Features 6 Feb 2024

Debrief: 2024 Supercross Rd5 Detroit

Main event winners Lawrence and Forkner recall fifth round.

Rebounding in the 450SX class in Detroit was Jett Lawrence, as he became the first two-time winner in the 2024 Monster Energy Supercross Championship, while Austin Forkner stamped his intentions by winning the opening round of 250SX East competition, marking his first victory since 2022. Both riders were available to the media following the main events for this Debrief feature.


Image: Octopi Media.

Jett, some redemption for you. I know the past few rounds have been kind of rough. So, how does it feel to get on the top step once again like you did at A1?

It definitely feels nice. It’s been a rough couple of weeks on the riding side of things and obviously off the bike, but no, it helps make these wins even sweeter. And it’s a good bit of motivation, you know?

You and Kenny [Roczen] both mentioned the track was breaking down, getting tough. And you said there were two times that were kind of scary for you. Can you bring us through those?

Oh yeah, I thought it was my time those two times. But luckily it wasn’t yet. It was scary. I think my main big one that I had where I winded myself on that table top, I found out my shifter was hitting the rut when I went to seat bounce. So, I’d kind of go into like neutral because I was in first gear. So, that was a scary one and I was able to fix that. Then the other one was just, I took a different line, I wasn’t fully switched on and kind of endoed, to whiskey throttle, but thankfully I was able to kind of keep it on two wheels and bring it home after that. I was just doubling almost through things. So, it was nice to bring it back home.

It’s been a couple crazy weeks. Firstly, we’ve seen you hit the ground a lot in the last few weeks, are you feeling sore from that? And then secondly, the negative reactions from the crowd just kind of generally over the last few weeks, how do you deal with that mentally?

Well thankfully I’m still pretty young, so the recovery time is fairly quick. But I mean, [the crowd] is just noise. I mean, a lot of people have had it before and it’s not like it’s the first time it’s ever happened in the sport. So it is what it is. Just helps like a little motivational stuff, kind of wanting to go out and do good and obviously the past few weeks haven’t been quite the best with the results, making silly decisions and wanting to win so bad. So this kind of cost me a few mistakes. This kind of reset things tonight, just kind of go back to my old ways of trying to get a good start and just hit my marks.

On the broadcast you mentioned Jett Lawrence showed up tonight. What’s the biggest difference from this to the past two weeks for you?

I think the biggest difference for me is my decision making. The past few weeks have just been kind of not as good. When I say Jett Lawrence, I mean like [in the head], not so much riding side of things because my speed’s been not too bad, but it’s just more poor executing. So yeah, I think what I mean by that, is performance side of things less and more just kind of mentally, decision wise.

What changes have you made to the motorcycle in the last five weeks?

If you went from A1 until now, it’s been a quite a big change. We came into A1 with it being pretty stiff. We went a lot softer, but obviously we haven’t really got to test it out much because the last few rounds have been pretty muddy and then obviously A2 we got to test it a bit and it felt really, really good. But it was nice to kind of come to a track that had traction and would pull the bike in, cause then our other setting would work a little better. So it’s good learning for me to learn this 450, it’s a tough bike to learn with all that motor. So it’s a cool learning curve for me, the team’s been great, been working really hard. So it’s been nice to get this win, especially in these rough conditions. Shout out to Derek for the doing our suspension and kind of getting us set up good.

We’re celebrating the 50th year of supercross this year. You only have two 450SX wins, but you have 42 total wins in AMA, that actually ties you with Mark Barnett and Jeff Emig inside the top 15. What do some of these names and the history of the sport mean to you and your family as you climb your way up the ranks?

Personally, it’s awesome to be up there with all of those greats. My history knowledge is not the best because I was more focused on playing with friends when it was supercross night. It’s definitely an honour being up with those names, it’s cool to see that I’m slowly climbing up that board and racking the wins up. I’m looking forward to seeing where I end up at, at the end of my career. Hopefully we have a big career, but it’s definitely cool to see those names and be in among them.

You’re now two for two in regular format dry track races. Both of the wins have been fairly dominant. Do you feel the momentum shift, or are you still thinking that there’s a lot of parity going on?

Yeah for sure, the field is very stacked this year. Everyone’s fairly close in speed. So I think the biggest thing is for me is just kind of getting that consistency and consistent starts really and just always being up there. It’s a long supercross season. So yeah, hopefully it switch sides a little bit and I start getting in a bit of a groove and rhythm. We’ll obviously see, we’re going to such different kind of track conditions, here being really soft rutted, slower paced and technical and then we’re gonna go to Arizona now where it’s gonna be pretty hard and dry and it’s gonna be going mach 10. So it’s gonna be exciting learning curve. But I think the biggest thing is just trying to stay consistent.

