Features 24 Feb 2022

Conversation: Cooper Webb

Multi-time 450SX champion on Minneapolis Supercross uplift.

By his own accounts, reigning 450SX champion Cooper Webb has experienced an underwhelming start to 2022 Monster Energy Supercross. With a new bike and training environment among the things changed for 2022, Webb has been coming under fire from all angles regarding his performance, however, the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider showed he’s not giving up yet with a promising P2 result at Minneapolis and he features in our latest Conversation piece.

Image: Octopi Media.

Cooper, how much more comfortable did you feel on the east coast dirt?

Yeah, it was a great night, much better than the last few, no doubt. Big step in the right direction, I liked the track, the ruts earlier in the day and then the main event was kind of a mix with the ruts, it definitely hardened up a lot. I definitely gel with the east coast and it was good to get back to Florida where it felt more ‘homey’ – just cleared my head a bit. I’ve got to give it up to the team, they came up with a package this week that seemed to help me quite a bit. Nice to be back [on the podium], had a few crashes and whatnot, but we were in the fight and went all the way, which is really nice.

Is racing on the east coast really that impactful on your program?

I wouldn’t say it’s that impactful but being from the east coast it just feels more homey. I think for me, going back after crap results out west, going back home and kind of like clear the head, new tracks, new people to hang around, at this level it all makes a difference.

You mentioned some things changed this week… can you allude to what that was? Also, how much harder has it been to get a handle on this new bike than what you thought going into Anaheim 1?

Actually ‘The Man’ [Roger De Coster] actually came up with it. Rog went to work, I didn’t get to try it all week, I tried it today. It worked out a little better for me, for sure, and it seemed to get better throughout the day. Our old bike, I gelled on it so well, I felt like it was built for me in Supercross. This one, with a new bike you’re learning nonstop, and the conditions, they are ever-changing. We race on so many soils and dirt. You think you get it right and then you go somewhere that’s different from your test track or where you have been practicing. It’s not from a lack of effort, but it’s definitely been a struggle for me.

Through the 20 minutes you kind of went though it all, you lead laps, got shuffled back, then forward. How do you take that on through those 20 minutes and stay aware of everything that is happening? 

Yeah, it was a lot. I finally led some laps, which felt really good. I could tell Chase [Sexton] was faster and probably getting impatient, it was kind of those things, once he got around me a put a little fight. I just tried to stay cool calm and collected and follow. I felt like I was riding good laps behind Jason [Anderson] and ‘Mookie’ [Malcolm Stewart]. I got closer to Mookie, made a push on him and he ended up going down, then Chase went down. I felt solid throughout the whole main event, wish I could push a little harder there at the five-to-12 lap mark, but overall, I can’t complain. I know what it’s like to go the distance now, so we’ll see where that leads us.

The whoops seem to be a lot bigger this year, maybe back to more of the early 2000s. Do you think that’s been a factor in your comfort or is it just the whole new bike and searching for settings?

The whoops have been tough, no doubt. Especially the west coast swing, they’ve been built different this year. They’ve been getting tough and even tonight. I felt better in them throughout today, the progress we made with the bike helped a lot, but we went to that survival line, if you will, just getting through it the best we could, so it’s hard to say. They’ve been tough this year, a lot of laps ridden on them with not a lot of maintenance, so it’s definitely nice to get better with the bike and also myself and maybe with the east coast I gel with those whoops a little better.

Image: Octopi Media.

In these weeks that results aren’t going well, how is it you and the team analyze these results during the week? Do you look at yourself or do you just look at the new bike? They must be some intense weeks for you.

It’s not great. There’s a lot of pressure to perform, especially with the number-one plate, so when you’re riding around in eighth place, it’s not good. It’s been a battle, mentally, emotionally, it’s been a roller-coaster. Just believing in myself and getting back to it and not quitting when things got hard, was what I’m pumped on. It’s still round seven, anything can happen. At least I’m back in the front where I need to be.

Is it more of a relief to be back on the podium from the following weeks trying to chase the motorcycle? How do you deal with the negativity, not performing people are always going to ask questions, was it because you left Baker’s Factory, is it the new motorcycle? How do you shrug that off and does that effect you?

There’s a lot, man. There’s a lot of noise and it can really affect you, maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. The biggest thing is you need to not doubt yourself and maybe I started to go down that road and second guess decisions. Like I said, I finally just put all the noise away and went out and did it for myself this week. It’s tough, our sport can be up and down and can throw a lot at you. Staying positive and working through those problems with a good group is important. Just never give up and keep fighting the whole way.

You’ve mentioned multiple times not giving up and we know just how hard you push when your back is against the wall. Tell us about your take on being 25 points down in terms of the championship – is it still a possibility?

Obviously, it would take a lot for that to happen, but with that being said, just being up here is a lot of confidence and I feel like I’m the kind of guy that once I get that confidence I go pretty quickly to the next step. It’s just nice I believe again, about being up there and battling with the guys, and I felt like tonight with the bike we made good progress, my riding I made progress, starts were there, it’s all there – we will see what happens. It’s stacked this year and there are a lot of good guys up there… as we’ve seen, the races have been tight. I still need to get better, but it’s never over. Just fighting to the end and getting back up here and getting that first win of the season is the next step.