Welcome to our weekly web-exclusive column, Transmoto USA Insider Presented By Answer. Penned each week by our man on the ground, Transmoto's US Correspondent, Jason Weigandt, USA Insider presents the story-behind-the-stories of the AMA supercross and motocross scene.
The anti-climactic finale to the injury-plagued 2012 Monster Energy Supercross Championship in the US was quickly overshadowed by huge, massive news the day after – first, on Sunday, the JGR/Toyota Yamaha team announced that James Stewart was no longer a part of the team. Then, on Monday, Yoshimura (Factory) Suzuki wasted no time in announcing Stewart would join their program for a run at the 2012 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. And that series starts next weekend!
The Stewart to Suzuki rumours had been around for months, but with Stewart, it's hard to pick up what rumours are nearing reality and what rumours are simply fabricated. We've seen so much stuff made up about him in the past, and it seems to come true about half of the time. For example, Stewart was super close to signing with Suzuki last summer (for the full 2012 season) before the deal blew up at the last minute. He had even filmed promotional videos and taken photos on his RM-Z—and those are the videos you're seeing circulate the web right now, they're from last summer, not this week.
But when the Suzuki deal fell apart last year, he went to JGR instead. Crashes and lack of results had many expecting him to part ways with the team, and each time I talked to JGR Team Manager Jeremy Albrecht, the story would change, from "everything is good" to "we are not sure." But the whole time, Stewart remained under contract (a three year deal, in fact) to JGR, so while rumours spread, the ink said he was staying.
Three weeks ago, Albrecht told me on a Tuesday that all was well again with Stewart. Then on Friday he told me, "now they're not so good again."
Finally, it became clear Stewart was leaving, and the JGR team wasn't upset because they would get to stop paying his big salary. Stewart's contract did not require him to race AMA Motocross, so if he wanted, he could have sat at home all summer and let the JGR paycheques come to his mailbox. Obviously, JGR would rather not have that scenario (it's not like he had earned them the supercross title, which was their hope), so they made it easy for him to get out of his deal and go to Suzuki. At least they don't have to pay him to not ride!
Meanwhile, Suzuki, like any team, doesn't have a huge budget surplus at mid season. Stewart is racing for free. When the 2013 budget kicks in, he'll get paid, but for the rest of 2012, he's basically just getting their bikes and support, and pitting with them. He'll make no money from the team, but don't feel bad for James – his Red Bull, Answer, Nike, GoPro and other dollars will more than make up for this.
Meanwhile, no one can question Stewart's determination to get back to the top. He's putting equipment and results over money. We'll see if he made the right decision.