Although Ryan Morais is just hitting his stride as Team Manager for MyPlash/Metal Mulisha/Star Racing/Yamaha, his first full season at the wheel can and should be considered a success. A number of changes took place during the 2012 off season, including the disbanding of the Star/Valli partnership, the resulting shrink to just a small collection of riders, and Morais becoming chief tester rider, but all of these events have been for the better. The team's 250 roster, which includes two rookies and a veteran, are flourishing under the calm guidance of their new mentor, and all three are ranked 10th or higher in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship standings. This is both a major accomplishment and a testament to the resources possessed by the Yamaha satellite team.
Some think that stocking a team with mostly rookie talent is a gamble, but this is actually something that Morais feels could put them ahead in the long run. It is the product of a program Regan and Yamaha have developed to feed select amateur riders through the multiple stages of their careers, with Jeremy Martin and Cooper Webb being its first graduates. Working with the same crew of people they are familiar with will be a massive benefit when the time comes for the next in line, Anthony Rodriguez, to make the daunting leap to the professional ranks. "Young kids are so prepared and ready to come into the professional class," stated Morais. "Both Jeremy and Cooper have their programs dialed in and know the schedules for what they need to do." Another concern that has been raised is how one handles those at different points in their careers (Webb and Martin in the early stages, Cunningham many seasons in) but Morais insists that all three receive the same treatment.
Morais' outlook on their results after 12 motos is positive, but it becomes apparent the Star Racing team is searching for more. "I think it has been a pretty good outdoor season so far. Obviously, we have had good and bad motos, so we need become more consistent and make a little more progress. Cooper has motos where he has exceeded what we had thought; we had thought about top-fives, but in Colorado he took a third place, but he has had some not so great motos, too. The same goes for Jeremy; he has motos that have made us really happy and does what we think he can, but then there are bad motos. Kyle is the same way, and we are hoping to bring things around."
With deep trust in his racers, he's allowed all three to retreat to their own "home bases" for the summer rather than stay in California; Cunningham went home to his native Texas, Webb to North Carolina, and Martin to Ricky Carmichael's Tallahassee, Florida, spread. It also gives Mo' the chance to focus on the business duties a team manger is constantly surrounded with. "It's a bit nicer, because I can do more of the management things that need to take care that I can't when I am at the track. I'd be at the track with my guys, then come home and work on the management things until midnight (laughs)."
Because the economy still in flux, it has become critical for a team to lock in support as early as possible. Star's list of title and supporting sponsors in extensive, ranging from Rockstar to Metal Mulisha to Mandingo Pickles, and all of which are interested in staying on board. "We are talking to a lot of sponsors that are already on board to work on things for next year," said Morais. "Everyone is really excited about our team and the future that we have with the young kids we are bringing up." This is also the first time that Morais has been involved in the sponsorship courting from start to finish, but he feels confident in the difficult marketplace. "For me, this is my first full year and I am still learning, but I think that things are in much better positions than they were."
One supporter that shows no signs of retreating is Yamaha. The OEM has been involved in the team since 2005, and have made Star the premier team for their YZ250F machine. Overseeing the development is Crew Chief Brad Hoffman, who knows every inch of the revolutionary bike. Before the start of the Nationals, he and Morais created and tested a number of settings that advanced their equipment even more. Star works with a number of performance brands, including F1 giant Cosworth, and together they have created some of the most powerful and reliable engines in the small-bore class. Soon Hoffman and Morais will begin the shakedown runs of the 2014 YZ250F, a bike so new that none of the team has had the opportunity to throw a leg over. This massive change could be a challenge, as Morais does not expect much, if anything to carry over to the fuel injected and reverse mounted engine. However, he is confident in Hoffman's experience that they will have a stellar package soon enough.
To say that it was cramped underneath the Star/Valli awning during a few points in the 2012 season would be an understatement. Combining two teams (Star the 250 class and Valli the 450) swelled the number of riders and depleted some of the level of talent employed. The restructure cut the number down to just three riders and a close crew of support staff, but Morais states that things operate better when leaned. "From a rider's standpoint, you get more attention and one-on-one time. This year we are able to provide each rider with more testing time and really good practice bikes." Star lost their place in the 450 class from the separation, but it allowed them to focus on their priority, which was always the 250.
For Bobby Regan, a Texas businessman, to sink his money into a team shows his dedication to the sport. He has financed the team from its early privateer status in 1999 to the current factory-backed state and is still heavily involved in the day to day operations. "I talk to him at least three times a day when he calls to see how the riders are," said Morais. "It is cool to work with someone as passionate about the sport as him because he does it out of his own pocket." With top-tier equipment, stable financial support, and a healthy crop of young talent, Morais is committed to taking for MyPlash/Metal Mulisha/Star Racing/Yamaha to the next level. "I'm thankful Bobby gave me this opportunity and hopeful we can make progress with the team by putting it up front and getting the results that we know we can."