Interviews 13 Oct 2020

Debrief: 2020 Pro Motocross Rd9 Fox Raceway

Championship winners Osborne and Ferrandis on season victories.

The 2020 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship concluded on Saturday at Fox Raceway, where Zach Osborne (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna) and Dylan Ferrandis (Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha) delivered this year’s titles. Both champions recalled their day with the media during the Zoom-based post-race press conference.

Zach Osborne

Image: Octopi Media.

Zach, congratulations on the championship. Let’s talk about your career, I mean, you have paved your own path to this point. Did all of those years and all of that work to get to this point kind of help really prepare you?

Yeah, I would like to think so. Every experience you can either learn from it or allow it to be a failure or a setback, so today was just kind of the culmination of a lot of years of doing what I do and trying to claw my way back to where I am today. Still, nothing that I’ve ever done really prepared me for the pressure that I would feel today and last night trying to sleep. It’s nice to just, I’m looking forward to going to bed tonight [laughs].

Can you pinpoint at any point where you turned the corner in your career where you went from being a guy that can challenge for podiums to being a guy that can win every single time the gate drops?

It’s hard to say. I would like to think that it was probably 2016, the year before I won championships, I was really close to winning some Supercrosses that year and it really broke me down because I was prepared, my bike was good, everything was in a really good spot and I failed. Like, four or five times that Supercross season, I was on the podium and, until that point, podiums were always like, ‘oh man, I got on the podium’ but, finally I kinda got fed up with that and I was able to win a race at Budds Creek at the end of that year in 2016. That sort of seemed to flick that switch, but then when you get in the 450 class it’s the same battle all over again, to be that guy. Last year I won a moto and this year I wanted to win a race. I won the first race and then I won the second race, then I kind of went from wanting to win to, ‘hey, maybe I can win this title’. You know, seven weeks later I’m still leading the points, I have a good gap and things were lining up. It was like a completely different level of pressure and precision that needed to be used every day, training and all the things that happen to get you to race at the final race on the final day of the championship, to be able to be in a position to win. That’s the details, that’s kind of what got me to where I am.

Does it feel weird to be the oldest champion that there’s ever been? It’s probably an odd thing to be known for now.

Maybe, but I mean, really it was just, like I said, winning is like a stepping stone. Once you win, then you want to win more… Fifth’s not good anymore, it’s just like a paradigm shift, a goal shift of everything you had going on where you just take a step up mentally, that’s kind of what happened this year. I don’t even know – it’s been crazy.

You’re a family man and you’re really known for that. How has that dynamic helped you this season?

The main thing is they are gonna love me no matter what, whether I win or I don’t win. Like you said, they’re my main focus, I would altogether. When I have that comfort and knowing that no matter what I have something to go home to, it’s an awesome feeling. My little girl, I asked her when we were going to Loretta’s 1, I was like, ‘are you going to watch the race this weekend?’, she was like, ‘well, are you gonna win this weekend?’ [laughs]. I was like, ‘okay, here we go’. But my little guy, he loves being at the races and it’s been fun getting to watch him this year just kind of enjoy running and playing in the dirt. Yesterday we built a toy bike track and he was so stoked on it, I was probably more stoked on it. It’s those kind of things that you don’t ever realize or appreciate until you become a dad, the moments, that’s probably the main thing with how they help me stay grounded.

You don’t really get a whole lot of time to celebrate, so you have big plans?

Well, I just had a pizza with real cheese on it for the first time in like three years, backed that up with a Dr. Pepper and some chocolate I found in the motorhome, so we’re off to a good start [laughs]. It’s a tough time to actually go on vacation, I would love to go on vacation, but I don’t want to go somewhere where I have to wear a mask or do all these things – I want to be able to go and enjoy it. My family and I are going to stay here in California for a couple days, fulfil some obligations and then we’re going to go back to Florida and find somewhere to go on vacation and enjoy it. I have two or three weeks completely off, no training at all, no riding, nothing, and then I’ll start riding again at the end of November and training for what we hope is a January start for Supercross, so a considerable amount of time off and just chilling. That’s the main thing, I can be happy or relax kind of anywhere. Obviously my kids have obligations with school and my daughter is in gymnastics, so we kind of have to pay attention to those things too, so we’ll get definitely some vacation time and some downtime, but also still kind of doing the normal.

