When did you decide to become a racer?

James Rispoli:
Wow, at what point in my life? My dad used to take me into the dunes and we'd just go ride but I didn't have any great aspirations to actually do it as a profession.

I knew it was what I wanted to do though, all through my childhood I felt like that. If I was in the principal's office and he asked me what I wanted to do I'd say 'motorcycle racer' and if he asked me about back up plans then I didn't have anything to say. Racing motorcycles was all there was.

But I had a great friend and what one did the other had to do, we just did everything together and it was his dad that got me into dirt tracking and brought me along to my first race called the Jolly Roger.

I went backwards around the track or so it seemed and came stone last but I absolutely loved it. After that I spent every day riding up and down the driveway and you could say that racing had its hooks into me.

After that I became a hardened dirt tracker working my way through the bike sizes and at that time I had an ambition to become a professional dirt tracker. Ricky Graham, Chris Carr, these were my idols. But then we saw Nicky Hayden transition to road racing and that changed the goal and it seemed the way to go.

My dad has always been a huge help to me, he couldn't actually teach me how to race a bike but he put all the right people around me. He's a successful businessman so taught me a lot of what I needed to know from a business perspective.
So your dad has been instrumental in your career?

James Rispoli:
Oh yeah, both my dad and mom were so supportive which was really great because I'm a first generation rider and that was so generous of them.

But conversely my dad didn't have any experience of racing and that meant that I had to learn everything for myself. I didn't have a dad who could just feed me up the chain.

They didn't even try to persuade me to do anything else because they could see my passion and single mindedness. My father always had a dream and a vision in his professional life and he was generous enough to accept that in me, he never forced me to be anything other than a racer and has always kept a can do attitude going as regards making it in racing.

Racing actually helped when I lost my mom. There's nothing that can be more hurtful than losing your mom and it was focusing on the racing that helped me through. In a way surviving that made me stronger and made me feel that there was nothing that I couldn't do.
Have you never questioned your career choice?

James Rispoli:
Honestly never. Anything I do, all I'm thinking about is racing. Every single thing I think about is to do with racing and I don't feel at all burned out about it.

Obviously you have difficult times and races, but that's just stuff that happens, the racing itself I never question.

I've actually got a really unique circle of people around me that keep me humble and on the right track and having fun. The fun part is so important because if you're having fun, you're fast.

I don't really want to name names as to who's in that circle because that would sound as if I value some people above others, I value them all but my dad's certainly in there along with close friends and coaches who make sure that I move forwards.
Does that aspect of fun mean that you always feel happy on the grid?

James Rispoli:
It depends. At the beginning of the year because of certain problems we were having, the feeling on the grid was pretty serious, superficially I can seem a pretty light hearted, jokey kind of guy but inside there was a lot of concern. I prefer a light hearted environment but when you need to get serious, I can get serious.

When I'm riding at my best everything's good and I love the attention from the camera and fans and like having some chat with the team. I like to keep things light because if not I start thinking about the race and that can be a little too much, thoughts about the start, thoughts about the first lap or strategies. I know myself and it's always best if I let 'me' do it and not let my mind take over too much. I just let my body do it. I think it's all about instinct and fun.

Before a race it's always the same story, butterflies, but as soon as my butt goes on the seat they just fly away and it's the same with the grid. The nerves are something you learn to deal with but in a way they're good because if I didn't have them I wouldn't have the anticipation and fire to get going. When I put the front wheel on the line it's all butterflies but the minute I start everything except the race goes away and becomes distant.
Was Nicky Hayden's transitioning to road racing an inspiration for your career?

James Rispoli:
Nicky has always been an inspiration to me but to be honest the greatest inspiration has been Rossi. I remember him from back in the day on 125's on TV.

I felt that he had the same kind of feeling as me and the personality he showed, jokey, passionate about the sport and always having a good time was something that resonated with me. Colin Edwards also had a lot of that and I really liked that he would always take care of the fans.

Of course Nicky is an idol but I just loved the kind of personality that Rossi showed. I've always tried to align with him and his colours, always trying to be that different guy. Rossi's race craft is second to none but it's the way he acts and conducts himself that I find inspiring
Coming back to more practical aspects, many riders' careers are dominated by finding funding for their racing, does it dominate yours?

James Rispoli:
Without money there wouldn't be any racing and I've been in some situations which were tight, when I won my first Supersport championship I was in an open trailer driving to every championship and I'm still over here by myself trying to make it. I've been lucky to fall in with a team like TTC which has been able to drive me over here and nobody else would do what they did to get me here.

