At round three of the Monster Energy Supercross series we saw fireworks of epic proportions and it all happened before the gate drop of the 450 main event. In the 250 class, 16-year-old Australian Jett Lawrence showed talent close to what the Lawrence family has been raving about, unfortunately it didn’t end up in a win. Young Jett is a special talent, his first three rounds are reminiscent of Carmichael, Stewart and Pastrana’s rookie Supercross seasons. Pastrana made huge improvements round by round and won his fourth race, Carmichael won his third race and Stewart won his second race. Young Jett was right on target to win his third race until Dylan Ferrandis crashed the party, literally!
(Yamaha was all smiles, guessing back at the Geico Honda truck the mood was much different.)
The night played out like every Supercross movie ever produced with the bad guy using scrupulous tactics during his charge to the front. Ferrandis fit the role perfectly. Movie characters like Jean Girard and Rene Cartier don’t have anything on Dylan Ferrandis, he checks all theatrical stereotypes. The rider he smashed on his way to the front was Christian Craig, a perfect victim, good-looking blonde-haired family man. Multiple injuries and a ridiculous WADA suspension has left Craig fighting to stay relevant just as he is finding success running second behind young Jett Lawrence, a rider Craig is mentoring. Craig made for the ideal victim, if it were a movie script Craig fit the role of “goose” in Top Gun or any other likeable supporting role who is sacrificed for the sake of the story.
(I hope Dylan embrases the role, we need a bad guy!)
Ferrandis had a horrible race last week and the weight of being the defending champion is clearly weighing on the French rider. After another below average start Ferrandis wasted no time moving past his competitors. First up was Austin Forkner who he took high after the whoops, nothing wrong with the move but it was on the aggressive side. He then got to Craig, who is an extremely hard rider to pass as he is very fast in the whoops and a smart racer with good race craft. This can make it hard to get past him, obviously these facts weren’t lost on Ferrandis. He saw what he thought was an opening on Craig and went full commitment, unfortunately there was not even a hint of an opening when he got there. What resulted was a highlight that will live in infamy! A guy who already looks like a French villain has now given fans a reason to treat him like one.
(Jett has talent, can he make it happen?)
I never want to see anyone crash like Craig did and the move was stupid, no matter the reason, but Ferrandis should embrace the role of villain. Every great story has both hero and villain, Supercross has been in desperate need of a good villain. The worst thing Ferrandis could do is apologize and act like he is sorry and won’t do it again. He should do exactly what he did, explain his side and say he hopes Craig isn’t hurt. When the crowd unleashed their flurry of boo’s he should go a little WWE and call for more. This is a completely organic story that would make Hollywood screenwriters jealous. The 250 class will get more attention this week than any other week, fans everywhere will all but forget the 450-class heading into Glendale. Fans outside the United States will embrace Dylan as the anti-hero. The incident was good for everyone except Christian Craig, who was just an unlucky victim in round three.
( Christian Craig is still looking for the truck that hit him, anyone get the license plate number?)
Unfortunately the storybook ending for Jett Lawrence didn’t quite pan out, but he has served notice that he is the real deal. Heading into the season I knew he was good, but thought he was your average rookie. I expected him to be getting results similar to Derek Drake, who isn’t having a bad season but isn’t drawing comparisons with some of the all-time greats. Seeing Jett unconscious rolling down the backside of the jump was troubling, early reports are a concussion and broken collar bone. Now he has a new challenge, recovering from an injury during the season. His older brother Hunter Lawrence has had a couple of years ruined by repeated injuries; can Jett avoid being bothered by repeated injuries?
The sport of Supercross can be very unforgiving for riders who cannot stay healthy. Obviously Jett has the talent to compete with the worlds best Supercross racers, but if I was managing his career I wouldn’t let him race again until the outdoor nationals. One of the most naturally talented riders to ever swing a leg over a motorcycle was Robbie Reynard, unfortunately injuries at a young age never allowed him to realize his potential. Injuries at a young age can cause talent to spoil, hopefully they protect Jett from himself. He probably wants to plate his collarbone and race Glendale but the adults around him need to hold him back.
(a pic of Robbie Reynard when he was the "next" superstar, back in January of 1993)
I can’t wait until Glendale, how will Ferrandis handle the pressure? For the rest of 2020 he will be booed unmercifully at every opportunity by fans. Will he feed off of it or will it tear him apart? It takes a special kind of person with the ability to embrace being the bad guy and use it to their advantage, I hope Ferrandis relishes the role!