I am off to Geneva, Switzerland, tomorrow to check out the annual supercross going on there. It should be a great race with a pretty good field of riders. Justin Barcia, Cole Seely, Justin Brayton, Malcolm Stewart, Zach Osborne, Dylan Ferrandis and probably a few more names I am forgetting. Should be a great race both nights in front of a crowd that will be pulling hard for Ferrandis.
I have said all along that the most interesting rider to me for 2019 is Cooper Webb. I want to see if Webb can take that leap to "the next one," which so many of us pegged him for during that last year of 250F action. It did not work out for Webb due to injuries, difficulty adapting to the bigger bike and probably a few other issues.
The rider after Webb that I am interested in is Malcolm Stewart. Mookie has finally got a programme that he’s committed to throughout the off-season with the MotoConcepts Honda guys and he is looking to not take the leap that Webb wants to, but to just be more consistent. Stewart, like his brother although not as frequently, amazes you on the track at times. His whoop speed and technique are elite level but he is missing fitness and a programme that he can adhere to in terms of a bike and a team.
Now he has got both going on.
MCR Honda team manager Tony Alessi is encouraged by the progress he sees although he is not a fan of the off-season races. "Too many races and too much gambling," he says of Stewart whose schedule has included Montreal, Spain, Geneva and Italy in a couple of weeks.
"He is stronger, fitter and better. There have not been any shortcuts by him," says Alessi. "He has been working with Swanny (trainer Gareth Swanepoel) and it has all been good. I told him when he went home for Thanksgiving that his parents had to notice how much fitter he looked."
Can Stewart become a top five rider with maybe, just maybe, a podium in there here and there? That would be quite an achievement for the team having seen Justin Brayton win Daytona last year. Alessi didn’t want to put any numbers on how he can do but he is very optimistic. "It has been better than expected; he is a super cool guy easy to work with. He is a hard worker," says Alessi. "He has been riding four days a week. His ability to go out and ride a track that has never been ridden before and in three laps ride it better than anyone who has been riding it before is amazing."
Stewart and the team weren’t fully committed to each other when the off-season deal was announced. I think both sides were going in cautiously. The team was probably worried about working with Malcolm and his family and Stewart was probably worried about the "old" MCR team and its reputation in the pits.
Things change, and both sides have developed a mutual respect and admiration for each other. Alessi wouldn’t commit to Stewart being part of the team for the entire 2019 Monster Energy Supercross series but he said that it looks "promising" for the #27 to be under the tent for the indoor season.
This weekend’s race in Geneva will be the first look at Stewart against some pretty good competition and it’ll be a good chance for Stewart to know what he’s up against. The team pulled off an amazing feat with Brayton last year, can they do it again with another veteran?
Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: ConwayMX