Features 12 Mar 2024

Debrief: 2024 Supercross Rd9 Birmingham

Main event winners Lawrence and Vialle recall ninth round.

For the second week in a row, it was Jett Lawrence and Tom Vialle who were victorious in the 450SX and 250SX East categories. Monster Energy Supercross in Birmingham saw Lawrence extend his lead in the premier class, while Vialle took over the red plate for the first time in his supercross career. Both riders were available to the media following the main events for this Debrief feature.


Image: Octopi Media.

Jett, another rough track tonight. It was hard to see you making any mistakes out there, but you said it wasn’t an easy win for you tonight.

This track was almost harder than last weekend, especially with those rhythms. Because, last weekend in Daytona they were soft and you could stay straight easier. Where these rhythms, especially that first one, we were slowly going back to the left more and more. But you’re coming out of the corner in first gear, slowly, and trying to get the pop for that three-on, three-off kind of thing. I was trying my best to not make any mistakes, it was a good track and I felt like my focus was good. Cooper [Webb] was there the whole time, he wasn’t really giving up the whole time. So it was cool to have that to help me stay focused.

Were you aware of the gap and were you managing it? Or were you riding as fast as you could to stay ahead of Cooper?

I feel like with some of the tracks we’ve had this year, they’ve had a limit of speed. Cooper would probably agree that you didn’t want to push too hard cause the track would bite you back. So I felt like both of us had that limit, but there was a few laps I was able to just push that little bit. But most of the time it was more maintaining, just cause you don’t want to lose heaps of time by pushing that bit extra trying to gain heaps.

The track was prepped to prepare for the rain. There were no whoops and there were some differences in the track. How did you find it? It still seemed like there was great racing.

It definitely made racing a lot closer without having whoops. It was kind of nice to have something different, we’re always used to having whoops. It definitely made close racing. I still like having whoops, but it was nice to have a little break in tempo, kind of thing. With the ruts, it really got everyone a lot closer.

You reference back to old Jett versus new Jett with mental changes. What is it that you’re changing?

I think the biggest thing is staying focused and every now and then, being okay with giving up some time here and there. Normally if I were to over jump a little, I’d still try and go for it and I’d either over jump again, or frame case the next jump and lose a lot more time. So I think the biggest thing is just knowing it’s okay to let up a bit every now and then. I’ve always tried to be so perfect and thought I had to hit a rhythm no matter what. With the power of the 450 the rhythms are a lot easier and I think in the previous rounds I was relaxing too much with that and it would catch me. A lot of those mistakes were on easier parts of the track, so I think it’s just maturing. I’m racing against guys who are very smart on the bike and have a lot of experience. So it’s been good to learn from them.

Can you take us through the first turn? We couldn’t really see you, then you snuck through with the holeshot.

Yeah I had a pretty decent jump, but Cooper on my inside had a better jump than me. So coming in, thankfully, no one was that close to Cooper on the inside, so I was able to sneak trhough and cut across. It ended up working out not too bad tucking underneath. I just tried to get that rhythm and that next turn, cause in the heat race I was a bit lazy in that rhythm and turn and Coop got me. I just made sure to execute it in the main.

Obviously you and Cooepr have had that last lap battle in Arlington, you had the incident in the heat here. Talk us through the battles, this is the first time you both have really raced each other. What is it that you can learn from Cooper for the next time you two meet on the track?

It’s cool to finally race Coop. I think it was either the 2021 or 2022 off season, Coop was training at what is now the Dogg Pound. So I got to ride with him a lot on the 250, ever since those days I was excited to race him. You always know he’s going to hunt and he’s very crafty. I’ve watched him a lot, he’s a two-time champ for a reason. So it’s good elarning and I know that in the end parts of the race, he’s lethal. So I make sure I work by butt off at the start to try and get a little gap so he’s not close enough. I know from previous practice days that he’s a beast. So it’s definitely cool learning. I love battling with Cooper, you know you’re going to get 100 percent.

There’s obviously a lot of racing to go. But has it settled in yet about what you’re doing against this strong field as a rookie?

I don’t feel like a rookie because I did outdoors. I got to race a lot of these guys, but I definitely have to stop and pinch myself every now and then. I remember when I was in Europe watching Kenny [Roczen], Cooper, [Eli] Tomac, these guys who are legends in our sport and looking up to them thinking, ‘Gosh it’d be cool just to be at a race and watch them race in person.’ You know, I had the opportunity to go and train with Cooper for a while and I remember waking up everyday smiling cause I got to train with one of the pro’s. I got to ride with Kenny a few times too, so it’s wild now that I’m racing, it’s kind of like I forget who I am sometimes. I sit on the line next to Tomac, Kenny or Cooper and it’s sick. You have to pinch yourself. Being up with these guys is an awesome accomplishment in itself, so I’m super pumped to just be racing with them. It means the world.


Image: Octopi Media.

Tom, fantasic job. First was a podium in Arlington, then winning Daytona and now winning here in Birmingham. Not everyone saw this coming, has something changed for you, specifically? Is there something that has brought your level up?