How were the nerves today, did they get to you at all?

Obviously I had a decent lead coming in, 24 points, so I knew it was mostly about executing two good starts and kind of keeping my bike in tact. The stress was high because you want so badly for the result to happen to win the championship, but as far as being nervous, I felt really, really good about my chances and I knew that I just needed to execute what I have been kind of all season and it worked out for me today.

How different was the feeling of winning between the 250 championship and this one, minus the size of the bonus? Can you compare the two?

I would say the first championship I won, obviously in 2017, the Supercross championship, was the climax… It’s hard to beat that, but this one is definitely right up there. It’s been a hard-fought season. I’m older than anyone that’s ever done it, which is quite an accomplishment as well, so there’s a lot of things that were kind of stacked against me, but it just felt amazing to cross the finish line when you’re in that situation and the moto’s long. The track was really rocky today, uuou hear a noise and you think, ‘oh man’! Everything you hear and everything you feel is just magnified by 50, so as far as nerves, it wasn’t that bad, but stress was pretty high.

On that note, on your age, do you have a plan or a goal on how long you want to do this for?

No. My deal with Husqvarna is through next year, through 2021 and they’ve been talking about maybe 2022, so for me, it’s just as long as they want to kind of keep me and I’m still relevant and doing good. I’ve had a successful career here in the last four or five years and I want to continue that. It would suck to kind of just fade away or be irrelevant in 10th place or whatever, so as long as I can be competitive, run at the front and contend for wins and championships, then I’m happy to do it. I don’t know past 2022 about that, but we’ll see.

You mentioned about you thought about retiring in March. How much does this title fuel your fire for next year?

Massively. That’s the reason why I considered it, because at the time I was riding like crap. I was struggling and I didn’t feel like I could be in contention for wins or being relevant, so to know that I can do it and know that I have the team and bike to be able to do it, it’s inspiring to me. As long as I have health and this is god’s plan for my life, then I’ll continue.

How much does winning this title help your mindset heading into 2021? That belief.

I think it will help a lot. More than anything just kind of a weight lifted because a 450 championship is a pretty big deal in our sport, so for me, it just kind of brings some validation, takes some pressure away to where I can just kind of free up and ride more openly and have more fun with it. It’s more of a confidence thing than anything, I know I can do it now, so I hope that I can continue.

You mentioned the retirement consideration, but how serious was that thought? Was it just within your family or did you go to Husqvarna and let them know what you were thinking?

It was more just me and my wife, probably more of just me, because I was kind of afraid and it was a big decision. It was one of those things where I needed to take some time and kind of discover if this was really what I wanted to continue doing. It was a massive injury that I had at the time. I had five broken vertebra and two that were 50 percent compression loss of height, a broken wrist, two punctured and partially collapsed lungs and it was a big deal for me. It wasn’t a scared thing, it was just that I was struggling to get going again and find the motivation. Obviously, in the end, it was the right decision and I’m grateful for the decision that I made, as well as my wife’s influence on not allowing me to quit in a hard time or in a hard spot.

You were on the Geico team for a little while and then you moved to Husqvarna. I don’t think it was like you were the hottest free agent ever, but you did go to another level on that team. What was it that got you to the next step?

Definitely, it had something to do with it. When I took the deal, they were obviously kind of transitioning back into kind of the new coming of Husqvarna, the new coming of Husqvarna. I was doing a lot of off-road stuff at the time and that kind of seemed where things were headed for me, to GNCC or something like that, so I kind of took the deal thinking if this two years goes good then they’ll re-sign me, if not, then maybe they’ll have a space for me to do something else. I was hired by Bobby Hewitt and Dave Gowland and there were some times where they weren’t supposed to sign me and they did and… I mean, the story is written. We are a group of guys who love to go racing, we all appreciate each other and we have a lot of fun, like we legit have a good time every weekend. I think it shows in our results and in the atmosphere around our team, especially when we have all the riders and everybody is kind of doing their thing. It’s a fun atmosphere. I’ve said it a million times, but I wish there was a way to film our lounge for a weekend at a Supercross, because it’s pretty comical.

