2021 Pro Motocross Championship
Round 1 – Fox Raceway National
Images by Jeff Kardas
Sunny California saw the 2021 Pro Motocross Championship kick off with the first of the 12 rounds, the Fox Raceway I National, showcasing a historic depth of talent across both classes of competition, where Dylan Ferrandis prevailed with a surprise win in his first 450 Class start and Team Honda HRC’s Jett Lawrence confirmed his position as a title contender with his second 250 Class victory.
450 Moto 1
The opening 450 class moto of the 2021 championship saw newly crowned AMA Supercross Champion Cooper Webb emerge with the MotoSport.com Holeshot aboard his Red Bull KTM Factory Racing machine ahead of Ferrandis and Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo.
These three quickly jockeyed for position, during which Cianciarulo clawed his way past both riders to go from third to first before the completion of the opening lap. He sprinted out to a multi-second lead over Webb, while Ferrandis and Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen battled for third.
Cianciarulo continued to build on his advantage and soon enjoyed a lead approaching the double digits just 10 minutes into the moto as Webb and Ferrandis asserted themselves into second and third. With firm control of the race, Cianciarulo saw it all go away in an instant when he crashed on one of the track’s downhills.
He was able to remount, but lost multiple positions and reentered in fourth. That handed the lead to Webb, but not for long as Ferrandis seized the opportunity and took control of the top spot in his first 450 Class moto. Team Honda HRC’s Chase Sexton assumed third, just ahead of Cianciarulo.
Ferrandis edged out to a lead of just over three seconds past the halfway point of the moto, as Webb fell into the clutches of Sexton. The Honda rider, and defending race winner at Fox Raceway, made the pass for second and looked to close in on the Frenchman out front.
As the moto wound down all eyes turned to GASGAS Factory Racing’s Justin Barcia, who was on a tear and charged up the running order. Barcia picked off Roczen, Aaron Plessinger, Cianciarulo, and Webb en route to podium position in third.
The run to the checkered flag was a thrilling one as Sexton’s persistence brought him to within striking distance of Ferrandis on the last lap. As they exited the final corner Sexton’s outside line gave him an edge in momentum that allowed him to get alongside Ferrandis off the final jump.
They crossed the finish line side by side, with the edge to Ferrandis, who secured the moto win on his first attempt in the premier class, just .099 ahead of Sexton. Barcia finished an impressive third, while Plessinger and Webb completed the top five.
450 Moto 2
The deciding 450 Class moto kicked off with a Yamaha at the head of the pack as Plessinger earned the MotoSport.com Holeshot, followed by Roczen, Webb, and Cianciarulo. Known as one of the best starters in the sport, Roczen went on the offense and made the pass for the lead on Plessinger, as Cianciarulo moved up to third.
Behind the leaders Ferrandis started from a spot deep in the top 10, while Sexton found himself on the ground in the first turn and started last in the 40-rider field.
Roczen sprinted out to an early multi-second advantage, his first laps led in Pro Motocross since 2019, while Plessinger gave chase. Cianciarulo lost ground to the lead duo but settled solidly into third, while Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Zach Osborne, the defending 450 Class Champion, gave chase from fourth.
As the moto wore on the battle for the overall win turned compelling as Roczen, Plessinger, and Ferrandis sat in a three-way tie early on. With the lead pair well over 10 seconds ahead of the field, the focus shifted to Ferrandis’ ability to continue to move forward, which he did in pursuit of another impressive ride by Barcia. Both riders passed Osborne and Cianciarulo, which moved Barcia into third and Ferrandis into fourth.
Just past the halfway point of the moto Plessinger started to put the pressure on Roczen for the lead. The German successfully withstood Plessinger’s move and forced the Yamaha rider into a mistake, which put some distance between the top two.
Behind them, Ferrandis was able to get a firmer grasp on his lead in the overall classification with a pass on Barcia that moved the Frenchman into third. Roczen was able to build on his advantage as the moto wore on and carried on to capture his first moto win since the Unadilla National in August of 2019 by 11.8 seconds over Plessinger, with Ferrandis in third.
With his 1-3 moto finishes Ferrandis, last season’s 250 Class Champion, became the first rider since Ryan Villopoto in 2009 to win in his full time 450 Class debut in Pro Motocross. The Frenchman also gave Yamaha its first premier class win since the final round of the 2018 season.
In his anticipated return to the championship, Roczen earned the second-moto tiebreaker to finish in the runner-up spot (6-1), while Plessinger captured his first podium result in third (4-2).
Dylan Ferrandis – P1
“It was a way different Pala race than last year, but it was a really good day for me. I didn’t wake up this morning thinking that I would win the overall. It’s an amazing result as a rookie in the 450 class to win the first moto and the overall. I’m also really happy to get that first 450 win for the Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing team. I’m really hard on these guys, and I make them work many hours during the race and the whole week, so this one is really for them. The hard work has definitely paid off. I want to say a big thanks to all of the people around me. It’s an amazing feeling and a day that I will remember.”
