Rider Spotlight: James Rispoli
NEWS December 29, 2011
Photo by Brian J. Nelson
AMAPro: Where are you from?
JR: I’m originally from Londonderry, New Hampshire. I grew up there until I was about 13. I started racing there with one of my dad’s good friends as a riding partner, but then got hooked into riding motorcycles from there. I used to ride in open fields and stuff, but wasn’t really on a track until I was six years old.
Now I live in Ormond Beach, Fla. It’s crazy because I’ve been in Florida training for the past few months, and recently, I had to drive back up North to pick up a car and drive it down. It was only until I went back up there did I realize how over New York I am! I’ve already been spotted driving around town in my newly PEI customized truck. You have to check it out, it’s a white van, now turned black, with custom wheels, HID lights, roof rack and sweet graphics. Living in Florida for the winter months will definitely help my off-season training. Every day I’m out on the bicycle, so I’ll be able to step it up to a new level, which will really put me into shape for next year.
AMAPro: What was your first motorcycle?
JR: My first bike was a Suzuki JR50. I had it for a while, but as a progression of bikes, I then went to a Z50, a LEM 50, a Pollini 50 then my first 65cc bike. As you can tell, I was on 50s for a while. It was good, but I outgrew them. As soon as I got on a 65, it was game time. I won my first AMA Amateur Dirt Track National on a 65. By that time, motorcycle riding was a way of life.
AMAPro: How did you get into motorcycle racing?
JR: I’m the first generation in my family to go pro in motorcycle racing. My brother is an all-American wrestler, my sister is an all-Cheerleader, so we’ve always been a pretty athletic family. Back in the day, my dad’s friend and neighbor, Bruce, owned Bruce Transportation with Erion Honda. That’s how we were always involved in motorsports. He wanted to go flat track racing, so one weekend I tagged along, tried to race on my JR50, had no idea what I was doing, finished dead last, but was hooked! After that, I’ve progressed so far. Even after finishing in last place, I knew that that was all I wanted to do. When we moved to New York, we had 22 acres to build a track so I could really develop my skills. So many top road racers came from dirt track, and I would like to fall into that category. There’s always that transition, but you have to make a 100% commitment to diving into the sport. A lot of great riders are flat trackers, and I think it does wonders for you on the road racing side.
AMAPro: Now, you started off racing flat track, correct?
JR: Realistically, I’ve only been in the road racing series a very short time compared to others that are very powerful racers. In the past three years of AMA Pro, I’ve only done 15 races.. that’s only five rounds a year. I’ve been really fortunate to pick it up so quickly, but I’ve been flat trackin’ it for pretty much my whole life. I went pro in 2008, and until last year, I only got my feet wet in road racing. In 2009, I got second place in the Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Singles Championship. In 2010, I finished fourth in the championship after missing a few rounds. For 2011, we focused in on the road racing side of things, had some great sponsors backing, which resulted in winning a championship. It’s amazing how everything lined up this past season, because in prior years, I got my first podium at Road America, and first win at New Jersey. After collaborating with Jason Pridmore and STAR School, I’ve been to every school since, and now I’m an instructor. Learning from Jason Pridmore has been a total shortcut to finding the limits of what my bike and I can do while expanding my potential. Jason and Mark Gallardo have improved my level of racing tremendously in the 2011 season. I think that’s why I’ve done so well.
AMAPro: Out of all the bikes you’ve ridden, which one stood out the most?
JR: It would have to be my framer 250 two-stroke. You can’t find them anymore.. It’s a specially-made dirt track bike. I won my first year at the Springfield Mile by 14 seconds. That bike does not lose on a half mile.. it’s the most perfect bike I’ve ever ridden. It has to be my favorite. I’ll never get rid of it until I’m broke and homeless.
AMAPro: Have you had a chance to do any off-season testing?
JR: Not really... I’ve been at the STAR School twice with Jason Pridmore and Mark Gallardo. We’re working on my goals for next year. We should have a test before Daytona, though. I’m really excited to get back on my motorcycle.
AMAPro: What’s your favorite racetrack?
JR: That’s tough. I don’t have a favorite, but I can definitely do a top five!
- New Jersey Motorsports Park
- Miller Motorsports Park
- Valencia, Spain
- Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
- Barber Motorsports Park
AMAPro: What draws you to the sport? The thrill, competition or the speed?
JR: I don’t know.. It’s everything. It’s an adrenaline rush that you can’t find anywhere else. If I could have one stress reliever, it would be riding a motorcycle. Anytime I watch, read, or talk about motorcycles, it raises a hair on the back of my neck. It’s the only thing that I want to do. What blows my mind is how I can be so into motorcycle racing. I’ll do whatever I have to do to continue this awesome ride that I’m on.
AMAPro: What’s a typical day like for you?
JR: After Jersey, I took some time off, didn’t train as hard, and kicked back a little. Now that we’re in the hunt for Daytona, a typical day varies with getting up at 6AM, riding my bicycle, doing intervals, breaking down muscle to get a great base for the season. I do a 25mi recovery bike ride, go to the gym, workout my core, take 50-60mi bike rides, do yoga, etc. I don’t have a typical day, because I do all these exercises on different days. We have 8 weeks until Daytona really rolls around, so I need to diet, lose some weight, because some of these riders are some skinny kids! When I’m not exercising or dieting, I’m trying to make whatever money I can to put gas in the tank. I’m always trying to keep everything in line by talking to sponsors and industry people. I’m learning from my dad a good business sense so I have a life after motorcycle racing.
AMAPro: What are your expectations going into next year?
JR: In 2011, we had a phenomenal season. Going into next season, I need to figure out qualifying more.. how can I better tell where I’m at on the track instead of looking down at a lap timer. Another goal is to ride at the front of the pack better by racing the track. This past season, I had a mental block when riding my own race, and I know I can race against anybody, but I’d like to improve when racing against myself. I want to win as many races as I can. If I can win some doubleheaders, I’d be really pleased with that.
AMAPro: Who's your racing hero?
JR: Valentino Rossi would have to be the guy. He’s always been the guy I would like to be like. I try to align myself with him, and I look up to him as a racer and a person. If he had no chance of winning, I’d pick him, just because he’s so much fun to watch.
What's your take?
We all have our motorcycle riding roots... How did you get started riding motorcycles? Pictured is Yoshimura / Makita / Suzuki Scoop rider Blake Young riding flat track back in the day!