This weekend was weird because you ended you ended up being the only rider on the team, so how did that change the dynamic?

I felt like there were like 15 people standing around looking at me like, ‘okay, so we’re going to win the championship today, right?’ I’m like, ‘I wish RJ [Hampshire] was here or I wish the other guys were here, just Dean [Wilson] or Jason [Anderson] or anybody at this point’. Everybody was standing here looking at me, there’s only so many people that can work on my bike, so it was a lot of pressure. It’s just fun, man, all the guys, everyone gels well. There’s nobody that has an ego issue where it’s their rider or this or that. It’s just like everyone is pulling in the same direction and that’s whatever is best for the team at the time. That’s rare in any sport and I think we’ve kind of hit something off the wall with it being that way, so I hope it stays that way forever.

You were a great rider coming out of the amateurs and then you didn’t get much of a chance at all, it was gone so quickly. Then you managed to rebuild yourself and come all the way back. Do you think if you had just gotten another year or two in America to find yourself that you would have reached these heights or did you need to experience all these lows to get to this point?

No, I would definitely not… Who knows? I don’t believe in my heart of hearts that I would be where I am today without the experiences that I’ve had. It’s not just racing experiences, either, it’s a lot of life experiences. I had a high-level ride and everything that you could want as a kid as an amateur from the time I was 12 years old until I lost it all and kind of went down a different path, but the rubber had never met the road for me until it was time to do it for me and for myself. I actually owe a lot of my success to the guys that were on my original team when I went to England, the Dixon Racing Team, because they kind of rekindled the fire for me, a passion that I never really had… It just brought racing to me in a different light, a lot of fun and it didn’t have to be so corporate, there was no pressure. We just had a genuinely good time and it’s much the same as the team I’m on now. I think that that’s why when I came back with Geico, it was very corporate and square, it’s an amazing team, they’ve had an amazing career as a team, but it was just too stiff for me. I needed that atmosphere and to feel those feelings again. When I came back with them, I kind of had the same feelings that I had when I left, then when I came to this team, it was more it can still be fun and racing in America. Back to your question, I doubt it. In the grand scheme of things I don’t think it would be the same today without having been where I was.

Dylan Ferrandis

Image: Octopi Media.

Dylan, congratulations. A great season for you all in all, you could tell you came here looking to take care of business this season, so what does it feel like to now be a national champion in the US?

It’s awesome. Really, the goal is accomplished, I’m really proud and honored. It’s been a really crazy season, I never dreamed that big to win a Supercross and motocross championship in the same year, so it’s really awesome. I put the work behind, so I kind of feel like I deserve it. We had some ups and downs outdoors, but last year I finished second behind Adam, that was really something I don’t want to live again. I was so frustrated, I was getting really mad about that and I know what happened. After Supercross I was not hungry to win enough and he was, so I paid. This year I really wanted to win everything and to be behind the gate for a win and nothing else, so that’s what I did and what I tried to do every weekend, so just awesome, a perfect season for me. Like I said, I had dreams before to be Supercross champion and motocross champion too, but doing both in the same year is just unexpected and it’s awesome.

How did you approach today? It looked like you went in and you were willing to run for the victory and race for the win if you had to, but obviously had to take things as they came to you.

