From my position at the bottom of the hill at St Jean I had a reasonable view of the long drag along the start straight. I could see most of the opening corner and the first couple of decisive turns around a narrow, hard-packed course that has never been too frugal with line choice (although St Jean was probably the best I’d seen it in a long while in terms of the terrain offering variation…even if it was still littered with sharp stones). I remember thinking it was quite odd to see the large ‘4’ on the front of Dylan Ferrandis’ KX250F glide so far wide exiting the gate of the second MX2 moto and almost come across to the pitlane wall. It seemed strange to me at the time; like Ferrandis had somehow lost control. It was only after the moto when there were rumours of the FIM wanting to talk to the Frenchman to preface this week’s British Grand Prix and include Jeffrey Herlings in a little ‘calm down’ discussion did the bizarre trajectory from the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider become clear.

Herlings – who publicly brushed aside the incident of Ferrandis coming across his line and almost putting the Dutchman into the pitlane (according to several reliable accounts) – was privately fuming and it would seem for good reason. His name had been dragged into the mire when Ferrandis crashed entering the turn and there were suggestions of possible payback. Photos and footage would reveal that Ferrandis fell alone.

Herlings had already called-out Ferrandis at the German Grand Prix last month for an eagerness to impede his path away from the startline that made for an awkward and uncomfortable post race press conference. He chose not to level another criticism at his outgoing rival in France and perhaps one of the only athletes in MX2 who can give ‘84’ a run for his money. Indeed Ferrandis is the sole rider to defeat Herlings from twenty motos this season…even if the latter was nursing a painful ankle and recovering from illness that weekend in Italy.





Are Dylan’s actions inappropriate or uncalled-for? Cutting a line without contact is a hard way to race but should it be punishable? Ferrandis – who is out of the title hunt, some 268 points adrift of Herlings’ superior total – is rightly probing a sensitive part of Herlings otherwise oak-like veneer. He’s winding-up and testing his peer. He is also flirting with danger in one of the busiest and most decisive and aggressive parts of the moto and it is this aspect that is provoking Herlings ire who has no problem in reminding any observers of his wince-inducing injuries of the past two years. He even cites the pain and bad memories of these episodes as reasons why he won’t be drawn into bouts of bar-banging. Herlings has sampled the bitterest taste of the repercussions of contact. I don’t think Ferrandis can be blamed for wanting to somehow stop the Herlings trawl in MX2 but he must also know that all the cameras and eyes on the start gate will not hide a lack of subtlety. The AMA-bound racer can be a wonderful rider and motocrosser and one that is stubbornly his own character and resolute with his individual views. Dylan may not care too much about a popularity show but I’m also sure he won’t like to leave Europe pegged as ‘dirty’.

Herlings has been in this boat before of course. It was with another Kawasaki rider in 2012 -Tommy Searle – where games of this ilk were played out as they duked for the MX2 crown. It was the last time that Herlings was properly confronted on a weekly basis. He’s pretty much had MX2 in his palm since. Searle – five years Herlings senior – eventually called a halt to the horsing around that summer and Herlings was a far more wild and immature prospect back then.

2013, 2014, 2015 and now 2016 and I think the ripe target on Jeffrey’s back is as inviting and bright as it’s ever been. Much was made of Ferrandis’ termination of Herlings’ almost-impossible bid for the perfect season, and to knock the KTM man off the top step of the overall podium has to be the next goal for anybody else in the class who originally had ambitions of championship success but realistically had to alter their perspectives somewhat. Even now it is easy to recall Josh Coppins’ name as the only rider that stopped Stefan Everts from sweeping all-and-sundry in his farewell campaign in 2006. The New Zealander won the second moto in Desertmartin, Northern Ireland to earn a small footnote among the many chronicles of this sport.

Hazardous Ferrandis’ tactics may be but I think they are also understandable. The strategy emerges from the depths of a very competitive collective of riders who are being soundly beaten each week. Only Max Anstie boasts GP winning experience in the rest of the MX2 pack but the majority of these athletes have won plenty at various levels on the way up and they know a hiding when they see one.

Photos by Ray Archer

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