FLASHBACK FRIDAY | TIM FERRY’S UNHERALDED 125 SUPERCROSS TITLE
Champions are a long time in the making. More often than not, the career trajectory of a title winner reads like a heroic tale. Fraught with peril and backed against the wall, the central character somehow rises above. Many would-be champions endure growing pains on their way to eventual success, yet they exhibit the promise of what might come. Tim Ferry, the 1997 AMA 125 East Coast Supercross Champion, followed a different path. Sure, he won–Ferry was victorious in Orlando and Daytona–but those wins came two years before he captured the title. All eyes were on Tim Ferry in the 1996 season, but the Team Suzuki rider was outmatched. He had the misfortune of racing the same coast as 1995 AMA 125 East Champion, Mickael Pichon. The Frenchman won eight races in 1996 and defended his title, while Ferry was inconsistent and finished sixth overall.
For all intents and purposes, Tim Ferry was a dark horse pick for the 1997 Supercross crown. Excitement from winning two main events two years prior had faded away. It was the final year of his Suzuki contract, and Ferry was on the hot seat. He needed lightning to strike again or he feared he would fade into obscurity like so many others who couldn’t convert race wins into titles. It didn’t help that Ferry was buried deep in the 1997 depth chart. All eyes were on established stars like John Dowd and two aspiring prospects—Ricky Carmichael and Stephane Roncada.
The series kicked off at Indianapolis on February 15, 1997. No one knew then, but Ricky Carmichael threw away his opportunity to win the title in his rookie year that night. Ricky went down on the first lap and later crashed with Brock Sellards. Carmichael finished 19th, while John Dowd won the race. Tim Ferry finished second, and Stephane Roncada rounded out the podium.
INSTANTLY, TIM FERRY WAS THRUST INTO THE SPOTLIGHT AFTER TAKING THE POINTS LEAD FOLLOWING ATLANTA. JOHN DOWD WON THE NEXT WEEKEND AT DAYTONA TO RETAKE THE LEAD, BUT FERRY KEPT HIS STRING OF SECOND PLACE FINISHES GOING WHILE DOWD WAVERED.
Ricky Carmichael didn’t take long to put his name in the record book, as he won the Atlanta Supercross the next weekend. Dowd and Roncada finished near the front, which wasn’t surprising. However, Tim Ferry held on for second place. Instantly, Tim was thrust into the spotlight after taking the points lead following Atlanta. Dowd won the next weekend at Daytona to retake the lead, but Ferry kept his string of second place finishes going while Dowd wavered. Tim Ferry took over the points lead again following round four in Orlando. It was a lead he wouldn’t relinquish. The only setback the Suzuki rider encountered was in St. Louis, when he ended the evening in fifth.
There were three different winners in the 1997 AMA 125 Eastern Regional Supercross Championship. Ricky Carmichael won the most main events, at three, but he was wildly inconsistent. John Dowd won at Indianapolis and Daytona; however, an injury forced him out of the series after Orlando. Stephane Roncada was a revelation, winning back-to-back races in the final stages of the series, but Daytona was his demise (Stephane finished ninth on the outdoor-style track). When the points were tabulated after seven rounds, Tim Ferry won the 1997 East Supercross title by 11 points over Roncada. Ricky Carmichael finished third.
The Supercross title was bittersweet for Ferry. He had earned one point too many under the AMA’s advancement policy and was forced out of the 125 class. Ferry was also dropped from Team Suzuki. It was rumored that Roger DeCoster wasn’t happy with how Ferry had failed to win a Supercross race despite capturing the title. As a result, Ferry was relegated to a Noleen Yamaha privateer deal. Tim eventually returned to the factory racing fold and nearly won the 2007 AMA 450 National title. No matter what, no one can take the 1997 AMA 125 East Supercross crown away from Tim Ferry.