Earlier this week, Colt Nichols announced that he had inked a deal with the Yamalube/Star Racing/Yamaha crew for the 2017 season. After spending the 2016 season under the Cycle Trader.com/Rock River Yamaha rig, the Oklahoma native will move to the official factory supported Yamaha team. Nichols has made a lot of changes to his program to accommodate the time with the new team, but the most notable being his new training regimen. Thursday marked day one for Nichols on the new Star Racing ride, so we caught up with the likable rider after a few motos at Milestone MX today to get his first impression of the many new changes.
You’re a long way from Oklahoma, Colt. What’s going on out here in California?
Today is actually my first day on the Star Racing bike. I’m just trying to shake things out a little bit. I’ve been out here for a few days now but I needed some time to get myself situated out here and I actually have moved in with Justin Bogle, who was cool enough to let me stay at his house last year as well. Yeah, I’m just out here shaking things down and trying to get used to the new bike. I’m just riding a little bit of outdoors today to get a feel for everything with the team and the bike. We were going to see how today went before we figured out when I should start riding Supercross.
It’s still pretty early, but do you know what coast you’ll be lining up for?
I’m actually not sure yet. I would love to race on the West Coast just because the traveling is a little better. I’m completely open to the East Coast as well since I’ve raced that series in the past. It’s all the same to me as long as I’m riding my dirt bike. I’ll go wherever the team says to.
You would almost be suited better for the East Coast, don’t you think? Being that’s where you’re from and that’s the type of riding you’re used to.
Yeah, maybe. I feel that my riding style can suit the West Coast tracks since the bike needs to be ridden a certain way on hard packed surfaces. I did the East Coast series in 2015 and I really enjoyed riding over there; it was a lot of fun. It was more local and familiar to me, and I was totally comfortable on that kind of dirt. Again, I’m completely open to either coast.
Let’s talk about all these new changes. New bike, new team and even new gear. Everything must be really exciting for you, right now…
Yes, it’s extremely exciting. Just like anything else, change is a good thing. I’ll still be riding a Yamaha obviously, and I’ll be wearing Alpinestars again this year and stuff like that, but I guess you can say it’s all an upgrade. Everyone wants to keep progressing and this was the next step for me. Every kid’s dream is to be a factory rider and the same can be said for me. Now that I’m finally on the most elite factory 250 team in the pits, it’s such a rewarding feeling. Everything is really exciting right now and I want to continue my progression. I still need to get used to the team and the bike, but hopefully we can make a good run for a championship this year. That’s the ultimate goal!
Every rider on Star Racing trains with Gareth Swanepoel, but you’ve been a product of the Robbie Reynard’s training facility for a very long time. Will you have to make a tough decision or will you be able to work with both trainers?
Yeah, I had to make a hard decision. I’ve been working with Robbie for 10 years and he will always be my guy! As far as the physical side of things, I was training with Charles Dao last year and we had a really great thing going on. I’ll now I’ll be working with Swanie on the physical side of things, too. It’s easier for myself and the team, and as far as Swanie’s training resume, the proof is in the pudding when it comes to his rider’s success. I’ll be training with Swanie, but I would still like to work with Robbie because he’s helped me develop my technique on the bike. I still have a very good relationship with Charles Dao, as well. He’s an awesome dude. I’ll be training alongside Cooper Webb, Aaron Plessinger, Dylan Ferrandis, and Chalen Tenant; a bunch of great guys. This aspect of the change has been the most significant difference in my program. Yes, the bike is different along with the team, but the physical side of the work is going to be a lot different. I’m really excited for all of this, and I believe all of this is going to work out great. I can’t wait to see how everything works.
Was your time at Rock River Yamaha meant to be a stepping stone of sorts for your switch to Star Racing?
I don’t think that was necessarily the purpose. I know that when Alex Martin had moved to Star Racing, everyone at Rock River was sad to see him go because he was one of their most successful riders and a great guy. I’m sure the same happened with my switch to Star Racing, as well. Any rider in our position would have done the same as us, though because you’re now riding with factory parts and earning a little more money. It wasn’t supposed to be a stepping stone, but I think that’s what it’s inadvertently transitioned into, and they’ve excepted that role. The whole deal works out really well for everyone. Star Racing can obtain those newcomers that have their rookie year under their belt. I guess the Cycle Trader team could be considered a feeder team into Star Racing. I don’t necessarily think those were their intentions, but it’s worked out great for everyone involved.
How long was your deal with Star Racing in the works before the announcement was made this week?
Man, I don’t even think I can remember, honestly. I got a podium finish in Oakland and the Wednesday after is when I got four or five different calls in the same day regarding negotiations for 2017. It was crazy! It seemed like they all planned it or something. That was a really great week for me. I was riding around with a big ass head for a while (laughs). The week after is when I started negotiations with different people, and it was roughly a three or four-week process after that to get everything done. I’ve been signed with Star Racing since March, so the deal has actually been done for a long time. That was a crucial time for me because there was a lot of pressure. A lot of people were watching to see how I would perform the following weekends, but everything worked out just the way I wanted. This was the team I wanted to ride for even before the 2016 season, and that was a goal of mine throughout the year: do good enough to sign with Star Racing.
This year your AMA number was 69. Are you going to be 420 or something like that next year? I mean you are in So.Cal now…
(Laughs) I am so upset that I have to give up the number 69. If I didn’t suck so much throughout outdoors, I possibly could have collected enough points to keep it. Outdoors was a little hard on me. That was my goal though, to keep that awesome number. Some people get a little embarrassed by it, but I think it’s awesome. I was embracing it (laughs). Wil Hahn is going to hold down the number 69 now, and I think he’s the right guy for the job (laughs)! He’ll most definitely represent that number to the fullest. My number for this year is going to be 39, and I am totally cool with it. I’ve got a lot of changes going on, but change is good. I am beyond excited for 2017!