This weekend's Paris Supercross promises a wealth of captivating storylines, with particular attention drawn to Cooper Webb's final test run aboard his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing machine. Of all the narratives unfolding, Webb's pursuit to erase the underwhelming memory of his SuperMotocross debut takes center stage. In a candid conversation with the two-time champion, Webb identified immediate areas of concern post-debut and has since dedicated weeks of rigorous preparation. The burning question remains: will these efforts manifest into tangible results over two nights of competition?
In all honesty, the outcome at the Paris Supercross might be considered irrelevant. The true litmus test lies in Webb's performance resembling the rider that the sport has come to cherish – the proof will be in the pudding. To gain a comprehensive understanding of Webb's objectives with the YZ450F and accurately assess his performance in Paris, delve into this exclusive interview conducted within the confines of La Défense. The insights provided are both revealing and refreshing, originally presented in video form elsewhere on Vital MX.
Vital MX: You are obviously not Anaheim 1 ready at this point, so how far into the preparation cycle are you? Would you say that you are sixty percent there?
Cooper Webb: It is hard to put a percentage [on it]. I feel… January 01 is where you need to be at one hundred, so if I have to put a percentage on it then I would say seventy or seventy-five. I am a little bit ahead of schedule with my lap count. Missing time in the summer, I think that I started back a little earlier than most guys. It was the middle of October. I feel like I have done some laps, but it is also a new bike. A lot of those laps are testing and trying stuff. We will see! I feel good at the practice track, and it has been a great off-season, but you never know until you go racing. I think that, compared to where I was physically last year, I am a little bit ahead of that, but you never know with the new bike. I think that it has been good so far.
With the new bike, what is one thing that you immediately gelled with and then something that you have struggled to get right?
I think that, for me, the comfortability with the suspension was really nice right away. I have ridden a Yamaha for a lot of my life, so it felt pretty natural to get back on one. I think that the biggest thing that we had to address was the engine! It is really, really fast. Eli [Tomac] likes this thing to be a rocket ship. I think that was something that we learnt in SuperMotocross: I like a much mellower engine. We have really been working on that. I feel like we have got it a bit lighter compared to where we were at SMX and then we have improved the cornering. I am happy though. The whoops came back right away, which was cool. I feel like we are in a good spot, as far as comfortability goes.
Interesting, that. Everyone says that you struggle in the whoops, but then you said that it came back. You feel like that was not a problem back in the day then?
I feel like I was good in the whoops on the Yamaha 450F – the old bike – just not anywhere else [laughs]. You know, in the 250F days, I remember being in fifth gear and wide open in the whoops sometimes. I felt like I was always strong there, but it is tough in this day and age. Everyone is improving and the whoop speed is definitely important. Coming back to this suspension, and maybe the chassis, gave me a much more comfortable feel in the whoops and rhythm sections. It is the same in the turns. My confidence rose as soon as I got back on the Yamaha.
Touching on something you just said. You feel like you came into SMX with a race-winning bike with bells and whistles, so it had to be tamed back a little bit.
Yeah, for sure. I think that it is tough when you get on a new bike. It is so different that you are just excited – the change really stokes you out. I am still stoked, do not get me wrong, but you fine tune as soon as you race and go, "Okay, wow, this is an area [to improve] and maybe this." The engine was really, really strong. My starts were not very good. It was a tough thing to ride for twenty minutes. It was great for some sprint laps and stuff like that, but you learn that stuff as you race. The SMX races were different too – the tracks were different. Everything was so new. We spent a lot of time riding supercross beforehand and it was not like supercross. Getting back on a supercross track after that and knowing three or four things that we had to attack, I feel like we are ahead of schedule for mid-November.
How do you keep it 'fun' this weekend. You are not at an Anaheim 1 level, so the results do not mean anything. It is hard for a racer to digest that. How do you balance that?
I have kind of changed my mindset a little bit. I am trying to enjoy it more. I am back to a familiar group, with some of my good friends and guys who I have been around my entire career. I am trying to have that fun attitude – I know that it is a cliché. I think that some of my best years have come when I have had a really good balance of that, despite being a hard ass and wanting to win. Just not taking it too seriously whilst also putting in the work and time. I feel like I have been putting in the time and our training has been really good so far. The laps and testing have been good.
I'm just coming here with more of an open mind. I have a goal, sure, but we will see what happens. I look at last year, where I really struggled here, but I got second at Anaheim 1 and had a great year. I am not going to take it lightly, but I am not going to hold it over my head for the whole off-season. We will see. It would be nice to be battling for the win and stand on the podium, but we are taking it as more of a learning step and just enjoying it. We do not get to come to Europe too often. It is nice to come here, get some Espresso and be jacked up!