Interview: Lee Webber discusses the Cab Screens Crescent Yamaha team

What a season Harri Kullas is having! Not only did he clinch the MX Nationals UK MX1 title with a round to spare but he is also in the hunt to do the double in the UK as he’s in contention for the MX1 Revo British title with two rounds to go.

Kullas is part of the Cab Screens Crescent Yamaha team and we decided to catch up with the team owner, Lee Webber, to get his thoughts on the switch from Honda to Yamaha, the season so far and future plans.

On the switch from Honda to Yamaha and how it’s all gone for the team… 

I was actually going to talk about this at the end of the season as it’s worth anyone starting a team knowing who to approach and how to go about it. We didn’t get anything from Honda, we never got one free part or even any discount from Honda, we had to find our own discount from a dealer, which turned out to be the discount any account customer could get so this obviously couldn’t go on and we had to leave them after three years. It had nothing to do with Dave Thorpe, it wasn’t his decision, Dave and Ryan were both really good to us while we were with Honda. It was the guys above them that weren’t really bothered about us, I don’t think they even knew who we were, so leaving Honda at the end of last year had to happen, there was no choice.

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To be honest I was done with it after the Honda thing, I wasn’t going to be running this year, but the Yamaha deal came about through a mutual friend who introduced me to Paul Denning, the owner of the Crescent dealership in Dorset and a Yamaha dealer. From the moment that I met Paul and the first contact with Yamaha, I knew it was the right thing to do (I probably should have done it sooner to be fair). My love for the sport was completely back to 100%. The way it has been dealt with this year has just been unbelievable, to be a part of something we should have had before but we never had that feeling. The feeling this year has been unbelievable, we love what we do, we love what Yamaha do, they include us in everything, and they love what we do.  Yamaha are always active on social media and they’re great to all the Yamaha supported teams and riders so it’s a really nice feeling to be with Yamaha and Crescent this year.

The bikes have been fantastic as well, we are pretty much running a stock 450cc, and in running Yamaha, we are able to run a youth rider on a 125cc in Joe Brookes and look how that has turned out! This years 125cc has been a great bike and next year’s looks even better.

On Harri Kullas and his brilliant form this year – he won the MX Nationals UK title with a round to spare and is in the hunt for the British Championship…

I knew straightaway that he has such a natural talent on a bike and he has an unbelievable work ethic which most kids should really look at if they are going to succeed at the sport. His post-race interview at Blaxhall showed how hard he trains, he looked as fresh as a daisy! Bob from Oakley described him to me as one of the last journeymen in the sport who will travel anywhere to ride a bike. For me, it’s been a really great experience having him on the team.

He definitely goes under the radar a little, and we are still the underdog, although that might be changing now! If you look at the riders at the start of the season that were talked about – Bobryshev, Searle, Walsh, Sterry, Simpson, Nicholls and all these riders that are in there and no one really spoke about Harri. If I’m honest we didn’t think we’d be in this position either with two rounds to go so it’s a nice position. We aren’t getting ahead of ourselves; we are just going to try and do the same things. We are definitely the underdog and I think Harri is one of those riders that not a lot of people spoke about, but I know what he has and how hard he trains. He is actually really calm going into these last few rounds, there will be more pressure on Tommy I think as he will be expected to win it from a manufactures point, from our side and Yamaha there is no pressure at all, so everyone in the team is just enjoying the moment.

Pic: Nuno/Yamaha

On Dan Thornhill who’s a solid #2 rider. Obviously, he’s not at the level Kullas is but he’s a solid top ten guy…

He is loving riding the Yamaha. He still hasn’t quite reached his full potential I think and that’s why I’ve stuck with him for so long. He’s another rider that has a great work ethic, he always trains really hard and gives 100%. He’s definitely a solid top ten guy now. He’s had a couple of big crashes this year which have restricted him slightly, he tweaked his shoulder again as well as his knee. He’s a team player and we are really pleased with him, he’s still progressing and going forward so we still have hopes for him in the future, that’s for sure.

Looking ahead to 2022 – will you be staying with Yamaha? Will you be trying to attract another rider of Kullas’ calibre to the team or maybe you are happy with what you have at the moment? 

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It’s 100% that for 2022 we will be with Yamaha again. That is without doubt because I love being part of the Yamaha family and the level we are performing at. I’m also 99% sure it’ll be the same three riders that we have now that will be with us next year. I think GPs are well beyond us, we would need quite a big budget for that and we haven’t got the kind of cash needed to compete at GP level. We certainly have a smaller budget than some of the top UK teams, even contesting British championships has its challenges so I don’t think we’ll be signing another rider unless there’s a big injection of money from somewhere.

We obviously have a youth rider at the moment in Joe Brookes who’s really got big potential. He’s only fifteen years old and he’s going forward week by week, so we have high hopes for him, If you run 2 title candidates you then put some pressure within the team and we’ve seen that the last couple of seasons with other teams who have team mates racing each other, which has probably caused a rift.

On Gareth Hockey, he’s took over from running the British Championship for this season, what’s your thoughts on the job he is doing? The clash with the MX Nationals earlier in the year must have been a nightmare for any team manager/owner! 

Yeah, the clash was probably the low point of the season, that should never happen within our sport. I’m hoping that the fact the MX Nationals are now with the ACU, it probably won’t happen again. Regarding Gareth, I think he’s doing a good job and putting everything into it. There are obviously areas he can improve, and he knows that but he is trying to work with the teams so my feeling is that it’s a good thing for the sport, making sure that he improves the series by looking at the tracks, riders and anything else he can improve on. It would be wrong to increase the number of rounds for next year, you could scare a few teams off who would struggle with costs, for me six rounds would be a perfect number but maybe run qualifying and a race on Saturday with two races on Sunday, that would give you 18 races. This way it would also cut travel expenses down considerably for many teams, and the privateers who are definitely needed in the championship, quality over quantity!

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Pics: Nuno/Yamaha