News 14 Feb 2024

The Pirelli-Dunlop switch that levels Ferrandis playing field

Phoenix Racing Honda move places them in line with factory teams.

Image: Octopi Media.

An early season transfer from Pirelli to Dunlop tires has effectively leveled the playing field for Dylan Ferrandis in Monster Energy Supercross, eliminating a critical variable that now places his Phoenix Racing Honda team in line with the factory organizations.

One of the headline moves of the 2024 pre-season, the 29-year-old Frenchman aligned with Phoenix Racing owner David Eller and Factory Connection’s Rick ‘Ziggy’ Zielfelder to surface on Honda’s CRF450R following a seven-year stint at Star Racing Yamaha.

Whether or not switching tire brands is a sure performance gain on-track is up for debate, but in 450SX it is Dunlop that has the history and championships to its credit. In fact, since Bridgestone exited the sport at the end of 2009, Dunlop has been a powerhouse that has proven dominant with 14-straight premier class titles.

As it goes in racing, removing any question marks if you possibly can is the preferred method of choice, and that’s precisely what this change does for Ferrandis. Instead of being the outlier in one of the most competitive fields ever, trading Pirelli in favor of Dunlop is of value – even if his 5-6-6-9 finishes on Pirelli across the first four rounds were credible.

Ferrandis made the transition prior to Detroit and has gone 7-6 since, edging his way forward from outside of the top 10 on the weekend in Glendale to claim a convincing result. Now, he believes, improvements in the bike setting to suit the Dunlops over the upcoming weekend off will result in even more gains.

Image: Octopi Media.

“A good night,” Ferrandis reflected on Saturday night. “Didn’t start very well with my heat race – a bad start and a little crash – but the main event was pretty good. I fought my way through the pack and ended up P6, which is a good step in the right direction.

“We made some changes recently and it’s getting better race after race. Now we have two weeks to improve the bike, improve myself and try to be better at the next race. We made a big change in tires the last two weeks, so we need to try a little more suspension with the new tire that we are riding now.”

As a two-time 250SX West champion (2019 and 2020), Ferrandis’ credentials in Supercross are better than most. At least in the regional tier. However, he’s yet to find any significant success in the premier division, because beyond his first 450SX campaign in 2021, in which he finished seventh, he’s had two largely injury-affected years. Now, he wants to change that, in search of the same type of success on the 450 that he enjoyed en route to clinching the 450MX crown as a rookie in 2021.

“I work every day for this and I think that since I moved to the 450 class, I’ve never really ridden in Supercross the way I know how to ride, the way that I used to ride in the 250s,” he told MotoOnline. “That’s really the goal this year, to try be myself and race the way that I used to race in 250s. That would be great for me because I never really found that before, so that’s what I really want to do.”

Is this rapid move from Pirelli to Dunlop after just four races going to be the more familiar upgrade that they’re hoping it will be for Ferrandis? The results will tell that story. As for Pirelli, the brand new Liqui Moly Beta Factory Supercross Team is its highest profile partner at this point, which is a fascinating storyline in itself.

Image: Octopi Media.