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Catching up with Cooper

Jul 302017

The jump from the 250cc category up to the 450cc division in American racing is far more daunting and challenging than it has been in recent history, and Cooper Webb’s trajectory between the two has, in some ways, illustrated that axiom. Nonetheless, the MonsterEnergy/Yamalube/Chaparral/Yamaha Factory Racing Team has fared quite well and certainly appeared to be on a roll in recent rounds of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship before tweaking his knee in Minnesota. Out of commission this last Saturday at Washougal, and with a bit of time at his disposal, this writer sought out America’s next great supermotocross hope. In good spirits and in a talking sort of mood, the following is what Coop had to say.

Q&A

Cooper, how’s your knee doing?

It’s good. They’ve been doing a lot of therapy on it, at least as much as they can here in North Carolina. They’re just trying to get it stronger and everything back to normal and stuff. Luckily, it wasn’t anything too bad. It was just a partial tear in my meniscus. We kind of made a decision as a group, with Yamaha and my trainer and everybody and they were like, “Hey, maybe we should skip-out Washougal and try not to make it any worse. We have a break next weekend, so let’s give it a couple weeks to heal up the best it can and try not to reinjure it.” Hopefully, if everything is going smooth, we’ll try to be back at Unadilla and race the last few Nationals and the GP in Florida.

Before you banged up you knee in Minnesota, you certainly looked to be gaining momentum in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. In fact, you just missed out on the podium at Southwick. To your way of seeing things, how were the Nationals going?

Yeah, it was good; it was nice to get the ball rolling. We changed the bike quite a bit and went to Southwick and had a good race there. That second moto was a bit of a bummer with stalling it late, but I ended up fourth overall. At Millville I had a good run in the first molto and was in a good position in the second moto to possibly be on the podium, but unfortunately I tweaked my knee. I still got fifth overall, but it was definitely a bummer. I kind of feel like that has been the story of the year: once I get some momentum going, I have some sort of issue. But it’s all making me better and definitely making me hungrier to continue to keep working and to be better.

What do you think of the 450 racing, Cooper? Is it a lot different than the racing in the 250 class?

Yeah, to me it is. It’s funny. When I was in the 250 class and watching the 450 guys, you don’t really notice stuff. Yeah, both classes are competitive, but in the 250 class last year, especially with having the red plate and stuff, they definitely don’t put up as much of a fight. In the 450 class, every position, whether you’re in first or you’re in 12th, they battle you as hard as they can for as long as they can. That’s been some adjusting and getting used to. And as far as racing a 450, experience comes into play. Bike set-up is huge. The way those guys race is different. Like I said, they’re more experienced and they’re a lot smarter; they know the dos and the don’ts. It’s been tougher, but I’ve learned a lot and I feel like I’m getting better every weekend. I’m just looking forward to getting back out there and learning as much as I can the rest of this year.

Was there also a pretty dramatic difference between the 250 and 450 class in supercross?

Yeah, it was really the same way. I mean there are just so many good guys in the 450 class. It was very similar. To me, and it sounds crazy, but the biggest adjustment was the heat races and the semi races and all that. In the Lites class, you just had that one heat and then you go from there. Making it out of that heat race was so important for a gate pick and it was hard to do. They were such quick, intense, go for it races. The longer main event races were also different. There were so many more laps and so much more racing. That was definitely different. Everybody was fighting for every position, always.

Yeah, but there were certainly some shining moments from Cooper Webb. The third place ride you had at Oakland immediately comes to mind. I’ll leave this to you to answer, but you have to know you can run the pace and do it on the 450.

No, exactly. I believe in myself and my abilities and all that. At that race in Oakland, I kind of got things rolling. I was on the podium at Oakland, but then, unfortunately, I hurt my shoulder that following weekend at Dallas. I know I’ve still got it. I know this year has been not what we’re hoping for, but I know what I’m capable of and I think there is just a lot of learning to do. You know, learning a new team, learning a new bike, learning a new series. You have to be on top of your game every time you’re on the track.

The Yamaha 450 factory team was, for all intents and purposes, built around you. All things considered, have you been good with how the development of the team has been for both you and Yamaha?

Yeah, for sure. It was just a different group of people. For me, coming from Star Yamaha, that was always a very small team. It was a lot different. You know going to Yamaha, where you have different personnel for everything and where you have the ability to change so much on a bike, it’s different. All those guys on the team have all that experience and have been involved in winning at some point in time going all the way back to the 1970s (laughter). It’s cool to have that much experience, but it was a lot for me to kind of take in at first. And for me, I think I put a lot of pressure on myself at the beginning of the year to really try to perform. We had to learn each other and learn what works for me and what doesn’t work for me. I think, for me, I came in with a different mindset than maybe I should of. But, yeah, overall they’ve been great and we’ve been busting our butts on all ends trying to get me more comfortable and to get the bike how I kind of would like it. It’s been good so far and I know I can’t wait, and I know they can’t wait, to get on that 2018 bike.

Yes, there has been a lot of talk about that new bike. Is that 2018 bike waiting in the wings for you?

(Laughter) Yeah, it’s been a different bike, for sure. Coming from a 250 to a 450 is a big transition. But, yeah, the 2018 bike is incredible. It feels just like my Star Racing 250 did, if not better. I’m really, really anxious to get on that thing and show what I can do on it.

How about this approaching off-season?

You know, I’m not too sure. I’m still kind of planning everything out and figuring things out. I know with the new bike we talked about not doing any international races and just really focusing on testing and just having a very good off-season. As far as training and all that concerned, I really feel I can be a contender for a championship and up there on the podium and winning races, so I really want to put in as much as effort with training and testing and everything I need to do during those three months of preparation before Anaheim. For me, that’s the plan for right now. I’m not exactly sure of all the details right now, but I plan on doing all that and seeing how it goes.

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