PALA, Calif. – With two races left in the season, championships are on the line at the penultimate race at Fox Raceway. The fans know it and the riders are well aware of what is at stake. Justin Cooper topped Jett Lawrence’s lap time in 250 qualifying, and Dylan Ferrandis got the better of Ken Roczen’s time. All four riders sit in the championship hunt in their respective classes, and Cooper and Ferrandis snagged the fastest lap time for the top qualifier spot and first gate picks for Moto 1 later this afternoon.
Roczen sits exactly 50 points behind Ferrandis with two races left. With 50 points being the max points on a day by winning both motos, the Frenchman just needs to gain a single point on the German to lock in the 450 title. As classic as it gets with Roczen, his smooth riding style puts him out front for most of the session. As aggressive as he runs, Ferrandis stole the top time by four-tenths on the final timed lap.
“The bike is awesome,” Ferrandis said to MAVTV after his blistering lap.
Ferrandis opened the 2021 season with a win in his 450 debut here at Fox Raceway back in May. After winning Rookie of the Year honors with the Monster Energy AMA Supercross season earlier this spring, he looks to top off his rookie season with a crown in the outdoor league. Roczen looks to stand in his way to claim his third Motocross championship, but will have to do it from the second overall gate pick.
“I would lie if I said I feel relaxed,” said the Yamaha rider. “There’s a chance to grab the championship today, so I feel tight a little bit. We have to deal with it.”
One unique challenge is the reverse layout in Pala. Earlier this year in May, the course was raced in a clockwise direction but today’s motos will be on a counter-clockwise layout. Ferrandis admitted it threw everyone in the pits by surprise, but with some extra focus and practice, everyone seemed to be able to find their fast line around the course. Add this to the nerves of the possibility of locking up a championship, and it sets up for a fantastic race for fans to watch.
“Today the track is completely different,” Ferrandis stated. “I’ve never seen the track like this before, so it’s really new for everyone which is good. It took time for many riders to find the right line, but at the end I could do a really clean lap and get this Yamaha on top. We’re going to give it our best and see what we got.”
Justin Cooper Starts the Day Ahead of Jett Lawrence
In the 250 division, Jett Lawrence recently claimed the red plate heading into the last two races of the season. With four motos left, the championship battle is still extremely close. Cooper claimed the early advantage with his fast lap in qualifying, but he knows that doesn’t collect him points for the 2021 Pro Motocross title.
“It’s not that big of a deal,” Cooper shared when asked about his qualifying effort. “It’s just about keeping the pressure on, do or die now. We got to get into these last two rounds on top. That’s really the only choice we’ve got here. We’ve been a little bit subpar lately, so we’re going to get back on track today. It’s going to be hot, so we’re staying hydrated. It’ll be important going after that win.”
As stated earlier, the reverse layout has brought unique challenges to the weekend events. One rider stalled their bike in one of the turns, and Cooper had a slightly scary moment. As he approached the blind turn, the rider was in his same line and with the deep ruts from the early day mud, he went over the handlebars. It wasn’t a hard crash or landing, and just appeared to be a slight tweak in the bars, but still a moment that made him and his fans breathe a sigh of relief.
“It’s really muddy up in that turn,” explained Cooper. “I saw the yellow flag and I knew there was someone down. I was hoping it wasn’t in my line, but it was. I tried to jump out of it, but it was just so deep that my bike just sunk. Thankfully there was a guy (corner worker) there to help me get it out, because I wouldn’t have been able to get it out by myself. Bars are a little tweaked, but I had to get some laps down.”
Last chance qualifiers are up next, then the first motos will drop the gate later this afternoon.