MXA INTERVIEW: TONY ALESSI GIVES HIS OPINION ON 2020 SUPERCROSS & MOTOCROSS
MXA INTERVIEW: MOTO CONCEPTS HONDA TEAM MANAGER TONY ALESSI GIVES HIS OPINION ON 2020 SUPERCROSS & MOTOCROSS
The SmartTop Moto Concepts Bull Frog Spas Honda team made history when Justin Brayton took himself and the team to their first Supercross win at Daytona in 2018. It was in Florida that team manager Tony Alessi and crew solidified their place in the sport while Justin Brayton became the record holder for oldest rider to ever win a 450 Main Event. Still, that was only the first step in staking their place as a premier Supercross team. With the 2020 team comprised of Malcolm Stewart, Justin Hill and Vince Friese, they have two top ten riders, and a third knocking on the door. Many credit this success to the unwavering support of team manager Tony Alessi. With talks of Supercross resuming soon, we caught up with tony while at home in California to get his take on it all.
BY JIM KIMBALL
TONY, LETS TALK ABOUT SUPERCROSS BEFORE COVID-19, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE TEAM’S RESULTS? The results this Supercross season have been on point. It was our goal from the onset of this season to have two guys in the top ten at every race, and for the most part we have accomplished that. We have two guys solidly in the top ten in series points, with a sixth, and seventh. And Vince, at the time when we had left Daytona, was inching up on top ten. Obviously, the break changed that a little a bit. Still, for the most part, I would say we are on point.
DO YOU SEE MALCOLM STEWART AND JUSTIN HILL TAKING A PODIUM WHEN SUPERCROSS RESUMES? I would say that they are both capable, they have the potential to be top five and be on the podium and maybe win a race. I would say that it is absolutely possible. Now, keep in mind the risk is higher when you are racing for podiums and wins. And for us, we are really happy with having guys in the top ten and having them there every week. You don’t want guys shooting for the stars, they are one or two race wonders, and then they are gone for the rest of the season. It is more important for us as a race team to have guys that are there every weekend racing, that is our goal.
THAT’S AN INTERESTING PERSPECTIVE. We always want to earn top points, and if the potential or opportunity shows itself to get a podium or a win. We will for sure go for it, but if it is not there, we are not forcing it. We don’t have to force it and can just get those results that we are expected to, as a race team.
“I think with Supercross, having seven races at a set location is much more likely to happen than racing Motocross. If I were a track owner, there is just no chance whatsoever that I would risk investment of insurance, track building, and everything that goes with preparing for an outdoor national with no guarantee whatsoever of spectators showing up to the race.”
FACTORY HONDA AND THE MCR TEAM BEGAN WORKING CLOSER TOGETHER AFTER JUSTIN BRAYTON CAME ONBOARD, IS THAT RELATIONSHIP CONTINUING? In 2020, I would say that we have a very close working relationship with Honda, myself and their team manager Erik Kehoe. We work together quite often on track days, strategies, and all that. It has been an enjoyable experience for sure. Where that is going to be in 2021, after COVID-19, will be interesting. Who knows what the new paradigm is going to look like? But for now, 2020, up until Daytona has been a good year and we have been working together really well. We have been getting some good results, and it all works together.
Justin Brayton’s relationship with Factory Honda goes a long ways back. When Brayton joined the Smart Top MotoConcepts team, he brought Honda support with him. Now, Justin is the factory HRC Honda team for the 2020 Supercross season. Chase Sexton is said to be jumping to the HRC bike in the 450 class for the Nationals.
COVID-19 HAS AFFECTED EVERY RACE TEAM AROUND. IT WILL BE INTERESTING TO SEE HOW BOTH SUPERCROSS, AND MOTOCROSS PLAY OUT. Obviously, we race Supercross, our team does not see value in the AMA Nationals. In terms of Supercross, I think no one really knows when we are going to start racing again. Yes, there are a lot of expectations, a lot of hope, and a lot of push for it, but at the end of the day the municipalities will decide when we race and when we don’t. And of course, they have not decided. With that in mind, all we can do is hope for the best. There is nothing set in stone, and it’s difficult for race teams to prepare for when there is not a target date.
SO, IT’S BASICALLY WAIT AND SEE RIGHT? Personally, I think that the outdoor nationals will have more regulation and restrictions versus Supercross. You have to remember that with Supercross we are all probably going to one location. We are all probably going to drive there, stay there, and race there for seven races. With outdoors, you have to travel in an airplane, and go through airports. You are going to be in locations where they may or may not allow people to come together. It is very volatile. I think with Supercross, having seven races at a set location is much more likely to happen than racing Motocross. If I were a track owner, there is just no chance whatsoever that I would risk the investment in insurance, track building, and everything that goes with preparing for an outdoor national with no guarantee whatsoever of spectators showing up to the race. Is there any opportunity to even remotely come close to breaking even? I would be terrified if I were a track owner right now and having to face the possibility of running a race where no one comes to watch it.
GENERALLY, DO YOU SEE IT BETTER TO RACE SUPERCROSS RIGHT AWAY, RATHER THAN RESTART THE SERIES IN THE FALL? I think if there is an opportunity to race Supercross, we should take it. If we try to do this later in the season with all the different sports doing their events, I would say more than likely all of the stadiums are going to be overwhelmed. There is the possibility that there would be no venue for us. So, if there is a venue or an opportunity that is available now, absolutely we should take it and let it run. It is all we can do.
WHAT IS IT LIKE FOR YOU, AS A TEAM MANAGER LOOKING TOWARDS RE-SIGNING RIDERS FOR 2021? I am not all that concerned with any of that. I think that we are okay, but I think the ones that have to be concerned are the rookies that are going from 250 to 450 . They are not going to have enough time to prepare to properly come into a season. I would say that there is some concern there for all the riders that are going to be moving up or to a new team.
ONE FINAL QUESTION, ARE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY HUNKERED DOWN AT HOME? I am in California but am by no means hunkered down. We have our race shop where we live. So we walk outside of our house and we are at the race shop. We are working every day, whether it is for sale bikes, preparing bikes for practice, or doing stuff for Mike Alessi. We are plenty busy.