For sure, I start my day with the goal of winning, but at the same time the championship is what we all want, so that was the main goal and I knew if I had to let it go some place or whatever to be champion, I would do it. First moto, I was really happy because J-Mart [Jeremy Martin] was behind me. I was like, ‘wow, okay let’s go, it’s going to be a war again like Millville’. Then I kind of made the gap and passed my teammate to finish second behind Jett, so after that, I felt like it was almost done. I had 23 or 22 points, so I was like, ‘okay it’s safe now, I can just relax’. Then in the second moto I got a good start, I really tried to go for the win, but I made a small crash in the back section – it was so dusty that I just couldn’t see enough where I put my wheels and I crashed. After that I pushed a little bit to get back in front, but at some point I was like, ‘okay, it’s fine’. I just finished the moto and enjoyed these last laps on the 250 bike, Star Racing is such a crazy bike, enjoy this moment and we clinched the championship.

With your bonus with winning, is there anything fun that you and your wife plan on purchasing?

I don’t know, we didn’t really think about it. I think right now we think about our future. My future is to move in 450, most of the riders in 450 have one place in California and one in Florida, so maybe that’s something that we are going to do. But, honestly, last year when I won my first championship we paid off the house and that was enough for us – we never had the goal to be rich or nothing. After that we were just so happy and now I don’t know, the bonus just came and again and again, so it’s awesome. We just live a normal life, we don’t need anything more than anyone. Also, we have some such crazy sponsors that they already want to make some gift to us, that’s what they told us today, so I don’t know, I think maybe we start to look at getting a place in Florida for the future and for being in the best position for next year in 450.

You mentioned just a minute ago that last year maybe your mentality wasn’t where it needed to be and you changed it for this year. Do you feel like you’re ready to use that same mentality going into the 450 class and be a top contender?

Yeah, absolutely. I know I made a mistake in the past and I learned from that, so I think it was just good – when you make such a mistake and you learn it makes you better. That’s why I was better this year. I think Adam [Cianciarulo] and also Chase [Sexton], they showed me a little bit the path for next year, so I see what they can do and I feel like I fight with these guys, so I can do the same or maybe better if I work hard. So, for sure, I’m aware about this challenge, but we will put in the work this winter and try it and we’ll see. I mean, everything is going to be new, new team, new bike, new championship, so I can’t really say much now, we’re going to see next year. That’s all.

You crashed or went off the track early in that second moto. Did you start to get worried at that point and did all the weird stuff start running through your mind?

No, not when I crashed, but at the start of the second moto when I see my teammate Justin Cooper had the issue on his bike, I really shit myself. I was like, ‘okay, I don’t want to be one more French rider who fails at clinching this title’, so I was really scared. But I did the start, I had a small crash in this back section, which was by the way a terrible, terrible section on the track, then I came back and when I saw it was five laps to go, I just saved my engine, just ride smooth and just finish the race. The crash was not a big problem, but when I saw my teammate having a problem, that scared me a lot [laughs].

If you won the moto and Jeremy finished fourth you would have wrapped up the title. It looked like at one point you were going after Jett and then maybe the lap to go you kind of just settled for second, so did you know kind of what you would have needed in the first moto to wrap it up?

For sure. I talked to Jett after the race and said, ‘I needed to pass you to win the championship!’. I tried, but before the last lap I made a small mistake and lost some time… I kind of gave up. Not really gave up, it was just not close enough to put some attack on. I was aware of it, but it was more fun to win the championship on the second moto than first moto.

It sounds like you actually knew about this weird French thing, that every time a French rider gets close to this title, something goes wrong.

Yeah, for sure. I followed this championship for so many years, I seen in the past that happen. The last was Marvin [Musquin], I think he had a bike issue at the last round, so for sure, I was thinking about it. Also the French media, they shared so much stuff this week about it and, for sure, I looked because I wanted to know what they were saying. I don’t really trust luck or stuff like that, so we proved that it doesn’t work this way.

Looking back, is there any one particular highlight that you can kind of recall that you look at as a stand-out for you?

Yeah, for sure I think Millville was a big battle between J-Mart and I. The fact that I won on his home race and grabbed the red plate, I think that made a big difference in the championship. For me, like I said in the past, that was one of my favorite tracks to ride and I never did good there, so I think it was a big change for the championship – I think it was the most important race for me.