In 2017 Dylan Ferrandis will leave France behind and head for the red, white and Yamaha blue of the USA…
Standing inside the shadowy concrete catacombs of Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Dylan Ferrandis looked just plain stoked. You could see it on his face. With five or six of his friends from back home in France standing beside him, the group paced around and slapped each other on the back while impatiently waiting for the start of the first 450SX main event of the 2016 Monster Energy Supercross Series. Looking more like some local SoCal bro than a European MX2 world championship rider, Ferrandis was wide eyed and thrilled with the immediate reality of his surroundings.
“This is where I want to be in 2017,” he declared. “This is where it’s at.”
Flash forward seven months to the late summer of ’16 and despite the fact that Ferrandis’ year started off on a rough note – the French racer motored to encouraging 2-2 moto scores at World Championship season opener at the klieg-lit Losail circuit in Qatar before hitting the ground in a heap at round two in Thailand and leaving the brilliantly hot venue in an ambulance – Ferrandis bounced back to re-enter the fray at round six at Latvia.
After taking a few rounds to get back up to full speed it all came right for the Monster Energy Kawasaki MX2 Racing Team at the GP of Trentino in Italy when he snapped Jeffrey Herlings omnipotent win streak by winning the opening moto over the Red Bull KTM racer. By the time the globetrotting MXGP series hit the summer break, Ferrandis has amassed five podium finishes and perhaps more importantly, assumed the role of Jeffrey Herlings’ one and only foil.
“I didn’t watch the four rounds that I missed due to injury but what I heard was that the MX2 class was less interesting with the easy wins of Jeffrey Herlings!” mused Dylan the week after winning at Trentino. “The track in Italy is always one of the most difficult of the season. I had some rest before the GP and I was feeling better with my shoulder getting stronger week after week.
“In that opening moto I got the holeshot and rode smooth but Jeffrey was behind me and we had a good battle. I just don’t give up until the end of the moto. I think that was something that all the MX2 riders had forgotten how to do with Jeffrey. I showed everyone I could fight with him. It felt really good to beat him and of course it was crazy to be able to do so only two months after shoulder surgery.”
Renowned as an aggressive rider and one who is not afraid to mix it up on any track and at any time, Ferrandis has not pulled any punches when it comes to speaking his mind about his Dutch rival.
“Jeffrey strong! I think he is the fastest man on a 250cc bike,” said Ferrandis. “I don’t like him but I have respect for him. The plan is to beat him. I don’t know if I’m more aggressive than him. Maybe I am because I am a supercross rider so I need to be. Honestly, I don’t think me or Jeffrey are aggressive – it is just that the other riders in MX2 are afraid.”
No, Dylan Ferrandis is not afraid. He’s not afraid of Herlings, he’s not afraid of bashing it out with any rider he comes up against, and he’s not afraid of racing in the United States of America. Which, as he alluded to going all the way back to January at Angel Stadium, is where he’ll be heading come the end of the ’16 MXGP Grand Prix season.
Working in unison with Dylan Ferrandis’ business manager in Europe, Jimmy Button – former Team Yamaha factory racer and current Vice President of Action Sports and Olympics at Wasserman – met and started to work with Dylan over the winter months. “Dylan wanted to come over to SoCal during the off-season and to ride for a few weeks,” explained Button. “So I picked him up at LAX and set him up in Southern California and from there we formed a relationship.”
Aware that Ferrandis fully intended on coming to race in America in 2017, Button, who once raced in the 125cc World Championship, went to work representing Dylan and shopped deals around the industry.
“At the opening Anaheim round last January, I asked him, ‘Do you want to do this? Do you want to race here in America? You can do it.’ He said, ‘I want to do it but I don’t want to ride for Kawasaki’.”
Shortly thereafter, the two met up again. “I told Dylan there were two places he wanted to be – GEICO Honda or Star Yamaha. The best offer came from Bobby [Regan] and the Star guys and it was hard to argue that Star didn’t have the best bike. Dylan said, ‘Yeah, go the Star direction’. It took five or six weeks, but we got the deal done at San Diego II.”
It was all kept very quiet and in early May word broke in the U.S. motocross media that Ferrandis had signed a two-year deal to race for Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha beginning in 2017. Eyes still affixed to the prize in the MXGP World Championship, Ferrandis kept on charging in the MX2 classification.
