RISPOLI: NEVER, NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP
NEWS March 30, 2011
James Rispoli here, and below is my Daytona AMA Pro Motorcycle-SuperStore.com SuperSport race report. To start, I want to let you know I had such a great time during the winter months hanging out in Florida (about 20 minutes from Daytona) at my mechanic, Ryan's, house. This was the first year I did this and from what I was able to accomplish training-wise, it won't be the last. It was so great to have outdoor time where I was able to train on my bicycle, be in the sun, and work not only on my training but on all my sponsors as well. The winters in Western NY are so tough, and at times it could be depressing. I think I found a combination that works for me, and it should make for an awesome year both on and off the track.
The Difficult Decision
Leading up to Daytona's opening round, we prepared the best we could. We had a difficult time deciding what platform to race on and when we thought we had a handle on it, things would change. We sold my "A" bike from last season and that almost became a big mistake for us. It left us with only our "B" bike, which also was a 2008 model. We would have no backup. When we realized new bikes were not available it was too late to change and take a gamble on another manufacturer. After consulting internally with the team, our outside sponsors and other industry folks we trusted, we made the difficult decision to stay put on the same platform and, more importantly, come to Daytona on an older bike knowing full well we would be underpowered and overweight compared to all the new 2011 models we would be racing against. In addition, it meant we didn't qualify for any contingency money, which meant we were racing only to get out of Daytona with valuable point for the championship and put on the best showing we could for our sponsors, team, family and friends. It was a huge gamble since having only one bike meant a crash in practice, qualifying or race one could mean the end of the race weekend, which consisted of two races that counted toward the championship. To say it was little crazy was an understatement, but there was no way we could get newer bikes by then and we had to do what we had to do and live with it. My entire team was supportive and we went into the Daytona race week optimistic we could hang with the top teams and give the fans a show. The team prepped the bike fantastic. All my product sponsors came through with new components and a few spares. Our motor was rebuilt and ready to rock, and everyone was ready to get it on.
We got to the track and set up. We had some new suspension parts put on, locked in some chassis settings, and was ready for the first practice. Rain made the first practice difficult and cut it a little short. Once we got to our Q1 I was out there working alone and was around 1.6 seconds off the pace and qualified 9th out of 40 riders. I wasn't too worried at the time since I was feeling out the bike, suspension and new motor. I felt I had the top speed to be up there shooting through the speed trap at 175 mph, but I was just having some problems getting off the corners.
The next morning at 8 a.m. we had our second qualifying round, and while the track was a little cooler and somewhat damp, I was able to shave another second off my best time of the day before and qualify second for the morning. The combined qualifying times moved me up on the grid to 7th starting position or a second row start. While I knew I could do better, I was still satisfied and knew I could work my way up front quickly when race time came. The SuperSport race one was later that day and my team made sure every nut and bolt was tight and everything was about as ready as it could be. I relaxed a bit, watched some other qualifying, and rested up for the first event.
On the start of race one I got a great start but unfortunately we had a red flag while I was making my way into second place on lap one, which caused a total restart. On the restart I got pinched off a little which caused me to lose early contact through the infield of the lead group. Once I got around the slower riders, out-breaking them in the chicane, I was just too far away to sniff the leaders' draft and they gapped me. Alone without a draft, I didn't have the speed to catch up and ended up in the second group that was significantly off the pace of the leaders. I worked my butt off in that group but could only managed a 7th-place finish after being drafted by a fleet of new 2011 machines. I dropped another second but was still 2 seconds off the best time of the winner in the class. I knew we needed to do something dramatic to the motorcycle since I was riding a controlled crash for most of race one.
The team and I spent a lot of time discussing what was wrong and where on the track we needed to make up time in order to get closer to the front group. We consulted our suspension folks, our rider coach and my mentor, Jason Pridmore, and other trusted third parties in order to get some consensus on what to do. It was a tough decision. We looked back on other situations such as last year's New Jersey Motorsports Park, where in race two we made such drastic changes and ended up with our first win. We decided to do the same and go for it. With the changes made we got a good night sleep and waited to take to the warm up the next morning. In the warm up I felt good, made another small change and waited for race two to start. I knew I was not going to leave anything on the track and was going for it.
On the start I got off the line and worked my way into the third spot hanging with the lead group. Four of us dropped the rest of the field after putting down 52s on the second lap, almost two seconds faster than the rest of the pack. I was truly hanging on for dear life since I was unable to jump off the corners and had to dive deep in to each corner hard on the brakes in order to close each gap that the top three would pull. I was getting yanked everywhere except on the brakes and it was just a matter of time before my super-aggressive riding was going to catch up with me. It did on lap seven going into turn one, where I had an big moment deep and hard on the brakes and slid up in there a little too deep. It gave the rest of the lead group an advantage as they started to break away from me through the infield, leaving me alone in fourth place some eight to ten seconds ahead of the second group. With three laps to go I just put my head down and wanted to get out of there with fourth-place points. But as they say, in racing anything can happen, and on the last lap through the chicane, it did. The third-place rider must have lost it, and when I came through to get on the banking I knew I was podium-bound. I put my head down and brought it home to a cheering crew, team and sponsors. It was awesome!
My sponsors were so excited. ANT Racing's David Ashi was so pumped, as were my team's mechanics, Ryan and Dustin. Star School's Jason Pridmore was right there with a hug. The guys from Monster Energy, Dainese, AGV and even Mike, Dee and Jessica Lee from Techmounts were in victory lane cheering me on. But what was really awesome was to know the folks from the NationalGuard.com were there, and I could see them all from the podium. The first thing I remember on the podium was giving thanks to the men and women who fight to provide us all our freedom to do what we love to do, and I was so grateful that all my sponsors saw enough in my character, my team and our combined abilities to invest in us this year.
We took a huge gamble coming to Daytona with one bike, an older one at that. To come