The Supercross debut of Jett Lawrence was dramatic, but Red Bull upped the ante when he signed to ride for them in 2021.
The 2020 season was to be the highly celebrated debut of Lawrence until a violent crash with 4 minutes on the clock in the second race at Anaheim changed the trajectory of the Australian teenager. It gave Lawrence a new attitude and left him with something to prove.
Midway through the A2 race, Lawrence had a comfortable 11-second lead over Dylan Ferrandis until a momentary loss of concentration in the whoops caused the leader to lay down his bike.
He climbed back aboard and maintained the lead, but Ferrandis sensed weakness and closed the gap. Ferrandis grabbed the lead and put Lawrence on the offensive. In just a few moments the race changed from a near-certain victory to an epic battle.
It didn’t take long for it to change again, this time to disaster.
Pushing too hard, Lawrence endoed hard into a jump on the final lap. His bike followed him into the crash scene and slammed into his back.
At the conclusion of the night, the team announced Lawrence suffered a broken collarbone. If not for a long break to deal with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Lawrence would have missed the rest of the Supercross 250 West season.
Instead, he returned for the final races in Salt Lake City and earned his elusive first podium.
“I knew I was supposed to be up there in the top three,” Lawrence told NBC Sports. “It took me a while to finally do it, but once I got my third-place podium, I felt more comfortable about a lot more things.
“I couldn’t get any higher than that in the last round. It wasn’t my best showing, but I came back more confident and wanted to prove I learned from my mistakes.”
Lawrence finished fifth in his final Supercross race last year – a 250 East/West Showdown event that featured the best riders from both divisions.
The reputation that secured Lawrence a full-time Honda ride in 2020 was built on precision. His ability to ride a very tight line is what put him in position to win in only his third Supercross race, but it took some time to regain his rhythm and readjust his riding style to apply those hard-earned lessons.
“[The A2 accident] showed that I had to make sure I focused a lot more,” Lawrence said. “It definitely was a slap in the face. It just made sure that I was more careful and didn’t take anything for granted. In the whoops, I relaxed too much and it ended up biting me. It definitely woke me up. It made sure I stayed focused on a lot more things that I normally relax on.”
Adaptation is critical in supercross and motocross. The unexpected turn of events gave Lawrence an opportunity to redefine his reputation. Instead of being known as a precision racer, he had the opportunity to show he can also charge hard when necessary.
“I can do both,” Lawrence said. “I can be really precise and smooth, but if I need to go and charge hard, I can. I can drop down a fast lap time when I need to, or I can use the least amount of effort and still go the same speed.”
Lawrence proved as much by scoring his first professional win in the final Motocross race at Fox Raceway in October 2020. He won Moto 1 and finished second in Moto 2 to secure the overall win.
“I had been trying to get a podium for the entire outdoor season and to do it in the final round was sick—and to go and win it was a good point to leave the 2020 season on,” he said. “It points me to 2021 and it’s a good confidence booster knowing I was on top of the box. Now I hope I can start the Supercross season off the same.”
With his new well-rounded skillset established, Lawrence signed to ride for Red Bull.
But Lawrence is still one of the most precise riders in the field, so when it was time to announce his contract, the team wanted to do something unique – something dramatic
They took an existing course and shaved it to about a third of its normal width – about the width of Lawrence’s handlebars. That was not challenging enough, so they asked him to race it at night with lighted rails to mark the edge of the course.
“Once I heard that I was pumped,” Lawrence said “I couldn’t wait for the day to actually come so I could run a Red Bull helmet because I wasn’t able to touch a Red Bull helmet until I did the shoot. Once we got there and started to cut the track down, I just had a grin on my face the whole time. And to see the final product coming out was unbelievable.
“[The darkened course] made it more challenging. I was blinded by some of the lights, but to get the right shot we could only do some things with the light for that perfect look. It was challenging to stay focused with the lights and the cameras. It was a mental challenge.”
It only takes a few minutes of watching the video embedded below to see what had Lawrence smiling so broadly.