“My speed is there and the fitness is too but maybe the mental stuff I sometime miss a bit,” explained Ferrandis the week before the MXGP of Czech Republic – a race he won with a commanding two-moto sweep. Yes, Jeffrey Herlings was absent due to a collarbone injury but the result once again proved Ferrandis’ ability to win races. “The goal now is to try to fight for the win all the time. And of course if Team France chooses me to do the Motocross of Nations, it would be an honour,” he also pointed out – Ferrandis a member of the victorious French team of 2015.
This forthcoming September, Ferrandis will get to line up against the Americans when the MXGP world tour puts stakes in the ground at the Monster Energy MXGP of Americas and the MXGP of USA at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Glen Helen Raceway, respectively. Set to compete upon his KX250F-SR, the Frenchman looks forward to it all. “It’s good that we are going to the U.S. It’s a World Championship that we do, so it’s normal to go where the sport of motocross is really appreciated. I’m really excited to ride Glen Helen but with the Charlotte race I’m a bit disappointed to ride a track in a stadium when you have amazing tracks in America like Red Bud or Millville.”
One retired motocross veteran who will undoubtedly be keeping an eye on the plight of Dylan Ferrandis will be former race winning Grand Prix and supercross competitor David Vuillemin. “I’ve known him a long time, back to when he was an up-and-comer in 80cc classes,” offered Vuillemin who came out of France to enjoy a decade-long racing career in the 1990s. “I think he’s different than the other French riders. He’s talented and technical but he’s more of an aggressive rider and has more of a U.S. style. He’s not scared to get into it compared to Marvin Musquin or Christophe Pourcel. They are both nice guys and smooth on the bike where Dylan’s more USA and really aggressive and has that U.S. style.
“I think he is decent in supercross and he’ll get the hang of it,” he furthered. “He’ll be on a good bike and on a good team and I think one day he’ll be a threat to win a 250 supercross title. Outdoors he is doing really good. He’s been the first guy in a few years to beat Herlings straight up. These days you need to be a good outdoor rider to be good in supercross. It’s different now than it was in the mid-1990s where a guy like McGrath had such excellent technique. Now all the guys need to ride hard for all 20 laps in supercross. He’s going to have to work hard. He has a lot of fun and likes to joke around and I think he’ll have to get away from that maybe. He’s aggressive and he’s not scared of contact. He has the potential to do well here.”
Jimmy Button, also once a world class racer, also sees plenty of potential in his young client. “His edginess and cockiness drive him. That’s the fire in him. I mean he and Cooper [Webb] get along really well and Cooper spoke highly of him to Yamaha. I really think he has a shot coming in and I know he’ll do the work. He understands he needs to do the work to get where he wants to be.
“He can come over after the last GP and get into supercross and ride it the whole off-season. Come January, if he’s healthy and depending on which coast he rides, I think he’s going to be a threat at the beginning. If he can get a few good results right away and get his confidence and starts to think, ‘I’m supposed to be here. I can win’, I can see him contending and maybe winning a few races. And as far as the outdoors, he’ll be in the mix at the first gate drop in Sacramento.”
Come the conclusion of the Motocross of Nations in Italy in late September, Dylan Ferrandis will turn his full attention to California and the Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha outfit he will go to work for.
“The team looks cool and strong and won the motocross and supercross championship so it’s the most important team,” said Ferrandis. “I don’t know the riders. I’ve only meet Cooper Webb at the Lille Bercy race last year and Cooper and his mechanic were super-cool. I really look forward to racing in the U.S. – for me, outdoor motocross is the fuel of motocross but supercross is the most fun thing ever invented for a dirt bike. When I was young we would build a small supercross track at my home and ever since I have practiced with the whoops, the triple jump and the step-up and step-down jumps. I can’t live without doing all that!”
In a never ending quest to find championship-calibre motocross talent all over the world, the elite teams of the sport are ceaselessly looking for lightning to strike. Dylan Ferrandis went looking for Star Yamaha and an opportunity in America and in Ferrandis the factory Yamaha 250cc satellite team hopes they have found a rider who can win them AMA titles. Whatever will be, will be and Dylan Ferrandis is full-on ready, willing and able to make a run at his dream.
“I don’t plan to leave my home country, my family and my friends for nothing – that’s for sure. The plan will be to try and fight for every race win. I know the first year is not going to be easy because everything will be so different but it’s a nice and big challenge. It has been a dream since I was young and watching racing videos of the American championship. It was what Tortelli and Vuillemin and Pichon did and that was what I wanted to do. I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s because the sport of motocross in the USA is really famous and appreciated compared to Europe. Now it’s more an accomplishment than a dream.”