Australian Dean Ferris is riding with a famous number that is drenched in supercross history.
It was a relatively poor first supercross appearance by the #111 factory Red Bull KTM rider but Ferris shouldn’t panic as even some of the greatest names in GP motocross struggled in their opening supercross wearing that very number!
This is because the number was originally used by World motocross champions going over to the USA and, as a consequence, the riders who have used the famous number are genuine motocross royalty.
Jean -Michel Bayle, Stefan Everts, Greg Albertyn and Grant Langston all appeared in their first year in America with big reputations and expectations as World champions, and all wore the #111. That is a staggering combined total of 16 world titles but how did they fair in their first American supercross?
The great Jean-Michel Bayle rode his first supercross in 1989 in the main 250cc class but he landed on a hay bale on lap one and DNF’d! Bayle however was a quick learner and finished second behind Ricky Johnson at round five in Miama before heading back to Europe to win the 250cc World championship. Bayle of course would go on to win the supercross title in 1991 as well as the 250cc and 500cc national championships to become the only man to ever win all three US titles in a year.
Stefan Everts was the next man to wear the 111 as he did a few 250cc supercross races in the early part of 1992. Everts, despite being crowned 125cc world championship in 1991, was just back from having been called up to national service with the Belgium army! So his preparation understandably wasn’t exactly perfect.
However he did show glimpses of speed and placed ninth at Houston in his debut race followed by another ninth one week later in Anaheim. Everts did the first six races that season but would never return to the US stadiums and eventually decided to concentrate on GP motocross – which as we all know worked out pretty well!
The next guy to try his luck was Greg Albertyn. The South African was a three time world champion but had never dabbled in US supercross during his GP years like Bayle or Everts prior to his full time US 250cc debut in `1995.
It came as something of a culture shock to Greg as he promptly crashed and dislocated his shoulder in the first heat race of the year. In 1997 Albertyn won his one and only supercross at the La Coliseum en route to a best ever fifth in the series. Albertyn though would eventually win the 250cc outdoor title in 1999.
Albertyn’s countryman Grant Langston was the last KTM rider to wear the 111. He came to the US in 2001 after winning the 125cc World championship. Riding West coast 125s, GL finished a disappointing 19th following a crash but was on the podium by round three. He should have won round six at Houston but memorably crashed on the last lap after waving to the crowd! He did win the next weekend in Texas and showed he was a fast learner in supercross.
Langston eventually went on the win the 125cc East in 2005 and then the 125cc West Coast series in 2006 for Mitch Payton’s Pro Circuit Kawasaki team. Langston also won the 125cc US outdoor championship in 2003 and then the 450 outdoor championship in 2007 in what turned out to be a remarkable career.
As we can see Dean Ferris has a heavy number to carry in 2014 that historically has brought a lot of expectation onto those who have worn it. Fortunately Ferris has the mental strength to recover from his first race and figure supercross out. But the hard work starts now if he wants to attain similar or even half the success of those that have previously held the famous #111.
Words: Jonathan McCready
Image: James Lissimore