Last updated: August 10th, 2023
Catching up with: Richard Cooper
We recently caught up with FHO Racing rider Richard Cooper to discuss his career, life away from the track, and his expectations for the first ever BMW F900 R Cup season.
After growing up watching his dad race motorcycles, it was pretty easy for Richard Cooper to envisage a future in motorcycle racing. 'Coopes' hopped on his first competitive bike at 16 and hasn't looked back since.
Having just turned 40, the former 2-time British Superstock 1000 champion knows he is very much a veteran of the paddock these days, but that doesn't diminish his desire for success. When asked his reasoning for entering the all-new BMW F900 R Cup, it's a simple answer; "To win"; however, this is a response that comes from a man with a very different perspective on life.
"It used to be all about winning. Now, following the injury in 2020 and the birth of my daughter last year, it puts things into perspective."
For those who don't know, following his successful British Superstock title season in 2019, he went into the 2020 campaign with hopes of a repeat. Unfortunately, as the world was put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic, so was his pre-season testing and a slow start to the first round of the season saw Richard competing in the middle of the pack at Donington Park. During the 1st race Richard was involved in an accident which left him with a severe injury to his right leg.
"I thought it was done, I thought my career was done. My leg was in half, round the back of my head. I was prepared to call it a day, I felt I'd had a good run at it. I was getting close to 40, perhaps just call it."
This was the start of a long period away from the sport for Richard, as he missed the remainder of the 2020, and entire 2021 season. He reflects on this period away, somewhat fondly - as it allowed him to experience new things, spend more time with his partner and truly appreciate how much he'd achieved in the sport.
Returning from injury
Coopes states that his passion for the sport was the reason for returning. An adrenaline-hit that can't really be acquired in everyday life, but the love of the sport alone won't get you back to the top though, you need to have people who believe in you, people who will support you - help you along the way, and for Coopes that's the main reason why he came back.
"If it wasn't for the loyalty I've built with teams and people in the sport over the years I think it would have been over, but I had teams telling me 'whenever you are ready, we'll have a bike for you' or Stu (RST Senior Director) for example, 'Just let us know when you need leathers Coopes'; you realise there's people supporting."
An elongated period away allowed Richard to get himself ready for the comeback. The nearly 18 months out, had given the body time to heal, to get right rather than rush back. It paid off, he was able to take 2 wins at the NW200 and 4 podiums in a triumphant return to racing in the BSB paddock.
What does this mean for 2023?
A new season brings new challenges, and for Coopes, it's a new team and a brand new championship to compete in. 2023 sees the maiden season of the BMW F900 R Cup in the BSB paddock. A single-manufacturer class where all riders will compete on identical bikes. Asked why this appealed to a rider of Richard's class and experience:
"I've given everything for such a long-time, 20 odd years, I want to be able to enjoy my life, spend time with my daughter, but also have a bit of fun racing, that was why I wanted to be part of the BMW F900 R Cup."
It's an opportunity for riders to make a name for themselves, to break into the mainstream - and the fact that experienced riders like Richard Cooper and Micheal Rutter are also competing, it gives the championship immediate credibility.
When asked about his goals for the season, its simple - win and enjoy it.
One of the biggest reasons behind the new BMW F900 R cup is to give riders a chance to compete in the BSB paddock, without the cost required in the other classes. The cost of the bikes on the grid is £11,000, and makes a far more affordable and sustainable class of riding. Aimed at encouraging participation within the sport, whilst giving an even playing-field for all the riders involved.
"Nobody can have better suspension than the next person, nobody can have more tyres than the next person, that for me is a far better way of going racing. It's down to the rider."
The concept of making a championship more accessible, affordable and inclusive is something that aligns with the RST values. Our founder Jonny Towers recently spoke about this: "RST is a brand for everybody, it's always been inclusive, always been for everybody, that's always been the essence of what we've tried to do. High Quality. Affordability. Credibility."
Richard got off to the perfect start this season, winning the 1st race in the BMW F900 R Cup, finishing 3 seconds clear of his nearest rival. On reflection, Coopes discussed his thoughts on the first race weekend of the year;
"It was great, when you are the favourite you have a target on your back. I knew that, and to win the first race was huge. I think the championship will be great, I'm sure some riders will progress from it."
When asked about his motivations for competing in the class, it's a very simple response - to go racing and have fun. With the championship consisting of 9 rounds, it's a less intensive schedule and one that suits Richard at this point in his career:
"Why wouldn't I be interested in the prize fund? There's been years where I've raced for nothing, when you factor in fuel, tyres, everything, its still not covering it - but it's nice to get a little bit back. If I win the championship, I think I will have deserved it like anyone else."
For us it was great to see the start of a brand new championship on the BSB calendar, and to see so many RST riders on the grid was incredible. Richard has been an advocate for the RST brand since 2016, and has noticed the development of our products during his time as an RST factory rider;
"The quality of the suits is amazing. I love being able to pop into the RST race department and get suits made as and when I need them, fully-customised. Since I've been with the brand it's clear to see the progression of the suits, the cut, the quality, the fit, the printing its all different class. I constantly get comments complimenting my RST leathers."
This season Richard will be riding his FHO Racing BMW F900 R wearing a fully customised v4.1 EVO Airbag suit. If you would like to get your own suit you can contact the RST race department via our contact portal or head over to the v4.1 suit page (above) for more details on our standard race suit.
We wish Richard the best for the season. Want to find out more about Coopes? View his rider page here.