Cooper Webb Exclusive Interview
Despite having won the 250SX West Region Supercross championship in 2015 and finishing second overall in the Open Class at the Motocross of Nations, Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Cooper Webb is not interested in resting on his laurels.
Cooper Webb has been racing overseas and training nearly non-stop since the end of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Series ending back in late August. Webb is looking to continue his winning ways in the 2016 Monster Energy AMA Supercross series and beyond. Ultimate MotorCycling grabbed an exclusive interview with Webb at Yamaha Motor’s headquarters in Cypress, California.
Ultimate MotorCycling’s Andrew Oldar: You started riding for Yamaha back when they still had the carbureted model. What are your thoughts on the development of the bike since they released the newest generation, fuel-injected model back in 2014?
Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Cooper Webb: I think it is one of the best bikes out there, if not, the best bike. It has come a long way and the same can be said for the Star Racing Team. I think the carbureted model was a great bike. The more we dialed it in, the more I liked it. As far as the new bike goes, you have those bikes that you ride stock and you just think to yourself, this is it. That was how it was for me. From there, it has developed into even more of a badass bike and when you combine that with my riding talent, it works out really good.
UMC: What are your thoughts on the whole Motocross of Nations experience?
CW: The Motocross des Nations was an unreal race. To this day, it is probably the craziest race I have ever done. You go there not knowing what to expect. You go there to represent your country and it does not have anything to do with yourself. It’s a full team event and you’ve got to work as a team if you want to win. It’s cool because you are sharing lines, giving each other tips, and sharing secrets with guys you have been battling all year. It’s definitely a wild experience. It was cool for me to go there and race my first one. We finished second, but we tried really hard and I think we did really well. I am looking forward to hopefully going back.
UMC: What was the culture like over in France at the Motocross of Nations?
CW: It’s always different when you go to Europe. The language barrier is the biggest thing. We were in the farmlands of France, which was pretty wild. The architecture wasn’t too different, as we weren’t in a city like Paris. We were kind of in the middle of nowhere [laughs]. It was cool. Everyone over there was really nice. They’re obviously behind their French riders, but they showed a lot of respect for the Americans. I wouldn’t say I was nervous, but they could be jerks about it all. It was nice. They were all really cool and you can really tell that they respected us coming over.
UMC: You’ve been doing a lot of off-season races to get ready for 2016. Talk a little bit about that.
CW: We’ve been really busy and have raced all over. We started with France for the Motocross des Nations and then went to Japan to race an outdoor race. From there, we went to Genoa in Italy to race a supercross and then Lille, which is just outside of Paris, France. Then we went to Sydney, Australia. It’s been very busy, but very cool to go to all of these different places and race all kinds of different riders. In my opinion, here in America, you kind of get wrapped up in just doing the same two series back-to-back. It’s cool to go expand your horizons, race other races, and come into the season race ready.
UMC: Of all of those races you’ve done outside of the United States, which would you say is your favorite?
CW: I would say the Motocross des Nations is by far the most exhilarating, for sure. As far as atmosphere and locations goes, Australia was beautiful. It is a place that I have always wanted to go as a kid and they treated us awesome. It was a short trip, as we were only there for three days. They took us on a yacht ride through the Sydney Harbour, got to check out the Opera House, and saw the Sydney Harbour Bridge. We raced on Saturday and Sunday, which was was awesome. The venue was where they had the Olympics, so the location itself was super rad. They just treated us really well and all of the Australian fans were just so excited that we were there. Every one of them who came up to us in line thanked us for coming, which was pretty cool. They have all been awesome. Japan was wild, too. It is different in that there are so many people and the fans there would actually bring us gifts. They were just super-pumped that we were there. It’s obviously a lot different racing there and all of the fans were really cool.
UMC: With all of the off-season races, have you been able to take any time off to relax and unwind from the long season?
UMC: So you were back at home in North Carolina during that time?
CW: Yeah, I actually spent a little bit of time out here in California. Then I went back to North Carolina to spend some time with the family and friends, do some hunting and fishing, and live that Southern lifestyle.
UMC: Being from the South, what is it like being in California year-round? Is it something that you have adjusted to very well?
CW: Yeah, it is a lot different and took some time to get used to. Luckily, I have a really good group of people that are supporting me and are there for me. I make it feel as much like home as I can. I moved here three years ago and I was 17 at the time, by myself. It’s a tough transition as there is nothing like the east coast, but it is part of my job to kind of adapt and that’s what I did. It’s going good so far. Obviously, I want to be in North Carolina, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.
UMC: What is it like having Eric Gass as a mechanic? You guys seem to get along pretty well.
CW: Yeah, it is awesome. I had a mechanic before him for like four years. Then, I met Eric and he is a really awesome dude. He is one hell of a mechanic and his whole attitude on life, racing, and everything is one of a kind, for sure. He makes my job a lot easier and is a good guy. Hopefully, I will have him around for a long time.
UMC: With the team bringing on a rookie rider, Mitchell Harrison, and veteran, Alex Martin, do you think the team is stronger than it has ever been in years past?
CW: Yeah, for sure. I would say we are the top team in the 250 class. Jeremy and I won championships last year. Aaron Plessinger had great results last year as a rookie. This year, we have Alex Martin, who did great last year. Mitchell is learning from all of us, which is really benefiting him. I expect this year to go really well for everybody and hopefully we can put the Star Racing Team on top again.
UMC: What is your favorite Supercross venue and outdoor national track that is on the circuit?
CW: My favorite outdoor track is Red Bud, for sure. I love that place. It is just one of those weekends. With it being the Fourth of July weekend and you have all of those American fans. The track is just unreal. For Supercross, I’ve only raced the west coast. I grew up going to Atlanta, which was one of my favorites. As far as racing goes, for me, Anaheim 1 is a cool event because you do not know what to expect. I would say Houston is probably my favorite supercross. That is where I wrapped up my first-ever professional championship. It was a perfect night. Houston is just cool. I like Texas as a state, and the town of Houston is awesome. The stadium is awesome, the dirt was good, and the track was cool. Even the year before last when I raced it, it was just one of those venues that you are excited to go to.
UMC: What is the main thing that you feel that you learned from winning your championship last year that will help you retain it this year?
CW: Mainly just how to win at title. It sounds weird to say, but you don’t really have to be the fastest, you have to be consistent. You’ve got to be there every weekend, as it is a short series in supercross. It comes down to good starts and being smart. You’ve got to know when to push, and when not to. For me, I was able to win six out of eight races, which was an awesome season for me. Now, I know what to expect and what I need to do to get the job done. I will take all of that and try to do it again this year.