With his runner-up finish at Fox Raceway on a hot afternoon in Southern California, Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing’s Dylan Ferrandis claimed the 2021 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross 450 class championship on Saturday.
The No. 14 Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha works racer now becomes only the second French-born rider to win the 450cc classification in the U.S., Ferrandis following in the bootsteps of Gaelic superhero Jean-Michel Bayle who claimed the crown in 1991.
Q: What has it been like to be a title contender all summer long, to be able to sustain your momentum and then wrap this thing up?
DYLAN FERRANDIS: It was such an awesome season. I never really tried to think about this championship, because for me it was something I never believed I could do. I always train and try to be the best, but my first season in 450, new team… I never really expected to win.
All season it was a big surprise, and to finish like this, one round before the end, it’s so unreal. Honestly, it’s the best feeling ever. It was hard emotionally because I put so much work into it that I just felt it was a normal week. We were on the amount of effort we put in before to get to this point. I just felt almost like it was normal, but it wasn’t really. So it felt a little weird on the podium. I think tomorrow morning when I wake up, I will really realize what happened. It’s just great, great for me, great for all the people from Yamaha and all the people involved in the program. It was just really awesome.
This track was really good. I enjoyed the track conditions. The weather was really, really difficult for me today, personally. It was hard again. The last two rounds have been really, really hard for me. With the end of the season coming, it’s just hard for the body for everybody. We’ve seen so many riders being really tired the last few rounds. It’s true for me. After Ironman I was really tired, and again today after the first moto. I was really empty, and I had to dig deep in moto two to finish out front. Glad I did it.
Q: Reflecting back to your MXGP Grand Prix days, your speed, talent and determination were always on display. Having said that, you also suffered a significant number of crashes, and at times, found yourself injured along the way. How did you get yourself to become a steadier, more consistent and more composed racer?
DF: What happened when I was in GP was that I had to face one of the greatest riders we ever had, Jeffrey Herlings. So I had to fight against him every weekend. I tried to beat him every time, and he was just too strong for me. Most of the time, when I tried to match his speed or his fitness I would finish on the ground and hurt myself. So, that’s why I think my career in MXGP didn’t go too well, because he was just better than me. I tried to match him, and I tried to beat him too much. I finished too many times on the ground.
I think that’s what also makes me better today, because I learned so much from that and from him. I feel like even today when I race against a guy like Eli [Tomac], when he’s on the best day, I feel like I could beat Jeffrey, but I don’t know. Jeffrey is such an animal and he’s the best rider I ever had to fight against. I think that’s why in the MXGP I had some issues. Moving to the U.S. was also for the supercross. I wanted to ride supercross so much. I always put my head down and tried to be the best I can and put some work. It took some time, I think, for my career to really get good. It took me some time to learn the lifestyle of the U.S. and everything.
After I had the championship in supercross, I think I just get better every year. I think this season I was really at my peak. I never felt that strong before. So, I hope I can sustain this level for a couple more years. Anyway, when you win a championship it’s the best thing ever. Whatever happens in the future, you still own this championship and that’s the best feeling.
Q: What were you feeling as the second moto wound down? And looking back on the 2021 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, what was the halcyon moment for you?
DF: The feeling was actually weird a little bit today, because I kind of ran out of emotions. Almost like I dug deep so much this season on so many days of racing. I know Budds Creek, for example, where I just gave everything. I was just so tired today. I just ran out of emotion, and I couldn’t really realize what I was doing. But it was good, for sure. It was just a weird feeling. I just felt like I just did the job that all the people that pay me want me to do. Maybe I need to think a little bit about it and put some words on it.
I think this season, a race like High Point was a big step up for me, when I was able to beat Kenny [Roczen] in both motos and grab the overall win. I think more recently Budds Creek. Budds Creek was one of the best races of my career. First moto I was able to come back from behind and pass all the best guys in the sport. Like I said, I had to dig so deep to get this overall. I was just so stoked on it. That day, physically I felt invincible on this day. I was just at the peak of my season, maybe. I don’t know. That day I was just on a cloud, like I was flying. That was such a good feeling.
The week after that and the weekend after that, I was really tired. I think sometimes when you push really too hard, after there is a cost, and that cost is to be a little more tired and take more time to recover. Sometimes you have to push more than everybody to get a win, and that’s what I did. No regrets. Today is just awesome.
Q: Do you think not having the early success in your Grand Prix career gave you this extra motivation to try and win this 450 title?
DF: I don’t know. The thing is, I always did that. I always dig deep and try to push the limit. It’s just that I had some injuries. I had also to learn and make my experience in racing. I just think it took some more time than a rider like Eli or Ken. I’ve always been the same. I think last year when I won the 250 supercross and motocross championship, I didn’t come like that. I had to dig deep every time also. So, it’s not really new for me. It’s just that I think this year I made a big step physically, and also the 450 bike just fits me better than 250, I feel. We found the best setup on the bike with the Yamaha Star Racing team. I was just on rails and felt good every time I was on the bike. So that makes also a big difference.
“The way I see the racing, the way I push when I’m on the bike, has always been the same. I always did that since I can remember. Even when I was a kid I was pushing, like I said, sometimes too hard and finish on the ground. I’ve always been like this.
Q: What was that like to fight and compete against a proven, world class racer like Ken Roczen?
DF: It was tough. Kenny is a legend of the sport. He’s someone that I’ve always looked up to. Even this season in supercross, he was really the best example for me. I always tried to look at what he does and what he makes on the bike. I’ve always been a little bit a fan of him, as well as Eli or a guy like that. They’ve always been the guys that I would look up to. I think early in the season, I was a little bit kind of shy, if I can say that, fighting against these guys, because I didn’t really know if I was capable of beating these guys. I really tried to kind of forget their names, and just see them as a racer and just try to beat them. Days when I won, at the end of the day when I realized I beat a guy like Ken and Eli, it was unreal for me.
So, a lot of respect, obviously. To me, they’re still, him and especially Eli, they’re still legends of the sport. So much respect. I love watching them. To beat them this year is like a great accomplishment. Like I said, it’s just unreal.