PALA, Calif. — Dylan Ferrandis picked up a surprise victory in his first 450 class start to kick off the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship season Saturday at Fox Raceway.
The opening 450 class moto saw newly crowned AMA Supercross champion Cooper Webb emerge with the MotoSport.com Holeshot aboard his Red Bull KTM Factory Racing machine ahead of Ferrandis and Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo.
These three quickly jockeyed for position, during which Cianciarulo clawed his way past both riders to go from third to first before the completion of the opening lap. He quickly sprinted out to a multi-second lead over Webb, while Ferrandis and Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen battled for third.
Cianciarulo continued to build on his advantage and soon enjoyed a lead approaching the double digits just 10 minutes into the moto as Webb and Ferrandis asserted themselves into second and third. With firm control of the race, Cianciarulo saw it all go away in an instant when he crashed on one of the track’s downhills. He was able to remount, but lost multiple positions and reentered in fourth. That handed the lead to Webb, but not for long as Ferrandis seized the opportunity and took control of the top spot in his first 450 Class moto. Team Honda HRC’s Chase Sexton assumed third, just ahead of Cianciarulo.
Ferrandis edged out to a lead of just over three seconds past the halfway point of the moto, as Webb fell into the clutches of Sexton. The Honda rider, and defending race winner at Fox Raceway, made the pass for second and looked to close in on the Frenchman out front. As the moto wound down all eyes turned to Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GASGAS Factory Racing’s Justin Barcia, who was on a tear and charged up the running order. Barcia picked off Roczen, Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing’s Aaron Plessinger, Cianciarulo, and Webb en route to podium position in third.
The run to the checkered flag was a thrilling one as Sexton’s persistence brought him to within striking distance of Ferrandis on the last lap. As they exited the final corner Sexton’s outside line gave him an edge in momentum that allowed him to get alongside Ferrandis off the final jump. They crossed the finish line side by side, with the edge to Ferrandis, who secured the moto win on his first attempt in the premier class, just .099 ahead of Sexton. Barcia finished an impressive third, while Plessinger and Webb completed the top five.
The deciding 450 class moto kicked off with a Yamaha at the head of the pack as Plessinger earned the holeshot, followed by Roczen, Webb, and Cianciarulo. Known as one of the best starters in the sport, Roczen went on the offense and made the pass for the lead on Plessinger, as Cianciarulo moved up to third. Behind the leaders Ferrandis started from a spot deep in the top 10, while Sexton found himself on the ground in the first turn and started last in the 40-rider field.
Roczen sprinted out to an early multi-second advantage, his first laps led in Pro Motocross since 2019, while Plessinger gave chase. Cianciarulo lost ground to the lead duo but settled solidly into third, while Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Zach Osborne, the defending 450 Class Champion, gave chase from fourth.
As the moto wore on the battle for the overall win turned compelling as Roczen, Plessinger, and Ferrandis sat in a three-way tie early on. With the lead pair well over 10 seconds ahead of the field, the focus shifted to Ferrandis’ ability to continue to move forward, which he did in pursuit of another impressive ride by Barcia. Both riders passed Osborne and Cianciarulo, which moved Barcia into third and Ferrandis into fourth.
Just past the halfway point of the moto Plessinger started to put the pressure on Roczen for the lead. The German successfully withstood Plessinger’s move and forced the Yamaha rider into a mistake, which put some distance between the top two.
Behind them, Ferrandis was able to get a firmer grasp on his lead in the overall classification with a pass on Barcia that moved the Frenchman into third. Roczen was able to build on his advantage as the moto wore on and carried on to capture his first moto win since the Unadilla National in August of 2019 by 11.8 seconds over Plessinger, with Ferrandis in third.
With his 1-3 moto finishes Ferrandis, last season’s 250 class champion, became the first rider since Ryan Villopoto in 2009 to win in his full-time 450 class debut in Pro Motocross. The Frenchman also gave Yamaha its first premier class win since the final round of the 2018 season. In his anticipated return to the championship, Roczen earned the second-moto tiebreaker to finish in the runner-up spot (6-1), while Plessinger captured his first podium result in third (4-2).
“It’s amazing. I think I need to just win one to feel a little bit more comfortable being in that position (up front),” said Ferrandis. “In the second moto I was feeling great. We came through the field and passed some really strong guys. It’s crazy, I (didn’t) wake up this morning thinking about winning the overall today, so it’s unbelievable. It looks like the hard work paid off.”