You had a battle with Jason Anderson in the heat race. Were you a bit nervous in some of them corners? And also your starts were really good tonight, did you make any changes with the bike?

The heat race was fun with Jason. I tried making sure I showed my respect in the racing and, with him, with his previous racing, I was thinking just mentally, just get into the rut, but for some reason my body was being very cautious to the inside But no, he rode good that heat race. It was a fun battle, it was really fun going back and forth with him when it’s racing like that. I would rather do that all moto with Jason because it’s a fun way to race. And the starts, yeah we’ve done a few starts during the week and kind of changed a few things.

You’re five races down now in yourt 450 career. Are you at all surprised or does anything stand out about the way racers in the 450 class race you differently than maybe the 250 class?.

I think in the 450 class, I definitely feel a lot more comfortable going down the rhythm next to someone, like with Jason I could go down, even through the whoops, it was nice to go down next to him and kind of be pretty relaxed with him just there because I know he’s very good in the whoops. In the 250 class you don’t know what you’re going to get. I like racing the 450 guys, they race good, they race hard. It’s good learning for me.

The rhythm after the finish line, we saw in practice qualifying, you were downsiding the table, quadding in. Did that seem feasible at all? Was that faster? And then secondly, did you ever consider quadding into the rhythm before the whoops?

Yeah the first part, I just kind of tried it for another line really, because I kind of knew this track was gonna get beat down pretty hard. So if it’s another rhythm and you’re staying out of those deep ruts, it gives me a bit more of a safer kind of route through that rhythm. So I definitely thought of it, but obviously the ruts got pretty gnarly in that up ramp so, it was harder to do it. And then yeah, before the whoops, I never really thought of it. I obviously would have liked to, but it was just not the right place and not the right dirt to do it. I knew I probably would have got it once when it was fresh maybe, but then in the main I wouldn’t be really doing it at all.


Image: Octopi Media.

Austin, huge win here tonight for you. We spoke to you back in December about the tremendous amount of struggle and injuries that you’ve been through. You spoke on the podium about changing your attitude, which you spoke about back in December also. Can you tell us a little bit about that change you made mentally, to be here today and take this win?

Not only mentally, but I made a change to my program this year. I started working with Ryno [Hughes] and Charles Dao off the bike. I feel like I just made a point of surrounding myself with people who are there to lift me up basically. I feel like that’s just really important in this sport, you can have one good race and be on top of the world, then you can have a bad one and be so down. So having people around that keep you on the right track and keep you focused on what you need to be focused on, I think that’s really important. I think the mental change was kind of just having more fun riding. Everybody know that injuries, in any sport, it takes away the fun, you don’t want to do it as much because you’re scared of what you fell in love with, that being dirt bikes for me. To ride a dirt bike scared at this level, you can’t do it. So just keeping the whole pre-season thing fun, we did our work, I think that shows through the whole team. But I feel like we did quality work over quantity and we kept it fun and kept me in a good mental space coming into the season and I think it shows.

Great start. Were you aware of what happened behind you? Obviously you were a little bit ahead of it, if so, did that occur to you at all while you were riding?

I heard it going in, we started braking and I could hear tires grinding and bikes clanking. I knew that there was some sort of a pile up or else guys just got really sketchy, and then whenever I came around, there were still guys down, I think both of my teammates were still down and I saw a KTM I think, I had to weave. I should’ve went inside of them, I went outside. That’s why I feel like this win was so special to me because I was there last year. I was there, I blew my knee out. I was done for the season last year in a very similar deal except, it was just me. So as the same mindset as I had last year, my mindset right after was, ‘that may not have happened if I’d gotten a better start.’ That’s still my mindset this year, but it flipped and I’m glad that I got a good start so that didn’t happen. It’s just come full circle, in terms of that it just flip flopped basically. So that’s still my thought process, that I need a good start so that stuff like that doesn’t happen.

How much of that race was managing the lead versus riding forward and pushing hard? It seemed like once Max [Anstie] got into second that you might’ve put a few hard laps in and extended the lead.

I knew Max was going to be strong, he threw down some fast laps in practice too. I think it was [Chance] Hymas behind me for a while, a rookie. I just figured that he would be fast in the beginning, but he would possibly start getting tired and making mistakes, or just get tired, period. That’s typically what happens in your rookie year. I wa just putting down my laps in the beginning, the track was fresh, so it was a lot easier to put down laps. I tried to throw down some fast laps in the heat race, but it was kind of sketchy, you had to figure out what lines had kickers and what lines were deep and what weren’t. Whereas, in our main event, it was fresh. So you could go wherever you wanted to. So I kind of took advantage of that tried to throw down some laps, but not get too much of a, ‘go,go,go,go,’ mentality. I tried to keep it under control, keep within myself and then I started to gap just a little bit. I saw Max got into second and I knew I should throw down a couple of heaters or at least just try to maintain the gap. I did that, then the few laps I backed it off and tried to manage, but yeah these guys rode a great race. I had a five second lead at one point, but I was kept pretty honest all night. Unfortunately thought, a lot of those guys went down in that first turn, but I don’t think this east coast 250 class is short on talent. If a couple of guys go down in the first turn, there’s guys that are going to fill their spot.