Also since I was 14 years old my dad has had me picking up the phone to call my sponsors. He emphasized to me that doing that and being very aware of your sponsors was the only way you could make money at this game, learning to sell yourself, sell the brand and talk to sponsors was something I had to, and liked to, do. He helps me with the business of it and getting to the next level but it's me doing the leg work. I've got people around me who can help to put me in front of the right people but honestly it's always a struggle.

It's just the way it is, even back in the day in the heyday of AMA, Supercross and Motocross the guys that were winning were making money but the rest aren't. And even when there was money they would make more, it's just that you have to be in front to do it.

I think the difference now is that you can't be just an amazing rider and expect to make it, people have to like you. You can't make it and be a d*ck to people around you any more. You have to be a package.
So what do you think of the state of racing in America?

James Rispoli:
I think it stinks and that feeds into talent. It's impossible for Americans to get out and do anything because they're not being brought forward at home. Everybody's fighting for one ride at the moment and that's factory Yamaha and if you don't have that ride it's game over.

I do think it's turning around and I do miss what America offered me in my racing but at the moment it isn't showing enough strength for me to go back.
Does having riders like Marc Marquez making it so early put pressure on you in your career?

James Rispoli:
There's always the prodigy but I don't believe you have to be a certain age to do things. I think that in his case he was just so good that he could move up.

The talent is so deep in Spain and they have all those programs that you often see that kind of thing there. I mean the CEV championship is so fast that they're going straight from CEV Moto3 to scoring points in the world championship.

You can't take an American rider and put them on a Moto2 bike or even a Moto3 bike and expect them to be in the points, they just haven't had the experience.
So are there any American riders you know of that have the raw talent to make it at world level?

James Rispoli:
Yes I believe there are, I think there are quite a few who've got it whatever 'world' may mean, WSS, WSBK, MotoGP but it's all about time.

This is no disrespect to anyone in the GP paddock but if you look at the top riders for the past 4 years, it takes time for a rider to mature and reach their best. Marquez may be an exception but most don't win overnight, they get the opportunity to stay in the paddock for some years, it can be a 3 year plan.

For an American rider that's a huge outlay and commitment and there's not enough money behind American riders to come out and try it. PJ Jacobsen is one of the few riders who is showing some of what American riders are capable of. It takes progression, even in my year you can see that I was nowhere at the beginning but at the end I was on the box.
Given the choice of going to Spain or coming to England, why did you choose England?

James Rispoli:
After I won the Supersport championship I was brought over to ride some races in the BSB 600 Superstock for Swan Yamaha in 2010 or 2011 and that was such an eye-opener. I was so pumped because of the fans and the atmosphere and I thought 'I want to be there', I had more people high fiving me here for a race than winning the championship in America.

From that day on this was my aim, it still took me a couple of years to figure it out but I still did some wild cards and impressed people enough with the Superstock wildcards to put myself in the picture. I got from 35th on the grid to 9th without any experience of the tracks and that felt pretty good. I also met my crew chief at that time.

Because of those rides when Team Traction Control was being put together I was one of the first people considered
So it was the atmosphere in BSB which attracted you?

James Rispoli:
First and foremost it's the fans, I love the fans here and their enthusiasm for the race, rain or shine they'll be there, they're real raw race fans and I love, appreciate and get that. It reminds me of a small MotoGP paddock.

The other thing is the quality of the racing, the Supersport class is so stacked with talent. The guys there are racing at such a level that you can move on to bigger championships from there. The quality of the racing pushes you to progress, they're endlessly breaking lap records and that shows me that they're pushing, I wanted the next level and that's what I got.
How did the ride with Keith's team come about?

James Rispoli:
Jason Pridmore is my riding coach from America and he helped me put it together. I was the 4th reserve rider for his Le mans team last year, I'd never been to Europe and wanted to go with him, and our team mate there Steve Mercer was really good friends with Keith. Grant Bunting was also there and it was really at LeMans that it first started coming together.

We talked about a couple of wild cards that year and maybe joining the team the year after, they basked me if I was interested and I said 'definitely' so by the time I got back from France I had a flight booked to go to Brands Hatch. There were just too many rights not to do it.

Keith has such a love for the sport and you can see he really needs it to succeed. We also connected so well. He could have gone for any number of great British riders but he chose me because I think that we had some connection at a different level.
Have you ever seen the video for 'Fire Starter' by the Prodigy?

