Last week at Loretta Lynn’s Amateur National Championship, Yamaha’s Keith McCarty took centerstage and announced their 2017 factory Supercross and motocross team. While their two riders were already widely known, the fact that they broke the news in the middle of the summer, far ahead of the usual October announcements, came as a surprise. As expected, Chad Reed will return to Yamaha for a Monster Energy Supercross specific deal and likely some select rounds of the Monster Energy FIM Motocross World Championship, which is what the veteran did in 2016. Incoming 450 class rookie Cooper Webb will be the second rider on the squad, but unlike Reed, will race both Supercross and the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship.
At the end of the 2009 season Yamaha shuttered their in-house factory motocross racing operation in the United States, a move that allowed them to extended their resources to multiple independent teams. Many expected other OEMs to follow suit, but after five years and few following their moves, the brand decided to bring back their own team and rehire a former rider. The team made its “debut” at the 2015 Monster Energy Cup with Chad Reed, and after months of planning and negotiation, raced all seventeen rounds of the 2016 Monster Energy Supercross Series with Reed. We spoke with Reed recently during his two-race run on the MXGP circuit and at the time he told us he expected to return to the team, but at that point nothing was set in stone.
Currently Webb leads the 250 class in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, and with three races left, he holds a fifty-one point lead in the standings. Once the Nationals wrap, Webb is set to race the MXGP round at Charlotte Motor Speedway in early September and is expected to represent Team USA at the Motocross of Nations in Italy. These will likely be his final rides with Yamalube/Star Racing/Yamaha, the team he has ridden for through his professional career.
Like last year the Monster Energy Cup in October should be the team’s debut with the new roster, while Reed and Webb are both set to race the AUS-X Open in Australia in November.
The full press release from Yamaha is posted below…
Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A., today introduced its 2017 Factory Supercross/Motocross team, featuring riders Chad Reed and new teammate Cooper Webb. Both riders were introduced, in person, during the Yamaha bLU cRU Family Dinner at Loretta Lynn's Ranch, which is where the AMA Amateur National Championships are being held.
Keith McCarty, Motorsports Racing Division Manager for Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A., said, "Last year, we re-introduced our Yamaha Factory Racing Supercross team, with Chad Reed as our rider, and he did an excellent job for us, both on the track and with the fans. He helped re-energize our Factory program, and it was great see how much all the fans enjoyed seeing him race once again for Yamaha. We're thrilled to have Chad back with us again for the 2017 season, and we're also pleased to announce the addition of Cooper Webb as Chad's teammate on our Factory Racing team.
"Cooper had a tremendous Supercross season, in which he won his second consecutive 250SX West Championship. Also, he is currently sitting atop the points standings in the AMA 250cc Motocross Championship with a 51-point lead. He is a fierce competitor who is brimming with talent and determination, and we're excited to have him join our Factory Racing team with Chad as his teammate.
"We're also happy to be able to make this announcement–and have both Chad and Cooper there in-person–during our Yamaha bLU cRU Family Dinner at Loretta Lynn's Ranch. Our Yamaha bLU cRU Amateur Racing program is a great launching pad for future professional Supercross and Motocross stars. In fact, both Chad and Cooper got their first starts in racing aboard Yamaha PW50s."
Cooper, especially, is proof-positive that riding Yamahas as an amateur is a great way to step up to the pro level. As a Yamaha bLU cRU Amateur racer, he won two Loretta Lynn's Amateur National Championships, 9 Winter-Olympics Amateur Championships, a Monster Energy Cup Amateur Championship, and a whole host of other amateur racing titles, which led to him turning professional and continuing his success aboard Yamahas.
When asked about racing Yamahas as an amateur and the opportunities that it gave him to step up to the pro ranks, Cooper said, "The bLU cRU is the perfect amateur program, especialy for the way my career developed. When I first started racing on a Yamaha PW50, I wasn't sure what my career path was going to be. But, as I continued to grow and develop as an amateur, I raced Yamahas, which enabled me to transition from the bLU cRU Amateur Program to the Yamalube/Star Racing/Yamaha team where I won my first professional Championship. Then, being selected for the Motocross of Nations, and signing this 450 deal with the Yamaha Factory team, it's been an awesome journey so far. To all the bLU cRU riders, I just want to add that I did it, and you can, too. The bLU cRU is the perfect pathway to the pros!
"I'm really excited to be joining the Yamaha Factory Racing team. It's a dream come true for me, especially to be able to stay with the brand where I started my professional career. Also, it's going to be great to team up with Chad. I met him a long time ago, and growing up, he was always my favorite rider. So, to be teammates with a legend is awesome. It's going to help me tremendously to learn from him, and I can't think of a better teammate to have as I move up to 450s full-time."
Chad is looking forward to the 2017 Supercross season, and he welcomes Cooper as his teammate on the Yamaha Factory Racing team. "I’m excited to get back to work with the Yamaha guys," Chad said. "2016 was a great learning and rebuilding phase for me and for Yamaha going racing as a factory team again. We learned the bike and found our strengths and weaknesses.
"It's a huge positive that we are able to use this time wisely to prepare for 2017, and the team and I are motivated to continue building. I think Cooper brings a new level of energy to the team. Youth has that natural way of upping the enthusiasm! I like that energy, and I'm looking forward to having him as my teammate."
Both riders will compete aboard Yamaha YZ450F machines. Two-time Supercross Champion Chad will contest the 2017 AMA 450SX Supercross Championship, while two-time 250SX West Champion and current 250MX Motocross Championship points leader Cooper will compete in both the 2017 AMA 450SX Supercross Championship and the 2017 AMA 450MX Motocross Championship.