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Yamaha Motor Canada Presents Style Check: Drama In Anaheim

Well, it sure didn’t take long before we had some real drama in the 2020 Monster Energy Supercross Series. Last week in St. Louis we saw Ken Roczen take his first SX win since his enormous crash three years ago in Anaheim. Roczen’s win was hugely popular as everyone loves a good comeback story. Also, if people weren’t paying attention to the 2020 SX series before St. Louis, after hearing about Roczen’s victory, all eyes were now on the series as it headed to Anaheim for Round 3. It was an amazing win and a real positive story for our sport, similar to Tiger Woods coming back from his injuries and winning The Masters last year.

Fresh off his first win in three years, Ken Roczen and his growing legion of fans were looking forward to Round 3 in Anaheim. Photo by James Lissimore

A week later the riders were back in Anaheim for Round 3, and they were facing a slippery and technical track. All day long the two large whoop sections and slick Anaheim soil was giving all of the riders fits as they tried to log their fastest lap time. It definitely didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the track set-up and soil were going to play a big part in deciding the results, as would the fact that by Round 3 the riders were feeling pretty comfortable with their racecraft. If history was any guide, when the stars align like this we’re always in store for some exciting racing.

Throughout the first two rounds in the 250SX West class we not only had two different winners but we’ve witnessed the riders at the front of the pack ride completely different. Points leader Justin Cooper appears to be calm and precise in his approach to the track. He may not be the fastest rider throughout qualifying and the heat races, but when the gate drops on the main event he always finds a way to get to the front of the pack. If you count his finish at A2, Cooper has gone 1-2-2 in this first three races of 2020, and that folks is why he’s the red plate holder. By contrast, his main competition had been anything but consistent during the opening two races of 2020 and that is perhaps why we saw a little desperation on Saturday night in Anaheim from a few of the top 250SX West riders.

From the drop of the gate Dylan Ferrandis was in full charge mode. Photo by James Lissimore

Throughout qualifying at Round 3 there was little doubt that Geico Honda riders Christian Craig and Jett Lawrence were going to be up front once the main event came around later on that night. Their speed through the whoops was amazing, as was their corner speed and momentum around the A2 track. This was the first time that I’d seen 16-year-old Jett Lawrence ride in person and I can say that he’s very impressive. He’s tall, strong and very fluid on the bike. Not to mention that he also possesses some very good SX technique. In a nut shell, this kid is good, and if he can remain healthy and focused through his teenage years then he’s going to be a future 450SX champion.

When the gate dropped for the main event, as predicted the Geico Honda riders were up front and looking good. As Craig admitted later in a post race interview, he didn’t ride very well in those early laps which allowed his teammate Lawrence pull away. The defending 250SX West Champion Dylan Ferrandis, who had struggled through the opening two rounds, started just inside the Top 10 in the Anaheim 2 main event and was in full charge mode as he tried to reel in the red riders. On Lap 9 (or so) Ferrandis caught Craig and wasted no time in going for a pass. When Craig drifted to the wide line after the finish line jump, Ferrandis pounced and dove to the inside. With a slick track surface and no real rut to help him get through the turn with any type of traction, Ferrandis’ momentum carried him past the apex of the turn and unfortunately right into Christian Craig. The result was a big collision, both riders going down and Craig most certainly getting the worst of it. In an instance, Ferrandis had gone from hero to zero to enemy #1 in Angel Stadium. To make matters even worse for the French rider, after he remounted from the crash, he reeled in Jett Lawrence and on the final lap stole the win away from the young Australian phenom. In the process, Ferrandis attempted a few desperation moves on Lawrence, which caused him even more grief with the Anaheim fans. In the end, Ferrandis held on for an exciting win, while Lawrence crashed hard with one corner to go while trying one last pass back on Ferrandis. Lawrence’s last lap efforts gave him ‘god’ status with the fans while Ferrandis was greeted by 50,000 boos on the podium.

There are definitely better days ahead for Jett Lawrence! This kid is the real deal! Photo by James Lissimore

Whichever way you look at look at it, Anaheim 2 provided some incredible racing and great headlines. In retrospect, I don’t think too many people had a problem with Ferrandis and his riding on Saturday night. Even Craig and Lawrence, who were on the receiving end of his aggressive riding, didn’t seem to have an issue with it in the days following the race. Even though it was early in the 250SX West Series, I think Anaheim 2 was a must win for Ferrandis if he has any hope to repeat as champion. His teammate, Cooper, has proven to be remarkably consistent, so Ferrandis cannot count on him to make any big mistakes. Ferrandis had to win and he knew it! Being aggressive and even going for that pass on Craig was a great racing move, which we’ve seen many times over the years. Maybe he could’ve waited for another less risky opportunity to go for a pass? Who knows! Throughout history, riders in the 250SX haven’t exactly had the reputation of being patient. Ferrandis went for a pass and it didn’t quite work out, life goes on. I’m sure Craig will pay him back at some point this season.

Austin Forkner had better find a way to stay consistent if he wants any shot at the 250SX West title. Photo by James Lissimore

Unfortunately, in that last lap crash, Lawrence suffered a broken collarbone and will now be out for a few weeks. As the series heads to Glendale this weekend for Round 4, it appears like the two Star Racing Yamaha teammates will now battle it out for the 250SX West title. The only other rider that has proven to have to speed to win is Austin Forkner. However, in the first three races he’s tossed away a good finish twice, while winning the other race. Forkner is now 22 points out of the lead so it’s definitely an uphill battle for the entertaining Kawasaki rider. With all of the action last weekend in Anaheim, I cannot wait for the gate to drop in Glendale to see what’s in store for us next.


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