To win your fist supercross is always nice, but Daytona is kind of a different supercross track. It’s a little bit more outdoor style. I really wanted to win a normal supercross track, and today was back in a stadium. The track was a little bit wet in the afternoon, but by the night show the track was pretty great. I feel great, I won my first ever qualifying race. The I won the main and lead every lap. I don’t know, the last two weeks I’ve felt better on the bike. I had a great winter. I had a big crash in Detroit, then got a P3, then two wins. So I’m in a good way and I’m really happy.

It was stated during the broadcast that the last time someone won their first two races in a row, it was your fellow Frenchman, Dylan Ferrandis. Is there an extra level of pride that you feel being able to share that with him?

I didn’t know that. Yeah that’s pretty cool. When you win two in a row, you don’t really think about it, you just want to continue that way. There’s still a race next weekend in Indy. It’s going to be a Triple Crown, so the goal is to go there and try win, of course. It’s not easy to win, but that’s really the goal.

You’re the 31st person to win back-to-back after their first win. 19 times out of the 31, they won the championship. You’re holding the red plate. You raced every supercross, motocross, supermotocross and MXdN race last year, the only other rider that did that was Jett Lawrence. How have you kept the momentum through 30 races since you moved to America and it ends with the red plate, right here right now going into the rest of the season?

To be honest, in Europe we have like 20 GP’s through the whole year. But I feel like here in 250, the supercross season is not that hard, cause you have like nine races with some breaks. Like I think after Indy next week, we have two weekends off. So you can train hard or take some rest. It’s not like the 450’s. Then you get to the summer and have 12 outdoor races and now the SMX at the end. I just felt great last year, it wasn’t really too hard for me. I think the 250SX championship is not that hard like the 450. You start the season with a bit of rest. I feel a bit betetr this year, I had a great winter and like you said, it was really good to be able to race every race last year. I have learned so many things and I can use it this year. Just knowing that the practice and night show is a lot different to Europe, so I’m just used to it.

Did you have an extra confidence in your step through this week after getting the win in Daytona?

This was my first ever supercross win, so it always feels good the week after. I had a lot of confidence today, I felt great in practice. Winning my heat race was nice and I felt great for the main. After that start I just pushed for some really great laps, around 10 minutes. I think I had like five or six seconds gap on Cameron [McAdoo] and I just controlled it for the last four laps. The track was pretty sketchy with the ruts. But yeah, wehn you win the race, it’s always nice to go back home and train and you have confidence for sure.

You’ve got the points lead now. Obviously, it’s a differnet series, but you had the points lead in MX2 in those championships you won. Does that help you knowing that you’ve been in this position before?

It’s nice, it reminds me a little bit of when I was winning in Europe. I had quite a few wins. That’s why when I was speaking with my mechanic, I told him that I just felt the best when I was in front leading the race. I just can do my laps and focus on my lines, I think that’s where I’m at my best. Since Daytona it’s reminded me that when I lead I just have way more fun than when I’m battling around third, fourth or fifth. I just want to have great starts again and be able to be up front and win more races.

You were a great starter your whole MX2 career. Learning the starts in supercross, was it different from the MXGP’s?

In supercross the bike is a little bit differnt with gearing and suspension. So for the start, it’s a little different. I think we’re way more close to each other and the starts are shorter. Everything is tighter I would say.

A person in your corner that is pretty important is Marvin Musquin. I think he won his first Daytona supercross over 10 years ago. You’ve seen the success he went on to. What’s that like having a mentor like Marvin in your corner when you’re basically following in his footsteps?

It’s nice. We’ve been working a little bit since outdoors last year, then when I went to California in winter. We’ve been training for a few months at the test track and he’s been teaching me for sure a few things on the track. It’s nice, he’s also coming to the races. He wasn’t here this weekend, so it was nice to still be able to win. But, Marvin has been in that situation when he came from the GP’s. We sort of did it the same way, he won two MX2 titles, then came here. So it’s nice to have him and of course, as you said, he’s won many races in supercross. He knows how to do it and he can help me a lot.

How would you rate or compare the feeling to win two races in supercross to your past GP wins? How does that feel for you?

I would say it’s nicer. When you win your first one, I won my first GP in 2019, that was pretty amazing. Cause in Europe we only have outdoor, we don’t really ride supercross. So that’s actually why I moved here. I moved to race supercross, to one day win a supercross and a title. So that’s why after my titles in Europe, I moved here. If it was only outdoors, the series is good in Europe, but I moved here to race supercross. So I’d say it’s better for me to win supercross than an outdoor race.

They built this track a little more mellow to try and make it less technical for the mud. Were you happy with how it turned out?

I would say it was a little more easy. But it turned out still pretty technical. The speed wasn’t that fast, but the rhythms got pretty gnarly with the ruts on the bottoms of the jumps. We didn’t have whoops, but I would say if there were whoops, they would’ve been broken down pretty bad like Daytona.