The transition from the amateur into the professional ranks is difficult, but a select few that are fortunate to gain the support of a factory team that will help them successfully make this move. One of those riders is Yamalube/Star Racing/Yamaha’s newest member Challen Tennant. Recruited from the amateur ranks just a few months ago, the Texas native plans to finish out his amateur career next summer, either just in time for the 2017 Pro Motocross Series or after Loretta Lynn’s. Keep an eye out for the number 71 because this Texan has been turning heads.
Challen, how does it feel to be the newest member of Yamalube/Star Racing/Yamaha?
It feels great! It’s such an awesome opportunity to ride for a team of this caliber that’s produced riders like Cooper Webb, Aaron Plessinger, Mitchell Harrison and I look forward to working alongside Dylan Ferrandis and Colt Nichols, as well. They’re a great group of guys. It truly is an honor to be involved with this team!
Before signing with Yamaha, you rode KTMs for a number of years. Was the switch to the blue bike difficult for you?
When I switched from KTM to Yamaha, the switch was actually fairly easy for me. For some reason, I can usually adapt to any bike very quickly and since these Star Yamaha’s are so good I adapted to it them even easier. I feel that the Yamaha really suits my riding style, especially for Supercross. I noticed these bikes flow through corners a little better, along with getting through the whoops. Mainly the handling and the low-end power is what I really like about the Yamaha.
You’ve seen a lot of changes lately not only in the bike and team but in your physical training and riding, as well. Essentially, your whole program has changed. Was it hard to get used to everything as a whole like that?
You know, in a way it was. Obviously I had to meet and gel with everyone on the team, and I think I’m slowly making my way through the ranks with the crew. I’m also still getting used to Swanie’s program, but overall everyone is really great. I’ve gotten along with everyone on the team and I’m really excited to be here. As a team we have a great group of leaders in Brad Hoffman, Bobby Regan, Swanie and Jeremy Coker; they’re all great guys. I’m building strong relationships with them that will hopefully make my motocross career great.
So what are your plans for the rest of the year and 2017 as far as racing goes?
This year I’ll finish out at Mini Olympics and then I’ll be looking forward to doing Arenacross at the beginning of 2017. I’ll continue to do the March Nationals as an amateur still, and then from there I’ll line up at Hangtown for the entire pro motocross series. Hopefully I can give her the berries from there (laughs). I will either do that or I will head back to Loretto Lynn’s for my final amateur race, and then I’ll hit the last three Nationals. It all depends on how I’m doing at the time, but we will cross that bridge when we get to it.
You’re riding with a very established group of racers now. Although you’ve only been with the team for two months, do you feel that your riding has elevated since you’ve been able to ride with these guys so much?
I have definitely seen an improvement! I feel myself getting better just about each time I’m on the bike. I am a lot more comfortable now. I gel with the bike better each time as well and I feel that I’ve become a smarter rider in the process. I’m also gaining a better understanding of the bike when it comes to suspension, gearing, and things of that sort. All around this is a great program for me.
You’re from Texas but you just moved to Southern California, as the team is located here. How has California treated you so far?
The California lifestyle is a little crazy, to be honest with you. Like you said, I’m from Texas where everything is pretty laid back. There’s a lot of country back there and seemingly none out here. Back home I had ten acres surrounding my house and almost no neighbors. It’s a lot different out here, the girls especially. They kind of just throw themselves at you, so it’s a little different out here for me (laughs). I’ll get used to it, though. I guess I’m kind of starting to like both California and Texas.
This contract with Star Racing will take you into the pro ranks and throughout your rookie year. Do you feel that you will be putting a lot of pressure on yourself being that you’re on a team of this caliber?
If you’re a top amateur, then yes, and I think that goes for every top amateur. You don’t want to make the team look bad by not performing well after they’ve trusted you to do so. Whether it’s a local weekend race or an amateur national, I am always putting the pressure on myself. Even with my transition from the amateur ranks to the pro ranks, I don’t want to make the team look bad. I love to win and it means everything to me. Winning means more to me than money or anything like that, so yeah, I do put pressure on myself going into my rookie year.