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Yamaha’s Supercross Championship Celebration

Yamaha’s Supercross Championship Celebration

Vital MX Perspective!
Yamaha’s Supercross Championship Celebration  
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Earlier this week, Yamaha held a celebration at their corporate headquarters in Cypress, CA, to commemorate James Stewart’s 2009 Supercross Championship, and they definitely rolled out the red carpet to celebrate their second Supercross title in a row. The L&M team and James both arrived by limousine, and the offices and grounds had been decorated in honor of the occasion.

James Stewart arriving in style. (Click this or any of the photos below for a larger version.)

Among the speakers were Yamaha’s racing honcho, Keith McCarty, who said, “During my 32 years here at Yamaha I’ve had the pleasure of working with some great riders. Bob Hannah, Broc Glover, Mike Bell, Jeremy McGrath, Doug Henry, and Grant Langston, just to name a few.”

Continuing, Keith added, “With each championship we’ve won, it seemed like no other. There was something special about each and every one of them. This one was very special to me for several reasons. It was the second championship in a row that the YZ450 won, and also it’s a dream come true to work with a rider like James Stewart. We’ve all read about him for a number of years, but to get to work with him is a pretty special thing.”

Yamaha's Keith McCarty has seen it all, from mechanic to head of racing for Yamaha.

Keith also introduced a special guest, another of Yamaha’s champions, Doug Henry. Doug offered up congratulations, and had a story of his own to tell. “About 15 years ago Yamaha decided it was time to get into it and make a true four-stroke. A racing machine. At the end of 1996, after the motocross season, Keith McCarty asked me about being the rider for Yamaha’s four-stroke racing project. At first I didn’t know what to think but Keith, with his way of words, said. ‘Who knows? It could be the best thing since sliced bread.’ He and I talked about it, and with those words, I committed myself to the development and success of Yamaha’s four-stroke racing machine. The last week of 1997, I remember countless hours of testing and fine-tuning our settings, leading up to that historic Las Vegas event.”

“We showed up at the track, and there were some positive and negative comments. One mechanic said, ‘Wow, that’s a work of art.’ Mike Kiedrowski walked by and said, ‘You really think you’re going to qualify on that thing?’”

It was cool to see Doug Henry make the presentation of a championship bike to James.

“My mechanic at the time, Pete Steinbrecker, and I grinned. We both knew that with the power delivery of the four-stroke, and the hard packed blue groove Las Vegas track, it could possibly make this the perfect storm. That it did. We won that night, and Yamaha made history, paving the way to four-stroke racing technology. That leads me to why I’m here today. Another rider and his team have reason to celebrate. James Stewart has accomplished another amazing feat for Yamaha, by wrapping up the 2009 AMA FIM World Championship, at the same stadium where Yamaha made its historic four-stroke racing debut 12 years earlier.”

With that, everyone watched as Yamaha’s liaison to the L&M team, Dan Rambert, arrived on one of James’ race bikes, complete with an escort of two police motorcycles. Doug explained, “With great honor for me, to make a very special presentation to you. When people ask me what my favorite trophy is, I answer to them it’s my YZ400M, the bike that I made history on at the Vegas event. James, I hope you can find a place in your heart for your latest, and I think, great trophy there is. Congratulations, James, and to the whole San Manuel team. Good job.”

Dan Rambert was in charge of shuttling James' championship-winning bike to the podium.

Finally, it was time to hear from James himself, who said, “I remember when I first got the call from Larry to come around for San Manuel, he was telling me about Yamaha and how good a company it was, and how good it would be to be part of the Yamaha family and be with San Manuel, and I gave him a chance. I think for me, it was a huge change.”

“This season started off good with the U.S. Open. Then winning that race in Bercy and coming here and having a chance to meet everybody. Honestly, when I went to Anaheim and crashed and walked off the track, it was pretty tough because we’d just come here and signed autographs and met everybody. I honestly felt like I’d let you guys down. It was a lot of hype, and I wanted to win that race so bad, and have the first big race for Yamaha.”

“I came back and won seven races in a row and was able to take the points lead, and then went into Daytona and ended up going down there. It was tough for me because I actually felt like I lost the championship. I remember going back home and shutting my phones off and didn’t want to be around because at the end of the day I just kind of felt like I let everybody down. My team has always been behind me, from A1 through the whole season, but it was cool to see Keith McCarty give me a call. I don’t know if he knows how much that phone call meant. He told me to keep my head up, and everything would be pretty good. The coolest part about the Daytona race, coming back and getting seventh place, was that I actually got a call from Lance Armstrong that night. I’d never talked to him, and obviously he knows about fighting back through adversity.”

The lobby at Yamaha was a turned into a temporary photo studio, and Yamaha employees could get a souvenir photo shot with James and his Las Vegas bike. We couldn't resist grabbing this solo shot.

“We came back and honestly, it felt like everything was going against me, when I crashed at St. Louis. Then I came back and won a couple races and I just never felt like this title would be mine. Even going into Vegas I felt like there was something going to happen, just the way my season went. Getting third was the happiest I’ve ever been for getting third place. I just remember it was a big weight off my shoulders, Not only for myself, I’ve won some championships in my life, and it was for the people who were working behind the scenes.”

“For those who don’t know me, personally, I’m a big family person. I have a lot of feelings towards having a family. One thing I know for a fact, coming here to Yamaha, that it is a family. I felt that from the first time I met everybody. I met Keith McCarty, and the same thing goes for my team. It is a family. I was more happy to win the championship for everybody else. My team and for you guys. I’ve won a lot of championships in my life, and I’ve never had a place to come where I can call home. For being the first year, you guys have made this special for me.”


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