Although the offseason these days isn’t really much of an offseason at all, this time of year is always filled with exciting news about changes to racers and teams. While many of the top riders are set to stay put heading into next year, we knew that Cooper Webb’s deal with Yamaha was up and that there were only a small number of teams with openings who could take him. It was assumed by many that he’d end up at Red Bull KTM and there were plenty of rumors along the way, but it was still anyone’s guess until October 1st when the announcement was made official. Now, nearly a month later, Webb has settled in with his new surroundings and is adjusting to changes to nearly every aspect of his program.
This is a new team, a new bike, and quite a departure from what you've been surrounded by your entire pro career. Take me through what these last few weeks have been like.
A lot of change has happened now that I'm on the Red Bull KTM team. It's been good so far. October 1st was really my first day and I've been on Yamaha since 2012. My whole Lites career was on a Yamaha and my first two years on the 450 was with Yamaha. It's definitely bittersweet to leave the people that I've been around for a really long time and the people who gave me an opportunity to have great success. With KTM, the whole process is a lot different and I feel confident. I'm stoked on the change. This team is accomplished and it's been awesome so far. I'm really excited that I've changed almost everything with a new bike, a new mechanic, a new team, a new trainer, and really everything. It's a lot of changes, but I think it'll benefit me.
How has the transition been getting on the KTM, being that it's completely different from the Yamaha?
I felt really comfortable right away. I know with the Monster Energy Cup, the results weren't really what I wanted, but since I've been practicing I've felt really good. Right away on the first day with the bike, I was right at home within three or four laps. I know it's pretty typical for a guy to say that, but for me, being a shorter rider, this bike is a lot lighter and narrower. From the seat to the foot pegs is quite a bit lower, so as a smaller guy, the bike feels a lot smaller and lighter and I can ride it a lot more. To me, I look at pictures and videos and I feel like I look normal on it now. I felt like before I always looked short and like the bike was bigger than I was. I think it's a good change and I feel really good right away. It's only October, so I've got a lot of time and testing to do. I haven't really wanted to change anything, but they keep hitting me with stuff and it keeps improving. It's a pretty cool feeling and it shows how much work they've done and how much time they've dedicated to making this machine better.
It seems like we've been talking about the possibility of you ending up on this team for a while now, at what point did you come together with KTM and actually make this deal happen?
Well, what's cool about the team is that they've always shown an interest in me. Even when I was an amateur, they were after me. I actually did a race with the KTM Orange Brigade team at Monster Energy Cup a long time ago and there was interest from there, but at that time, there wasn't a spot to race professionally with them yet. After my 250 career, they came at me as well, and then again when my contract was up this time. It was a cool feeling to go to a place that you're wanted, but also it made a lot of sense this time. Seeing what they've accomplished obviously helps too. I couldn't negotiate because I had certain dilemmas with my contract, so I waited for the appropriate number of days, but as soon as I was able to negotiate, they were ready. It made it really cool and special. We got it done quickly. The industry kind of knew what was coming, but I think a lot of people were still surprised and once October 1st came it was cool to be a part of it and let everybody know.
A big part of this team is their tie to Aldon Baker and what he offers training-wise. As far as your program goes over the next few months, what will that look like?
For this year I'll train with Aldon Baker and the KTM boys. Like I said, it's all new and I was living in North Carolina and also California, but they have a way that they like to do it. Now I'm living in Florida and training with Aldon. I'm in California doing testing and Monster Energy Cup and all of that, but we'll head back to Florida for boot camp soon and stay the winter there. For me, it's exciting because Aldon's accomplished a lot with his riders and I get to ride with the greatest riders in the sport right now between Jason Anderson and Marvin Musquin and Zach Osborne. I think the level of competition during the week is there and that's huge. I think with the training side, I'm really confident in his program and I'm gelling well with it so far.