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Monday Conversation II: James Stewart

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To say that James Stewart was the star of the 26th Paris-Bercy Supercross would be an understatement. The San Manuel Yamaha rider absolutely dominated the field, leading almost every lap over the weekend, including a series of short match races he rode against the likes of MDK/KTM rider Justin Brayton, Honda-mounted Kevin Windham and Jake Marsack, Joe Gibbs Racing MX’s Josh Grant, and top French SX riders like David Vuillemin, Steve Boniface, Eric Sorby, and Nico Aubin. All in all, Stewart won all 18 races he entered, leading all but three laps on the Palais Omnisport circuit. Before his weekend was over, I sat down with James to talk with him about his first trip to France and what his plans are between now and Anaheim I in January.

Racer X: James, how do you like your first trip to France so far?
James Stewart: It’s been great, from the way the fans are treating me to the police escort here... But we’re now in the middle of the third day of racing over here, and I’m a little over it. By the time we finish tonight’s race, I will have started 18 times – that’s more than the whole AMA Supercross Series! But the fans are keeping me going because they are so into it over here.

Well, you get one more win and you’ll have a perfect weekend.
Man, I guess once you get a perfect season, everything’s got to be perfect! It’s like, if you could tie your shoes just a little faster, you could be perfect at it! But it’s cool, it’s a great feeling to win, but I just want to get out there one more time and finish the job, and then start thinking about supercross back home. I just want to get out of here safely because we came over to accomplish what we wanted to do, and I honestly feel ten times better than I did at the U.S. Open last month, and that’s the main thing.

Well, the video they made of you for opening ceremonies was perfect. (Stewart is in his room, having overslept, when the phone rings telling him he’s got to get over to the race immediately. With some clever editing, he puts on his gear in seconds, runs down to the lobby and finds his bike waiting for him. He then rides it out of the hotel and over to the cavernous stadium, where he proceeds to get lost a couple of times before finally riding into the stadium, led by one of the beautiful cheerleaders that are a signature for the race, all the while with Rick James music blaring.)
It really was fun to make. They wanted me to just do the Rick James impression at first but I thought the wake-up call would be funnier, but it was cool. They do some pretty funny stuff, too, like having me run into a guy in a gorilla suit at one point, then the girls with the pom-poms. Somebody got a little loose making that! But this is just part of a really cool event here. I mean, they are really into this race, and they could be an hour behind schedule but they will not miss a pom-pom rally!

I understand that you took a little trip to the Eiffel Tower?
My buddy [Anthony] Paggio and I wanted to go up in it but it was freezing cold and we didn’t want to wait in line, so we ended up at the Luis Vuitton Shop, which is a huge place, and I almost had my trainer Aldon [Baker] in the McDonald’s to eat at one point.

As far as the L&M Racing team goes, you guys looked like you were in mid-season form.
Yeah, that’s the cool part about this team. For them to all pack up and go over here for me was something else. I mean, I know they came over here with Chad Reed before, but these guys really ain’t getting anything out of this, but they want to get stronger. It doesn’t matter if I line up at Dade City or come over here, it definitely helps my confidence going into Anaheim and puts me in that mid-season form, and we’re only going to get better from here.

Larry Brooks, your team manager, told me a story about how they were tying to check out everything the bike was doing when you were testing back home in the whoops, but you were going so fast they couldn’t tell, so they hired a man with a hi-def camera and a flatscreen TV to come out video you so they could watch!
[Laughs] It was pretty funny because Larry and the guys wanted to see how things were working, and I would come in after a few laps and say, “Okay, what did you guys see?” And they said, “We can’t see anything!” They are going to extra step for me and I really appreciate that. Me being on this great equipment obviously shows the work everyone’s putting into it.

The only man that looked even close you out there was Justin Brayton, and he looked pretty good on that 450.
You know what? That guy is going to surprise some people. I think he’s going to be a sleeper out there because he’s riding really well and he’s got some talent. I think he’s going to be really good if he can stay healthy, because that’s always part of it in a big series. I guarantee you, before the season’s over, he is going to podium.

What’s the plan from here for the next two months before AMA Supercross starts?
It’s still a long way away, and I have to go right back to California after this because we’ve got a few days of testing coming up, and I have to do some things for Yamaha and San Manuel, and just keep getting everything situated. I want to come into Anaheim with guys like Chad and Ryan [Villopoto] and those guys and just be the perfect storm, and may the best man win... Right now, I feel like we’ve got a good chance.

How are you getting along with Larry Brooks? I mean, he’s dealt with some pretty unique characters, like Jeremy McGrath, Chad, Jimmy Button, Nathan Ramsey….
Larry’s a good guy. One thing I like about Larry is that he’s so passionate about winning. You know, when I first came over to the man, I couldn’t lie to him. I said, “You know, I always hated you guys – every one of you,” because I was racing against them. It wasn’t personal, it was just that I couldn’t like them because they were with the other guy, which I think was really... I mean, you’ve got to hate the other guys every time you put the helmet on. When I would win something, I would always look over at him or throw a big whip and wave at him, but that was just me having fun. Now we really are friends.

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