Amazing how quickly this paradigm has flipped. Dylan Ferrandis, he of a dominant 2021 450 National Motocross Championship, is now chasing a 19-year-old rookie. Same for two-time Monster Energy Supercross Champion Cooper Webb, who a month ago coulda’ shoulda’ woulda’ been in position to win another supercross crown. In other words, these are two established champions now trying to figure out how to run with someone brand-new to the class.
Both feel, at least, that Hangtown’s round two was better than Fox Raceway’s round one. Ferrandis had a rough go, there. He’s late in getting back on the bike after a long layoff with a concussion in supercross. With limited testing time on all-new Yamaha YZ450F, he was fighting the bike all day Fox Raceway. In fact, he was so beat up that he couldn’t even ride until Wednesday. Finally, he logged a long day of testing before heading to round two.
“Yeah, for sure we did testing this week,” Ferrandis said. “Last week was big learning for us and yeah, we tried more this week at The Farm in Florida. We showed up with a new setup today, but I still struggled a bit in the first moto with arm pump. Second moto we changed the shock. We had tried the shock before but with the new setup the bike was way better. I think now we’re getting close to what I like and what I want with the bike. I was a little disappointed in second moto, I gave the holeshot [got passed] to Jett and Coops because I had it. Yeah, I think that second moto with the setup I had I could have done something better, but I was just stuck behind the KTM boys and couldn’t find a way to pass. Obviously at the end of the moto I was tired, and I gave up a little bit of time in the last lap. We knew as a team that the beginning of the season would be difficult. On the paper it looks not bad, P2 in the championship and 18 points is not too bad. 18 points is a lot, but if you had asked me this question two weeks ago, I would have said, “Yeah I’m going to be outside the top five and far away.” So, I think we have a good base now and this week we’re going to make sure this setup works in practice, and if it does, we will start to train instead of testing. I like doing testing and we always improve the bike and I like it, but at some time we need to train, but right now I use the race as training. That’s the only time I do a moto. I want to do a moto during the week, but I also need to feel good on this bike. We have to have some compromise. We will see next weekend. I hope the track is going to be less dry than today.”
Ferrandis was third overall at round one with 3-3 scores, he upgraded to 2-3 scores at round two in the absence of Chase Sexton. He got into a huge duel with Webb in moto two, and Webb, salty and crafty as usual, held him at bay.
“Yeah, I’m stoked man, second moto was great for me, I got a great start and I ran up front,” said Webb. “You know it was definitely a difficult track to pass on, it helped me to latch on and get to know the pace and get my outdoor legs under me again. Good to get a good start and be in the mix and get a podium. I’m stoked, man. I did not expect it to come this early by any means, and I think we have a long ways to go, so I’m really happy with the performance today.”
In moto one, Webb got yarded pretty badly by both Ferrandis and his Red Bull KTM teammate Aaron Plessinger. Turns out there was an issue there.
“The first one I was a distant fourth just kind of riding around by myself. We had a little bit of a fork issue in the first one, so just kinda an updated fork that we had worked on this week. We kind of went back and forth all day on it, and we had an issue with the one in moto one. That was mainly it. So yeah, it was a better direction.”
In moto two, Plessinger did force his way around his teammate again, but then he crashed, and that opened the door for Webb, who then held tough against Ferrandis.
“Yeah, it was tough,” he said. “I hadn’t gone that pace yet all season. So, I was kind of learning that pace and trying not to make mistakes. You can kind of feel when someone is catching you in certain areas and stuff, but you don’t want to change your lines. I could feel him all over me, it was a good yo-yo. I could tell he had some good spots, and I had some good spots, but I was happy when he got around me I was able to stay close to him. When he got around me, he kind of made a charge toward Jett and then he went down.”
"We had a good first moto, got stuck behind Dylan [Ferrandis] for a while and wasn't able to make the pass, but second moto I was able to get around Cooper, which was good,” said Plessinger. “Then a mistake hit and I lost my clutch lever, so after that, I was just working my way home for the last four laps. I need to stay off the ground and I'll be okay! We'll be back in Colorado."
“I’ll take it any way I can get it,” Webb said. “I knew, even running third, I was going to finish fourth overall. So, it’s a cool little bonus when you see a guy laying on the ground."
Webb skipped the motocross campaign last season, and after having to take time off with a concussion late in supercross, he’s getting a quick refresh.
“[After Plessinger crashed] Then it was Dylan all over me! So, it was good to be in that position again, to nail your focus because even though it was a tough track, it was a difficult track that could reach up and bite you. I was happy to ride outdoors like that again.”
Jett is a next-generation superstar, and he’s quickly gotten the jump on established competitors. The march to match him now moves to Colorado.
“I usually like Thunder Valley and I like riding at altitude, you can ride the bike wide open so that’s fun,” Ferrandis said, while Jett, sitting next to him in the press conference, gestured the wide-open throttle motion. Ferrandis laughed.
“That’s not really every day we can do that. Some years I didn’t like when it was too hard pack, but we usually have a great condition over there.”
Elevation and track conditions will be a topic next weekend, but for Webb, Ferrandis and Plessinger, the challenge is improving themselves, everywhere, so they can solve the kid who has quickly flipped the script.