The pics from the Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing shoot are downright comical. Hilarious. Ridiculous. Those pictures only show the pro team, with amateur riders Nick Romano, Matt LeBlanc, and newest recruit Levi Kitchen not pictured. Total up those ams and you’ve got TWELVE riders on board Star for 2021.
That includes Dylan Ferrandis, Aaron Plessinger, and Malcolm Stewart on the new 450 program, Justin Cooper, Christian Craig, Jeremy Martin, Colt Nichols, Nate Thrasher, and Jarrett Frye on the 250s. Three 450 riders in an era when many teams run two, and six 250 riders when many teams run four.
Everyone wants to know how the team can afford this. I’ve asked team owner Bobby Regan and he can’t even really come up with an answer, because he doesn’t seem to care about the money.
“Jason, we’re not here to make money, we’re here to win,” he repeats several times.
Regan says he’s never taken a dollar of pay out of the team, and he pays all the expenses for he and his wife to come to the races. So that’s a budget saver. It also helps that the 450 team is much more of a mashup of Yamaha Racing and Star than it might appear. Yamaha provides funding, staff, and its existing race shop in Cypress, California, for the 450 operation, so Star’s 450 crew uses the same work space that housed the Monster Energy Yamaha factory 450 team (Plessinger and Justin Barcia) the last few seasons. Yamaha is adamant that the move to Star is not a sign that they’re pulling back on racing or budget. Yamaha went down this road a decade ago, shutting the factory team and working with L&M/San Manuel and JGRMX, and that was a budget saver during the recession. That’s not the case here. The Star turn in the 450 class is designed around performance and results. Star Racing has delivered them, big time, in the 250 class. Yamaha hopes for similar success on 450s.
The Star 250 team stays in its existing shop, in a separate California space. There are more moves in the future, though, as Regan says the team is in the process of buying the GOAT Farm from the Carmichael family, and will eventually have a full race shop in Florida. They keep making moves. With Ferrandis and Plessinger, the team was set on 450s, but Regan and company added a third rider in Stewart, to dive deeper into the new class. Three bikes and riders bring more data, more experience, and more chances to win.
That’s what it’s always about for this team. They didn’t have any expectations that Jeremy Martin would be available, but they wanted him back, so they found a way to make it happen. I have a suspicion, by the way, that Star’s outsized results on the YZ250F has led riders to come to the team at a discount, kind of how Mitch Payton’s Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki team used to work in the early 250F era. Regan says he knows it worked that way with Pro Circuit in that previous generation, but he says Star isn’t at that point yet. Perhaps, but those bikes seem like one heck of a negotiation tactic.
Everything you hear from this team right now is about a show of strength. Strength in numbers, strength on the dyno, strength on the track. However, even this squad wasn’t immune to the dark days of 2020. When the pandemic first hit and racing stopped, it almost stopped the entire operation.
“It almost ended us,” says Regan. “Just like everyone else, sponsors had to stop paying, and we didn’t know what we were going to do.”
The team was able to hunker down and survive, and then Monster Energy AMA Supercross resumed in late May. A month later, Yamaha’s plan to possibly upgrade Star to a 450 program in 2022 zoomed forward—the brand asked Star if it could have a 450 program ready for 2021. The squad dug in and got to work immediately, with everything happening faster and sooner than expected. Whatever the challenge, though, Star is ready to tackle it. Bobby Regan always dreamed of having a professional team, but says he’s never dreamed run a 450 factory outfit. With a squad this size, now he’s definitely dreaming big.
Main image by Octopi Media