What are some of the thing you worked on with Ryan Hughes that helped elevate your game this season?

I think it just comes down to what’s been my achilles heel, and that’s the injuries, obviously. It’s not rocket science to see that. So we kind of started with just what’s going to try to make me, not necessarily a faster rider, because speeds never really been an issue for me, it’s been the longevity, it’s been maybe some technique things here and there, it’s been making my speed something that my technique could handle, because I have always had speed and maybe my speed over powered my technique. Maybe my drive and my, ‘do it, do it, go, go, go,’ outweighed some of the smaller things, that maybe I needed to work on, to bring up and match that speed. It was overshadowing a lot of other things, which maybe was the reason why I was getting hurt. So I feel like slowing down and working on some of the technique things, it’s not crazy. I mean, you can go to Ryno’s Instagram and see kind of what he preaches and what he’s about, but doing that and getting hands on and working on that, combined with working with Charles in the gym, we all believe in the same thing and what we’re trying to accomplish this year.

You’ve had years in the 250 class where you’ve entered as the favourite and you’ve won a lot of races, then you’ve come in off the back of injuries before. In your mind, where did you see yourself finishing coming into this season?

I tried to really focus on myself in the heat and in the main. I just tried to do what we’ve been working on at the test track. I just didn’t want to get caught up, like at the test track, you have guys that are faster some days. So I was just trying to not worry about that stuff. I don’t need to be the fastest guy at the test track everyday. I need to be the fastest in the main on race night, and sometimes maybe not even the fastest, maybe just the smoothest or the most technically sound on the bike. So we went with that approach and I feel like that’s what helped get the season started like it has tonight.

Going back to when you were talking about the fear earlier. How can you control that on race day, you see [Seth Hammaker] go down. Does that make the fear creep back in? Can you talk about that?

Yeah, it does. I mean, I’ve had days where I’ve been at the test track and somebody gets hurt and we’re done. Like, that kills the vibe of the day real quick when somebody goes down and gets hurt. It just puts you in that headspace you don’t want to be in when you’re trying to ride at this level. But that just goes back to why I’ve chosen to surround myself with the people that I have. But yeah, seeing someone get hurt at the race or at the test track, it’s never ideal. But just having good people around you to keep your mental state in the right direction is defintiely important.

Was that a reference to what you said on the podium? About stopping these people talking, or is that in reference to you being this age and being able to go out there and perform and obviously win a championship?

I was just kind of saying that because people are always talking. You know, the whole comment about being 25 and being a veteran. I have people that aren’t in the moto scene that think 25 is so young, but in moto that’s not necessarily the case. But you know, I’m getting paid to ride my dirtbike and all those people aren’t, so that’s a pretty cool thing. I was just talking the talk, [laughs].

Did you learn anything from this first round that you want to change? Whether it’s bike or condition. Was there anything?

I think I could bring the speed in the main event up a little bit. I had good qualifying times, but I think maybe my speed could be a little better in the main. I feel like I got a little bit of first race jitters. Especially getting a holeshot, that was different for me. I wish I could’ve ridden a little bit better, at least in the beginning of the main. But I wouldn’t change a thing about my starts or my bike. My bike was handling really good, we’ve got a good suspension and motor setting this year, so not really anything with the bike, maybe just bring the speed up a little bit in the main.

It looked good all day, obviously the result and times were good, but it didn’t look as fast as what you were going. Is that the goal, to make it look under control even when the lap times are good?

That’s absolutely the goal. That’s kind of what Jett does, that’s why he’s as good as he is on a dirt bike. Typically, when you can go fast and you look like you’re not, first off, that’s hard to do, and second off, it saves energy, you can be a fitter rider and if you’re in control, that makes you a safer rider. So yes, doing that was definitely the goal. If I can be fast and be smooth. That actually happened at the test track a couple weeks ago, I was riding and Tony [mechanic] and just some of the guys on my team looked at my times and they were like, ‘that’s not right. It’s not right.’ Like it just didn’t line up with how I looked. So that’s a good thing. I was like, okay, we’re on the right track then.’ So yeah, definitely a good sign.