit of a barbell type run with huge victories on each end of the series with leaner results in the middle. I just made that analogy up, by the way, I hope you like it.
Thoughts on Zacho's title run?
It was slow and steady as far as the things that Zach could control. His flat front tire at the Spring Creek National added some drama to a series that would have been a snoozer entering the final two rounds. He wasn’t the best rider at every race, but he was consistent on the so-so days. When he had good days, he made the most of them. Keeping an even keel is a very important component in the 450 class. The field was so incredibly deep in the opening rounds and a bad moto could be very costly. In the final rounds, the field was devastatingly depleted, making it less important to have your best stuff. A bad moto in the beginning could easily be a 10th or worse. In the final rounds, an off moto was maybe fifth or sixth.
How much hype is there for Chase Sexton's rookie year for 2021?
I think it’s a fair amount but I would say less than AC in 2020. AC won the Monster Energy Cup last October and the Instagram videos of him pre-season were just mesmerizing. Sexton will have his podium nights and his fans should be very excited but I think the smarter route is to manage expectations. Putting too much pressure on him would be unfair and unproductive, too.
How much hype is there on Ferrandis' rookie year for 2021?
I don’t know if there will be a lot of hype but I do have high expectations. I think that his experience will be a big key to success in 2021. He has seen so many different scenarios, racing across the globe, that this will be an easier transition than it would be for a younger rider. The only real question I have is how will he like the Blu Cru 450? Everyone seems to immediately improve on the YZ250F but the YZ450F hasn’t been as cooperative.
How much hype is there for sophomore AC in 2021?
I am BIG on the AC train for 2021. His talent is undeniable. More importantly, he is learning what it takes to be a championship contender on the 450. It’s okay to take a third place sometimes. Win when the opportunity presents itself. Younger riders let the pressure force them into a “win or bust” mentality. The “bust” part of that equation is too damaging to the series points picture, though. With Nick Wey molding his approach this off-season, I like AC to win several times in 2021.
Are we racing in 2021?
Yes, all systems go. COVID-19 is going to be a concern, of course, but I believe we are learning daily about how to manage the pandemic without fundamentally ending our livelihood. We still have three full months of progress and innovation ahead of us, too.
Will we get three-time 450 Class Champ and 2020 450SX Champ level Eli Tomac in 2021?
Yes, he will be back. He looked to have taken a bit of a breather this summer, and well-earned, too. In 2021 he will be back to business as usual and with that, winning. Whether he can defend his title is anyone’s guess but the fit, fast Eli Tomac that we all know will be back to form.
Could you talk about some of the slick moves Jett Lawrence and Chase Sexton used to get to the front?
Pala’s layout was all about carrying momentum. Whether it was before the steep uphill or through the rollers or into a long straight-away, the only real way to make a move was to carry more momentum through the previous corner and slingshot past the lead rider. I didn’t notice it as much from Sexton as his most important move came from AC’s crash but in the 250 Class, the strategy was very clear. Make a run-up into the space right behind the lead rider through the middle of the corner, leaving enough to room to break out of the line on exit, but also utilizing that momentum to accelerate past through the next section. Getting the timing wrong would be costly, though, as it would be easy to run into the back of the rider in front. Many of the corners were one-lined or the ruts crossed over each other, adding to the timing importance.
How do the guys balance rest/recovery with SX prep, which is coming soon?
Most of the riders will take the next month off. With SX rumored to be starting mid-January, that gives riders another couple of weeks before their intense riding and training needs to begin. They will need every extra day to recharge the batteries both physically and mentally. If I was still racing, I would want to completely unplug from it for a couple of weeks (besides some basic exercise). We will be back in full swing before we know it. Hopefully the entire industry can take a deep breath, spend some time at home, and ramp up for a huge 2021 campaign. This 2020 campaign has been the longest in decades, not to mention the stress and mental drain that COVID-19 put on everyone. It’s time to relax for a minute.