Ken Roczen – P2
“I think everybody probably struggled a little bit in practice, it was really deep and wet and we really only were using three feet of the track. It was a little tough, but we got it back together for the second practice and put ourselves in a good position for the first gate pick. I had a decent start on the first one, but I tangled a little bit with a few riders in the front and was in a good position in the beginning to make some moves so that’s what I did. Riding a track like that I wasn’t too comfortable and haven’t raced MX in a while so I rode tight and wasn’t going anywhere either. But very late in the race I could put a move on Adam in the last corner and started going forward just a little bit. In the second moto I grabbed a great start and we just laid it down, with some great lines. The track is really gnarly, so I just rode as hard as I could as long as I could and not make any mistakes. The two lap board came out and I was surprised but I brought it home.”
Aaron Plessinger – P3
“It was a great day for me overall. I felt good coming into this weekend and felt like I could do some damage, and I did. I think my last outdoor moto was at the Ironman back in 2019, so to come out here and finish third after a tough two years, it’s pretty amazing. I want to thank the whole team. They do an amazing job. I love my bike right now, and I couldn’t be happier. I’m just going to come into Colorado with the same outlook and try to do It again!”
Ferrandis has established a five-point lead in the 450 Class standings over both Roczen and Plessinger, who sit tied for second.
The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship will continue next weekend with its second round of the 2021 season.
The first 250 moto of the season saw young guns surge to the front of the field out the gate, as Max Vohland stormed to the MotoSport.com Holeshot in his Pro Motocross debut, ahead of Stilez Robertson and Seth Hammaker. Just behind them Jeremy Martin, the lone past champion in the field, started to make his move forward and made the pass on Hammaker for third.
The field stabilised through the opening 10 minutes of the moto, as Vohland looked comfortable controlling the pace of the race. The second generation racer maintained the lead through the first half of the moto, while Martin patiently waited for his opportunity to get around Robertson and successfully moved into second.
Behind the lead trio, the battle for the rest of the top five raged between a handful of contenders, as Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s RJ Hampshire and Lawrence got the upper hand and eventually worked their way by Robertson to assume third and fourth, respectively.
With about 10 minutes left in the moto Martin began to close in on the rookie out front and took full advantage of his wealth of championship experience to make the pass for the lead look easy. As this unfolded, smoke began to emit from Vohland’s exhaust.
Behind them, Lawrence made the pass on Hampshire to move into podium position and set his sights on Vohland. With less than five minutes to go Vohland pulled off the track, which handed second to Lawrence and moved Hampshire into third.
With Lawrence in second, Martin dropped the hammer and picked up the pace in the closing stages of the moto to prevent an attack from the young Australian.
Martin carried on to take the first moto win of the 2021 season over Lawrence, who got to within a 2.8 seconds of the lead at the finish. Hampshire completed the top three, while Michael Mosiman and Justin Cooper rounded out the top five. Hunter Lawrence was sixth.
250 Moto 2
The second moto got underway with Martin edging out his teammate Cooper for the holeshot, followed by Vohland in third. Cooper was able to secure the lead over Martin and the pair of Yamahas looked to pull away. Lawrence got a much improved start and slotted in behind Vohland in fourth.
The Star Yamaha duo controlled the first half of the moto with relative ease, as Cooper was able to keep Martin at bay. However, Lawrence was lurking. The Honda rider applied heavy pressure on Martin as the moto surpassed the 15-minute mark and made an impressive move to get by the first moto winner.
Lawrence kept his head down and soon closed onto the rear of Cooper for the lead. He wasted little time and went on the attack with a head of steam down the finish line straight that carried him by Cooper and into control of the moto.
Once into the lead, Lawrence opened up a healthy advantage as Cooper and Martin battled for second. Martin knew time was of the essence if he wanted to keep his hopes of an overall victory alive and he made the pass on Cooper to take control of second.
About four seconds separated Lawrence from Martin, which Lawrence was able to maintain through to the finish to capture the second moto win and secure the overall victory. He took the checkered flag 4.9 seconds ahead of Martin, while Cooper finished a distant third.
With identical moto finishes Lawrence (2-1) and Martin (1-2) finished tied atop the overall classification, but the second moto tiebreaker proved to be the difference maker in Lawrence’s favor.
It was the second career win for the Aussie, with back-to-back victories dating back to the final round of the 2020 season, also at Fox Raceway. Cooper’s strong second moto allowed him to also earn the tiebreaker to capture the final spot on the overall podium (5-3). Michael Mosiman and Hunter Lawrence completed the top five.
Lawrence and Martin now share possession of the red plate as co-point leaders. They’ve established an 11-point lead over Cooper and Mosiman, who sit tied for third in the point standings.
Jett Lawrence – P1
“I think everything has hit me at once, all the hard work I’ve been putting in and all the training we’ve been doing, and this is what we worked for. To go out and get the results and come away with the red plate. It didn’t hit me till I hit the finish line, as I’ve been working my butt off to get that. Now Hunter can’t give me crap about the red plate and silver cross. It’s a good feeling and hopefully I can keep it for the rest of the season, but I know J. Martin and the boys are going to make it hard for me tis season. But I’ll make sure I stay on my toes and give it back to them.”
Jeremy Martin – P2
“I’m glad to land two strong performances in today’s motos after being away from racing for so long. The track was brutal, so I’m happy to walk away with a solid second overall finish at the season opener.”
Justin Cooper – P3
“It was a good start to the outdoor series with a podium, but it was definitely a tough transition to the ‘Great Outdoors’ from supercross. We put in some solid laps and some terrible ones as well but learned a lot. We have some good stuff to build on and look to carry that into next weekend.”
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