James Rispoli:
(laughs) Of course I have. To be honest, when I met him at Le Mans I'm so wrapped up in the racing world that I didn't know who he was musically speaking. It never clicked, The Prodigy, Keith Flint - I had no idea but I remember going home and it was so weird because his song came on the iPod and it hit me like a hammer. I was texting friends asking about the lead singer of The Prodigy and I was answering 'Holy Cr*p!, I've just been talking to the Keith Flint!

I love their music and certainly remember the record with a crab on the front and would often listen to them when working out but I just never put 2 and 2 together. When he's at the races he certainly doesn't look like the same dude.
How did you feel after that first race at Brands, was it a steep learning curve?

James Rispoli:
The problem was that at Brands we were in the middle of some problems we were having with the bike so we didn't get such a good impression of BSS racing, it really sucked. We missed all of FP1 and I'd never done the Indy Circuit so not a good start.

The other thing was that I'd almost never raced in the rain, so it came as a pretty tough lesson

The top 10 were within 4 tenths though so I could see the competition was tough. I knew it was going to be hard but the problem was that we weren't able to show what we could do.

In fact during the season, until we got the Yamaha we couldn't show what we had. The beginning of the year was pretty frustrating all due to bike issues and we had goals which fitted in with that Suzuki but as the year progressed and we changed to the Yamaha the goals changed quite a bit too.

With the Suzuki we were within maybe 1.3 seconds of the front but when we switched to the Yamaha at Brands GP I was immediately 0.7 off in fifth with no testing. The Yamaha's a great Supersports machine.
When you look back on the year, do you see it as a success?

James Rispoli:
I'd say that the second half of the year is what we consider to be our year, it didn't start until Brands GP circuit. We got that speed without much testing and there are plenty of things we haven't tried this year so we're looking good for 2015.

So we were just behind the curve a little bit but once we've changed a couple of things we should be there. We know that we can put together a winning package because we know where we are this year.

This year was actually really seen as a learning year but what we found at Snetterton was that we were really fast in certain sectors even on the Suzuki so that made us think that we could actually get results and since then the goals started to creep up and we ended with some silverware.

At a personal level I have always felt that I could run near the front and even when I was in 12th in the more difficult days on the Suzuki I still held my ground and said I could win on the right package. I had too many people believing in me to doubt myself in any way.

When you're 1.4 seconds off the pace and can't see the light at the end of the tunnel you need that self-belief.
Was there a high point of the season?

James Rispoli:
Yes, that has to be Assen, I'd just met Danny Buchan and he really helped me with some advice about pacing myself with the training and stepping back from the team a little. From that point on I really started to get some pace. At Assen I'd never seen the track before but was 0.3s off last season's record and it was like a big wake up call for the team and we started to feel we could do it.

To be able to pull off a second place in a wet/dry race from nowhere was a real shot in the arm. I remember just screaming on the cool down lap it meant so much to us all.

I think seeing my team as I came in was one of my happiest moments, it was so good to give them something. The struggle all year and the sheer sh**ness of some of the things we'd been through and that's all we needed, that result, to put us back together. The morale went through the roof.

I knew I could do it and there I proved I could. It really boosted my confidence.
Were there any riders you developed a particular respect for?

James Rispoli:
In a championship that strong you have to respect so many riders. There are stories like me and Taylor McKenzie being big rivals and stuff but I've got great respect for him and know that we can race each other hard with no issues.

Honestly all the top guys are top class and get up to a frightening speed right from the get go so I'd say I respect them all.
So do you feel like the championship is possible next year?

James Rispoli:
Yeah, definitely, the last 3 rounds we showed that we can run at the front and that's where we are now. We wished we had a further 5 rounds because we were really firing on all cylinders at the end of the season.

We've got plenty of testing planned so we'll be absolutely ready and there's enough experience in the team to take advantage of all that. We just need one win to make it all right and then we'll go for more.
So you'll be staying with Team Traction Control?

James Rispoli:
Yes, we came to the conclusion we wanted a go at the title next year and we feel we've got unfinished business.
Staying in England over the winter?

James Rispoli:
No, no I'm going home, I'm getting out of the weather here, this weather sucks!
Running away when the going gets tough eh?

James Rispoli:
(laughs) no, I just need to spend some time with Jason Pridmore to get a couple of things sorted out, do some school stuff and just stay on the bike as much as possible.
Finally, is there any chance of you going back to the bleached blond Jacques Villeneuve hair style you used to have?

James Rispoli:
I don't know we may do something goofy but maybe there'll be a few surprises in the hair department for next season.
Thanks James

James Rispoli: