Interviews 22 Jun 2020

Debrief: 2020 Supercross Rd17 Salt Lake City

Newly-crowned SX champions Tomac and Ferrandis on their title wins.

The 17th and final round of Monster Energy Supercross saw the 2020 champions crowned in Salt Lake City yesterday, including Eli Tomac (Monster Energy Kawasaki) in 450SX and Dylan Ferrandis (Monster Energy Star Yamaha) in 250SX West. Both riders spoke to the media post-race via a Zoom call directly after the main events (250SX East champion Chase Sexton was absent from the press conference following the final round).

Eli Tomac

Image: Octopi Media.

Eli, I’m going to start with you. [You needed 19th place, so you knew the math was on your side and you didn’t have to do anything crazy today, but still, what was it like knowing that you had to get through it, everything had to go smooth? This morning, you were a couple hours away from being a champion, something that you’ve been chasing for a long time.

The worst part was Wednesday to Sunday. That was the worst – I was so mad. It was this close on Wednesday and, it’s just, you sit around Thursday, Friday, Saturday and then finally Sunday’s here. You try to go do your thing, but when it’s the final day and it’s there, the weight’s heavy, but I feel like the whole day I carried it really well that way. It’s nice when you have [22] points, right? You feel like you’ve got a lot of wiggle room. Just so cool, I think back to those other seasons where I was so close and basically just gave it away at the end was lousy, slow at the start. Man, it’s so cool to put it all together.

It’s one thing for you to have to hear the narrative from the outside about the mistakes and the repetition with that, but when you’re on that final lap, just rolling it in there, the last corner, was the weight… What was that feeling like, just to get that weight off, knowing that that narrative’s going to go away now? You’re a champion now.

Yeah, really, for me, it was like the last, well, it was about halfway. I’m like, man, this thing’s going to be long. The good thing was Cooper [Webb] and Kenny [Roczen] were behind me and they weren’t catching me. So I’m like, all right, I was super-comfortable, I was just cruising around and then it’s just like that and it’s over. You get to the finish line and it’s done. It’s weird. And it really is a bummer that the crowd isn’t there and the people and the fans, but there’s nothing we can do about it, so, like I said, just a lifelong achievement and just so cool.

We all talked about it, obviously, this isn’t the way we all envisioned it. It’s not the way you envisioned it, but now that you’ve won on father’s day, how important is that to you being that your dad is such a big part of your program and then also you’ve become a father recently yourself?

Really cool that we’ve been able to stay together with myself and my dad – a lot of times that’s not the case. Everyone’s got their own deal, but we’ve both been chasing this for so long, to get to this highest level and to get the Supercross championship. It was a bummer they couldn’t be right there at the podium. That actually totally sucked, but yeah, super-cool for Jess and Lev to come down there too – they at least got to the finish line, we did a little photo, but yeah, just a pretty rad day, really.

Another team and another set of trainers have won this title year, after year, after year. Was there a little motivation to prove your team, your trainer who’s your dad, your whole crew and yourself to finally end that because they had been winning a lot, for a long time?

Yeah, when you look at those guys, that whole program there, it’s won it like you said so many times in the years past. Really, it’s preparation and being ready from the get go, round one. You got to be ready from the get go. Yeah, you can make up throughout the season, but that was the difference this year too, is we were ready from round one. I didn’t really have to dink around much, finding comfort with the bike and getting through those 20 minutes, like shoot, by round two, I was back to my old self, I felt like, and we were ready to go. I never felt like I’ve been at a disadvantage that way for my program, it’s just, those inconsistent races where I’d just blow those points, I got rid of that.

After the race, you talked a little bit about the strategy going into the season. Can you elaborate on that just a little bit more and as well as your strategy for the day and the race?

So, strategy beginning the season, it was just being more in it right away. I felt like I’ve been a little slow through rounds four or five and that’s where I think my worst or my bad pinch was Anaheim 1. I felt like I was just hanging out in whatever it was, sixth or fifth. And then today, I really didn’t know what to expect from those guys, I didn’t know if someone was going to be out to get me or not. You never know on these days – there’s a lot on the line. Even the first couple of laps I was looking around, I was looking for Cooper and I’m like, ‘where is he? I didn’t see him at the front, hopefully he’s not right behind me, he’s going to try something’, or you never know. You put those things through your head, but it seems like everything settled in. The track was really torn up that way. And then I finally saw those guys behind me, so, that was it. I’m like, all right, now I’m in a good spot and that was it. So it was kind of anti-climatic, the race, but you know, that’s just how it goes, that last race sometimes.

Salt Lake City has been great for you, so what do you feel was maybe your best moment? Was there a one race win or a charge from the back that you feel like, ‘hey, this was me at my best while we were here’?

I would say the first three races. I felt like that was the time to – and it was – to get ahead. We came here with plus-three on Ken and I felt it was big to make that first race statement and then the mud race with Cooper, I rode my freaking heart out on that one. Really, those two wins and then being able to claw back in those couple, those were important too, but the wins, I felt just stamp those, were huge early on.

Looking back on the season, you’ve had seven wins, another great year and this time with the championship. Is there any one moment that stands out for you, one win? What was the actual highlight for you, aside from obviously winning the title?

The Daytona win was nice. That was another big… I call it a big dig, just really grinding into the front, but the ones that I was able to recover on, those were almost better for me because I think back to Atlanta, I mean the crash with [Blake] Baggett, that was just a dumb mistake. Being rushed that way, being down on the ground and getting back up and getting fourth, I look back to my other years where I had a crash in Dallas and I went back to say like 10th, so really, just those better moments when I was down in the dirt.

We all talked about this Salt Lake City series, these seven rounds helping you out with the altitude, helping you out with maybe the type of dirt and everything. You came into it three up and you just really crushed it, some of it due to Kenny not being quite as good either, but what did you think of the whole process of coming here?

Well, when I first think of it all, you’re so pumped that we can just finish this series. It would have been just terrible to end it in Daytona like that and just really no one be crowned or anything, having them give us the opportunity to get these seven in. I felt like the first race and this last race, it was a dust bowl, right, hard pack, but we did have multiple surfaces and conditions, the mud and stuff in the middle, one crazy late one. It seemed a little bit repetitive, but the same time it wasn’t. We got all those different tracks in, so I feel like – for being stuck in one spot – it all worked out okay.

Dylan Ferrandis

Image: Octopi Media.

There was a stat that came up on the broadcast that it was your first last chance qualifier ever, so what were you thinking? I guess, go back to the corner when you were down, it took forever to get going… what’s going through your mind at that point, knowing that uphill battle was coming?

It was tough. Wen I was kid because I always watched Supercross, I always thought LCQ is not good – you must not go to LCQ and I’ve never been before in my last four years of racing Supercross. Just the last round, going to the LCQ was difficult mentally, because you know, you’re gonna have to do it, but before you do it, you know you got a bad gate. I crashed in the second turn of my heat, the rider was on my bike and I said, okay, let’s regroup and go back and finish then less than one second to the ninth. After I went back to the truck and fixed the bike, I have to be ready for LCQ. It went well, good start. I knew in the main I’d have to give it everything and when I saw Austin [Forkner] down, I knew that it was over, I will just have to finish the race to win, so that was unfortunate for him, but that was for me, a big relief for, I would have to say.

Looking back last year and the way the championship was won at the final round, there’s obviously always talk that some luck came into play with that one. Does this one feel different for you?

I feel I was in a position of Adam last year. That was exactly what he was. And that was tough, that was the ultimate test because I never did be in this position before and it was new for me. So some pressure, I feel like I was confident in myself, my physical program, on my speed and everything. In practice, we saw that the lap-time was really good and the speed was there, but I was most scared about when someone is wanting to win so bad, what you can do. I remember me last year, what I was thinking about to do if I had the chance to beat AC for the title and that’s what scare me a little bit today. Like, Austin was really aggressive obviously the last round and I was just a little scared of what he could do. You know? I mean, if he make a pass and beat me, something where he can make me crash and I get injured or whatever, so that was really what I was a scared a little bit about. It was tough, it was a hard day mentally. I see that I make a big progress today and for the future it will help me a lot, but it was one of the hardest days of my life in racing.

In that first gate-drop, you obviously probably looked around and saw Austin up there in second, so how panicked were you, what was going through your mind at that moment when you had to get forward?

Honestly, after one or two lap, I was pretty confident because I knew I had this skill, I know the speed and in the physical, so I was kind of ready to battle and what I wanted to go front and give the best. And NCBA is honestly, when I saw him down, I just checked, I say, okay, I don’t need to push anymore. And I just cruising all the main for the seven star. But before that I saw that, [inaudible 00:03:49] I don’t know. But upfront then I was like, okay, let’s go out. I was ready for that. And applying to give everything I had anywhere.

You’re moving up to the 450 division. We talked earlier in the year, we were on an elevator at one of the races. And you said you watched the 450 guys and you’re starting to somewhat file away information on these guys because you knew you’d be racing them, knowing that you’re moving up now, how does it feel knowing that the next time you’re on a Supercross track, it’ll be with Eli and Cooper and Ken Roczen. I mean, that’s big, big, big step coming.

Yeah, for sure. Like you say, the 250 is a little crazy and wild and I feel like it’s time for me to move to the 450 and we’ll see. I’m getting older also and I think I have what it takes to ride in front. I don’t know if I would be one day able to win a race, but for sure I’m working hard and I will give everything I have to do that, so I will try for sure. I really want to move, I mean, I want to move to 450 for next year and be ready to battle with these guys – that’s a dream to ride a 450 Supercross. I definitely want to do it and I hope to have a good winter, finish on a good bike and a good team to be competitive for next year in 450. It will be my first year, but I mean… I feel like I can do something great when I see AC doing what he did this year. I know we were battling together last year, so I kind of feel a little confident of what I can do on the 450, but I know also it is such a big move and difficult move, so we’ll see. But yeah, that was my last 250 race and I’m ready to move.