In October of 2016, the Joe Gibbs Motocross
team announced that it would no longer be
affiliated with Yamaha, citing a “conflict with
team contracts.” JGR’s Yamaha contract was
set to expire anyway, but according to Yamaha
insiders, they were within weeks of renewing
the deal. No one expected JGR to opt out of
the Yamaha deal it had for over nine years,
but, even more shocking, a week later JGR
announced that it would be a Suzuki team in
2017. What was so shocking was that Suzuki
barely fielded a 2017 team on its own. The
Yoshimura Suzuki team folded and the RCH
Suzuki team had lost Ken Roczen and was
struggling to find outside sponsors. Eventually,
Suzuki pulled together a last-minute deal with
RCH. Given these circumstances, it seemed
impossible that Suzuki could afford (in terms of
money, support or works parts) to satisfy the
JGRMX effort. Plus, Justin Barcia reportedly
had a year to go, not just on his contract with
JGR, but also with Yamaha, which meant that
JGR most likely had to buy him out of the final
year of his Yamaha deal.
What prompted JGRMX to gamble on a
late-season change from the brand they had
worked with for almost a decade? The most
likely scenario was a feud with Yamaha over
who would sign Cooper Webb to a 450 deal.
Joe Gibbs had helped Webb as an Amateur
and, since both are from North Carolina,
JGR felt like he was the perfect fit for them.
Yamaha, on the other hand, was in the process
of trying to rebuild its in-house factory team
and wanted Cooper Webb. The JGR/Yamaha
feud dissolved into a bidding war between the
factory and the factory-supported Joe Gibbs
team. The relationship between the two went
down the drain.
Whether the move to Suzuki was a bad
bet is something we’ll never know. Why not?
Every JGRMX rider got hurt at some point in
the 2017 AMA Supercross season. The new
JGRMX Suzuki team’s season was ruined by
injuries to Justin Barcia (shown here), Weston
Peick, Phil Nicoletti and Matt Bisceglia.