This past weekend in Paris it was Yamaha's Justin Barcia who took home overall honours after six races and won his third King of Paris trophy. He rode well for sure but there wasn't anyone there who didn't think that Malcolm Stewart, on his Smartop Bullfrog Spas Honda, wasn't THE fastest rider there this weekend. Mookie won the overall on Sunday and his very first race of the weekend where crashed in the first turn and could only make it up to ninth ruined his chances for the overall.
Other than that he won three times and ripped through the pack a ton to get up front. His speed in the whoops, especially Saturday when they were USA-style big, was phenomenal. He looks ready to go and in shape coming off his femur break early last season. There's nothing to not like about him in 2020.
"Mookie's speed and ability are nearly as good as his brother. If he had the fitness, he would be a weapon" is what one top rider texted me when asked for a quote on Stewart. We didn't really get a good look at Mookie last year, he got seventh in the opener in the mud at Anaheim after running second for a bit and then he did himself in at round two. His work with trainer Gareth Swanepoel that we had heard about wasn’t proven. His new team and bike, that he had been on all off-season for once, didn't get a chance to shine.
The jury is out on Stewart still because if you just look at his 450 career since winning the 250SX title in 2016, it's a disappointment. Thirty-three career 450SX races with zero top fives and only seven top tens. He hasn't raced the outdoor series in four years so no real results there that you can count on. Stewart's programme has always been a bit loose – twice he hasn't been on the line at Anaheim 1 because he didn't have a ride. Once he had his own team for SX and another time he was a fill-in at JGR Suzuki.
Simply put, the talent doesn't equal the results for Stewart. See that quote above for some of the issues he's had in 450SX. 2019 was going to be THE ultimate test but alas, he got hurt and here we are again. We are wondering if Stewart can put everything together and not win a race – to me that's a bit much to ask – but can he get on the podium? His raw speed and skills say yes but crashes, fitness and perhaps a bike that hasn't always been that good have resulted in Mookie being the king of bench racing with your buddies as in, "What if he figured it out?"
Another rider texted me, "Malcolm is a good dude, one of the few guys who doesn't take himself too seriously and clearly enjoys riding and racing. That's refreshing to see in a world full of robots. Whether he's third or tenth, you always care about his results regardless. He's got that aura around him." I couldn't agree more. Malcolm is a breath of fresh air in the pits and you want him to succeed. His first love was not motocross growing up and I imagine that he's loving all of this. He's funny, he's outgoing, the fans love him and the sport needs a dude like that.
Just like last year, he appears to be ready to bust out. He's done the work off the bike, his team has given him some good equipment and as we just saw he's riding maybe as good as ever. It's time for Malcolm Stewart to put some results down on paper in the 450SX class. I think he will.
Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: Ray Archer