Malcolm Stewart, 2016 AMA 250SX East Region Supercross Champion, enters 2021 as a member of the high flying Monster Energy Star Yamaha 450cc outfit and looking to challenge for race wins – and perhaps even a title.
Q: How do things look between yourself and your Star Yamaha 450cc teammates Aaron Plessinger and Dylan Ferrandis? You guys make up quite the formidable trio infused with radically different influences, styles and techniques…
MALCOLM STEWART: Yeah, I guess me and AP have a similar personality, but I’m not too familiar with Dylan. I mean, I’ve seen him in the past because he came from Europe. The only time I would know Dylan was when we would go race Paris, France and stuff like that. I would see him over there here and there, but he’s such a nice guy whenever we talk. Of course his English is always a little broken, but anytime we have conversations about anything, it has always been really good. And Aaron Plessinger… He’s a funny one, man. I call him a country bumpkin. That’s the right call with him.
Q: What’s your frame of mind right now? We’re about to start a season that’s been unlike any of the other 40-plus season that have come before it.
MS: I feel good, you know? I feel really good. Of course with this whole COVID pandemic, it’s tough out here and a lot of friends and family aren’t around… You’re trying you’re the stay away from it, but it’s airborne. You can’t see it and you don’t know it. Every time that I pull up to a gas station and a pump I get nervous, because it can be something that is there for a couple of days or for a couple of weeks or a couple of months, you never know. It’s tough. It’s definitely one of those deals where I feel like that if things are different, that’s how they’re meant to be, and I haven’t changed anything. I’m not sitting here and shying away from it. For me, it’s more like, ‘I’m going out here and I’m going to focus on doing my job and whatever happens after that, happens, you know?
Q: You come to Star Yamaha from MotoConcepts Honda where you raced the Honda CRF450R. You were totally in step with that bike. How do you like your new 2021 Yamaha works bike?
MS: I feel good. I feel really good. One thing that I always want to tell all the people this: it’s not just the motorcycle. It’s the team that makes the difference. It’s when you’ve got a team around you and supporting you and they all want the same goals, that’s when you excel. That’s when you see the stars shine. I feel that we’re all great, but there are always those little bitty pieces of information that you have or don’t have. I feel like we have everything we need now. I feel like this year that I’ve done everything correctly, and now at this time it’s just about putting in the results and seeing where we are at.
Another thing I like about the team is that even though we’re racing events back to back in 2021, they already have great ideas of what we can do to test and things like that, where previous teams that I’ve been on may have done things differently. It’s definitely like these guys pick up on things a lot faster, but also, this is a factory team and they’ve been there and they’ve done that. So they know exactly what they are doing, and for me to be a part of it is awesome.
Q: You placed a solid seventh overall in the 2020 Monster Energy Supercross Series and also motored off with the accolade of being the top non-factory racer in 2020. No mean feat, eh?
MS: I mean, honestly, we didn’t have those two tough scores – Salt Lake one and Salt Lake four – we would have been in the top five at the end. But you know what? That’s part of racing. You never know what’s going to happen and that’s why I love racing, because at the end of the day, that’s what we eat, sleep and dream of. It was a good year. Everything was just flowing the way it was. Our goal was just, ‘Hey, man! Stay top seven! Stay top seven!’ We started off with a little bit of eighths and ninths and 10ths, and then the next thing you know, boom, we’re sitting top seven, and then we’re in the top five and getting closer to battling for the podiums with a couple of fourths and stuff.
So I would say that for me, it was a good starting point, because since 2017 and my rookie year, I went into kind of a downward spiral, and then in 2019, I kind of got everything turned around and then, boom, I got hurt in the second race, so it was over before we even really saw the results. This year, 2020, was really the first legitimate year that I had kind of everything in line. I had a good off-season, I stayed healthy and was in a good program, as I had started working with my trainer Gareth Swanepoel. I also had a solid nutrition plan. Everything was in the right order, where with the previous years, it had been like, coming into and doing okay in the second round or in the third round. Then I ended up filling-in for some certain people and things like that at the races, and it was all kind of a scramble.
I would say that these last two years that I’ve had, 2019 and 2020 coming into 2021, I’ve had great off-seasons and everything was flowing the way it should have been. For me, I’m more than excited to see how this thing all turns out. It’s going to be a little weird. It’s definitely going to be weird that we are all doing these races back-to-back. We went to Salt Lake City and tried to end the races, where this is where we are starting off like this, so this is definitely all going to be a little weird. But there are still 17 rounds and they’re still treating it like a legitimate supercross season, and that’s how it’s going to be. I’m really excited, like I said. I can only take it race-by-race and learn from it and go from there.
Q: Well, you’re already an AMA champion, and from what people have been telling me over the past few months, you’re going to kill it this season.
MS: Oh yeah! I definitely feel like I can, you know? Once you’ve won a race, you know exactly what that feels like. Whether it’s 250 or 450, it don’t matter. You know exactly what it feels like to win. You know what it feels like to lead laps. You know exactly what that pressure feels like that. I’m ready for it. I can’t wait to have that pressure again! I’m ready for all that. And being in the premier class… Man, you go to the line and look to your left and then you look to your right, and the top 18 guys have done something! And the majority of us have won the 250 title, for sure. Top five finishes, podiums, race wins – these guys have done it all. It’s tough! You look down that like and you say to yourself, ‘Man, this is crazy…’ That’s what we live for.
And the cool thing about it is that a lot of us kind of grew up with each other racing. Now, it’s like that new age of racing. It’s just us! We know how to deal with it. We’ve all been there and we want it. Everyone has their flashes and stuff like that, it’s just a matter of being in the game, man! It’s just like a college player going to the NFL. They’re good! They’re good! Absolutely, they’re good, man, but it’s a whole different ballgame! And we love it.