If you’ve read my past two blogs, you know I got to talk to several of the sport’s top riders at Yamaha’s Nov 14 media day. Well, I just can’t help bragging – I also got to speak with the two riders on the Joe Gibbs Racing team.
Josh Grant and Cody Cooper will be on the YZ450Fs that are put together by the crack team of mechanics and technicians at Joe Gibbs Racing. Josh is moving up to the 450 class after some great rides on his 250F last season. Cody is moving over from a privateer 450 ride after having an amazing season that saw him nearly tracking down James Stewart in the mud at Unadilla. I bugged them until they spilled the beans on their 2009 plans.
PP: How long have you been riding on the 450s?
JG: For about a couple months now. I had a few races that I did back last supercross season, and that was really it, so this is my first real go at the 450.
PP: I mean before that, practicing on them, getting a feel for them?
JG: Oh yeah, I’ve been racing on them since amateurs. That’s usually what you do when you go up through the ranks.
PP: What’s the toughest thing about adapting your style to the 450?
JG: Nothing. I think my style is suited for a 450 and that’s what I think is gonna bring success to this year.
PP: Who’s your biggest competition?
JG: Everybody, you know. In the 450 class the top ten, fifteen guys are really fast. Everybody knows who the top guys really are, of course James, Josh Hill, everybody, you can’t leave anyone out.
PP: What are your goals for 2009?
JG: To get on the podium a few times and hopefully try to get some race wins and stay up in the points chase.
PP: Are you looking more forward to supercross or the outdoors?
JG: Supercross is more my style. I like the flash of it, and the atmosphere. I like supercross better.
PP: What’s going to surprise us most about you for 2009?
JG: Just being on a different bike for one. I switched over to Yamaha. I was at Honda for about eight years and never rode anything different. I’m excited and everyone else is, too, so it should be good.
PP: When did you get the call to be on Joe Gibbs Yamaha?
CC: We’d been talking with about four rounds to go (in the 2008 outdoor series), maybe a little bit more. My manager had spoken to them at the beginning of the year but they’d already gotten their riders. It just fell into place. Everything went well and after the des Nations I got on their bike and started riding, so I’ve been on it for a little while now.
PP: Where were you living at that time?
CC: When they rang up, in Tallahasee, where I was living with Ben (Townley) for most of this year.
PP: Did the new team require a move?
CC: Yeah, I’ve moved up to North Carolina where the team’s based. It’s a step forward for me for sure. I like the area and it’s easy training with other people. We’ve got a trainer that trains with us every day, I’ve always got someone to do that with. And someone to ride with. We all hang out as mates, too. It’s pretty fun.
PP: The impression is that you had a pretty minor support ride prior to joining this new team, which is considered a big, all-emcompassing team. What’s been the biggest change?
CC: I’ve been on the big Honda team in Australia so it’s sort of like that, but on a bigger scale, obviously. It’s good. It just feels the same to me, doing the same riding and I don’t want to really get into the big side of it … all I’ve got to think about is riding and training and being as good as I can. That’s my job. The team is great. All the stuff they’ve provided us to train and do what we need to do is mind blowing, pretty much.
PP: How’s it been adapting to the new bike?
CC: Good, I got straight on it and it was good. A couple times when I first got on it, it felt different, but now when I get on it, it’s what I’m expecting to get onto. I know what it feels like when I’m not even sitting on it.
PP: It seems like in the 2008 outdoors you were the only guy who could match Stewart’s speed on several occasions. It put you in the spotlight. What are your goals for 2009?
CC: For motocross I definitely want to do better than I did this season. Top 5 will beat it. Supercross is still a little bit away, but I want to do the Switzerland supercross, which I’m going over to do, before I set some goals. Get a race under my belt and see where I’m at and then I can set some realistic goals, I suppose.
PP: What’s the supercross track like that you train on at the Joe Gibbs facility?
CC: It seems pretty easy at the moment. It’s pretty mellow. After coming out here and riding the Yamaha test track, that one’s pretty gnarly.
PP: Is supercross fun for you or is it more of a struggle?
CC: I think it’s quite fun, but now and then I get frustrated. It’s just only because I want to be… you gotta put the effort in, so it’s hard when I try to learn something and it’s not happening. But it takes time, I suppose. I’ve got to just gradually go into it otherwise I won’t be riding at all, I might get hurt. So I just take it one step at a time.
PP: What’s going to surprise us most about you in 2009?
CC: I don’t know. I really want to be up there in every race and complete every race, and get better starts than I did this year.