Cole Seely already brings a wealth of 450cc experience and a proven pedigree to his new role at Team Honda.
It’s weird to think that this will be Cole Seely’s rookie season as a 450cc competitor in the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Season, because very few rookies can already boast a podium finish in a class they are about to officially enter.
Like a minor league hockey player, the 24-year-old Seely has been “called up from the minors” on a few occasions, stepping off his former Troy Lee Designs Honda 250cc ride to campaign for Team Honda in the 450cc class when Trey Canard was injured. And just like a talented young puck handler with a bright future, Seely scored a goal in 2014 when he rewarded Team Honda’s faith in him with an excellent third-place finish at the Indy Supercross last March.
So when the time came for Honda to find someone to replace the departing Justin Barcia, Seely’s name was right at the top of Big Red’s wish list even though there were quite a few more established or experienced free agents available. That said, Team Honda doesn’t view Seely’s hiring as repayment for a favor as much as it is an investment in its future, citing a lot of raw potential in the tenacious Californian. When the gate drops for the opening round of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross season at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California, January 3, the ticker tape on Seely’s stock will commence.
You served as a substitute rider for Trey Canard in 2014 and opened a lot of eyes to your potential by finishing third at the Indy Supercross. After a successful stint with the Troy Lee Designs Honda team, moving on to Team Honda must like a natural progression for you.
Yeah, it was pretty much a no-brainer when I got the call. This year was actually my third time filling-in on the team, and we have always had really good chemistry, so it made the decision really easy. Honestly, no matter how many options I would’ve had, I would’ve picked this team. It is just a really good fit for me. Another bonus was that I was able to bring my mechanic [Rich Simmons], who I have worked with for the last five years.
You actually made your official debut with the team at the 2014 Monster Energy Cup in Las Vegas, and that didn’t go so well. Explain what happened.
It was unfortunate. I felt really good going in there, and I’d had a lot of good days stacked up going into that race. I was looking forward to putting in some good results, but I had crashed in the first timed qualifying session. I just hit my head a little bit—it was nothing at all. Had it been a normal, points-paying race, I would have at least tried to practice one more time, but me and Dan Betley talked it over, and he decided to be better safe than sorry.
So, you didn’t hit your head so hard that you thought you had already won the million dollars…
[Laughs] No. I remember everything, every little detail from before it happened and after it happened. I was just a little dizzy. What happened was that I just mistimed a rhythm section. It was a triple-triple-triple, and I just went a little too far on the second triple. I was on such a fast lap that I didn’t want to just give it up, so I went for it on the last triple and got a little cross-rutted on the face of it. I went off the side of the track, jumped off the side of the track and landed right next to the Tuff Blox and clipped one. I went over the bars. It wasn’t so much the impact, I think, but rather the whiplash of it. I went over to the Asterisk Mobile Medical truck to get checked out, and everything was all good, but they [Team Honda] had already told me that they didn’t want me to race.
Going into Anaheim I, what kind of expectations do you have yourself, and are you feeling any pressure to perform at a certain level?
Everything has been going so well that I would almost say we are ahead of schedule as far as the bike and my fitness are concerned. I don’t really put a whole lot of pressure on myself, and I can’t really say that I have expectations set right now. I feel that once you get into the series, that’s something that you work on then. If I go into the first race and get a top-five finish, then sweet. I will work to keep staying in there. If I get a top-10 finish, then a top-five will be my goal. I don’t really have expectations, I have goals. I have already proven that I am a top-five guy and that I can get on the podium.
So, top-fives are the goal.
Well, top-fives and staying healthy.
You’ve got a real strong team behind you in Team Honda, but your inner circle is interesting as well.
Yeah, I do. I am really fortunate to have a good core group. Of course, my mechanic, Rich Simmons, is with me, and my trainer is [former mountain bike champion] Brian Lopes. I have also hired [former AMA Supercross, Motocross and Supermoto champion] Jeff Ward as my riding coach this year, and we’ve been having a lot of solid days and put in a ton work. There is no reason why I can’t be on the box again.
Talk about having Trey Canard as a teammate. I can’t imagine that you wouldn’t get along well with him, but are you learning anything by riding with him?
Any time you can ride with a guy like Trey, you are going to learn something. He is so talented, and he obviously has a ton of speed. Any time I can ride with someone like that, I take advantage of it. On top of that, Trey, as a person, is just awesome to be around. He is always keeping the mood really light. He is really witty, and smart, and it is definitely a blessing to be around him. If he has to say about the track or the way I’m riding, then I am all ears. He is a great rider, and I will take as much advice as he gives me.
By the same token, you are clearly bringing something to the party.
Sure. We are two different riders, but we can put our heads together, and give each other our input. If I am hitting a section better or he is hitting a section better, we can share that knowledge and different perspectives on different lines or tracks. I think we both bring a lot to the table.
But your bike setups are so different. You run the Showa fork and he runs the Kayaba, and your engine tuneups are pretty different.
Yes, and we run different bars and different lever positions, so a lot of other small things, too. I have never ridden a bike with his settings, but I would imagine they are different based upon our weights and body positioning, things like that.
The 2015 season promises to be extremely competitive. Ryan Villopoto is off to Europe, and there will be new riders stepping up from the 250cc class and established 450cc riders on new teams. It seems as though there are about 10 riders who could win on a given weekend. Aside from Trey, who are you looking at?
There is a stacked field every year, but this year we have a couple more riders, including myself, stepping into the 450cc class. I don’t know. Once we get into the season and get through Anaheim I we will see who is physically and mentally prepared for it. As far as the 250cc guys going onto Anaheim I, I feel like I have a slight advantage because I have raced the 450 before, and some of the 250cc guys have never lined up against the 450 guys and raced the extra five laps in the stadiums.
So, for you, this big step up to a full-fledged factory ride is really more a case of business as usual?
It has definitely been a really smooth and seamless transition. Having already worked with the team and been with the same mechanic for so long, it has been a really easy process of getting on the bigger bike and getting familiarized with everything. It has just been really easy for me.