Heading into the 2019 season, it was announced that Cooper Webb would be leaving Factory Yamaha and joining the Red Bull / KTM team, and everyone was talking about this year being a do or die season for the #2. After two less than stellar years on the Yamaha 450, most began to doubt that we would ever see the dominant Cooper Webb we saw on the 250 in the 450 class.
Those thoughts have quickly changed, though. Just four races into his 450 career on the KTM and he has added two big 450 wins to his career resume and Coop will now wear the red plate next weekend in San Diego. It is amazing how quickly things can change with a little confidence.
After Cooper crossed the line in Oakland on Saturday night with back-to-back wins, we caught up with the #2 to talk about his newfound confidence and what that confidence means going forward both at the races and at the Bakers Factory where he works with his Championship rival Marvin Musquin all week long.
Cooper, two big wins in a row for you. You came into 2019 with the expectations that you would be kind of be part of the supporting cast for Marvin over at Red Bull / KTM. We’re now four rounds in and you have two wins and are leading the Championship. How much does the mindset change from here on?
It’s just cool, really. For me the mindset is different now after winning two races and having the points lead. I guess I’m a guy now. That’s really cool. (laughs) It’s exciting and motivating all at the same time. It’s actually taken some of the pressure off, because now I believe in myself and I know what I’m able to do. It’s pretty exciting for sure.
I’ve been talking to you for five or six years now and you are a totally different person when you have your confidence as opposed to when you’ve struggled. Everyone is a little different, but you are someone that is night and day different. You are definitely a person that lives and dies by your level of confidence.
Oh, it’s key! After last weekend I got that confidence back. It’s huge! My whole career has been based off of confidence. To get one win was huge and I felt like I could do it again, but to do it again right away is even more confidence building. It’s crazy to think about the way my career has gone so far. It’s pretty spectacular.
We now head to round five and we know you believe you can win, but are you beginning to believe that you can win this title?
Oh, for sure! I wouldn’t be working as hard as I do if that wasn’t the goal. Even after starting the year with a 5th and a 10th, that was the goal. Obviously now it’s a lot more achievable it seems. It’s a lot more open and especially with Jason [Anderson] out. Nobody at the front has won this championship before.
Late in the race tonight you had an eight-second lead and you were running a solid pace, but then Marvin started closing on you pretty quickly. How hard was it to respond that late in the race, and up your pace to keep him behind you?
It was tough. He was on me at first and he had that crash. I was able to put some laps and I felt like I had a good gap. I saw that I was pulling Kenny and Eli at the time so I thought that was a pretty good pace. Then I saw he [Marvin] started making moves. So it is tough to flip that switch again to, “Okay, you gotta buckle down and get back on the time.” Especially with lappers and how easy it was to make mistakes. Yeah, I knew unfortunately that he was coming. I could tell he was catching me, I just didn’t know where. I was trying to get back in my groove. I made a few mistakes, but overall I was still happy to be able to keep my composure and still get it done. He was definitely coming.
Does the training dynamic between you and Marvin during the week change at all with the two of you quickly becoming rivals for this title?
No. I think this year you could tell that while we’ve been riding together a lot, I really think we’re good for each other. He doesn’t want me to be better and I don’t want him to be better, but I feel like we elevate each other a lot. It’s just getting interesting now. (laughs)
I’m just stoked we get to see this Cooper Webb on a 450. Good luck next weekend.
For sure, thanks.
Photos by: Simon Cudby – KTM