Interview: Mike Alessi on his career including that Irish GP in 2005
We caught up with Mike Alessi at Villa Park to discuss maybe an underestimated career that saw Mike come in with the hype of Deegan and come so close to AMA motocross titles as a teenager and then again on the 450, but like Kurt Nicoll and Marnicq Bervoets he could never quite claim that coveted number one plate that would have really verified what a fantastic racer he was during his era for the next generation.
We also talk about that Irish GP in 05 and the De Reuver wave! Watch or read below:
AMA debut and podium at 16
Thr Millville debut was a complete flop! A DNF DNF which was terrible. I came back two weeks later, left the believe the hype T-shorts at home which, I want to make sure everybody knows, was not me, I did not make those shirts, it was DMXS radio back in the day! So, I came back two weeks later, a little bit more of a humble approach and just kind of tried to be top ten and went 5-4 for third overall with Carmichael and Windham. And that day Carmichael won the championship and continued the 24-0 streak going into the last round at Glen Helen.
That was a big moment for me. They had big ol’ beards, I’m just this pimple-faced little 16 year old kid. I was barely 16 – 16 and three months. It was crazy to think what I have done and where I have been.
The pressure going into first full season and RV – dealing with that
Honestly, it’s part of the sport, the pressure is there. They say you are only as good as the competition you race and I can honestly say I have raced the world’s best racers in this sport, Carmichael, Reed, Stewart, Dungey, Canard, there ware so many good riders. At one point I was able to beat them in a heat race or practice times.
Kinda funny, the one and only time I beat Carmichael was in a practice in 07 at Red Bud, and it was literally by 0.1 of a second in practice! We were pitted across from each other and he comes back after practice and he throws the bike up against part of the pit area, and he’s throwing the helmet tossing his goggles – he’s mad!
And I’m literally just across watching, thinking to myself, ‘it was only 0.1 of a second I beat you by!’ But to him, that’s Carmichael, he was ruthless. He wanted to be the best every time on track and you have to commend him for that because that’s what’s made him that gritty racer, he would take no shit and that’s why he always won.
Like I said, I’ve raced the world’s best riders the sport has ever seen and lot of people don’t understand.
Was it difficult to accept when Villopoto was winning, you look back now and can see he was amazing but at the time (because Mike beat him in amateurs) was it like – what is happening here?!
RV was a great racer, don’t get me wrong. Except for a little thing in 05 it could have been a championship against Ivan. Then, against RV, if I didn’t break my clutch lever off in 06 that’s possibly another title, 07 with Langston I had my gas tank pop off, that was another bad finish, and I only lost the the title by 14/15 points that last moto in 07 for a 450 championship and then racing Bubba in 08 and had that big Red Bud crash, I was the second best guy.
You just look at my career and it’s just a little thing here or there.
Frustated at not winning an AMA title?
100%. You look at 05, 06, 07 and 09 with my knee, I had a 40 point lead when I broke my knee. That’s just how it goes, you have to take the good with the bad, sometimes the bad, it just bring you down as far as those points.
Looking back, there are four championships I could have had to my name if things had went a little bit different here or there. No disrespect to Ivan, RV and Langston, they are great riders and I had fun battling them.
The Irish GP and the De Reuver wave!
When I came to that race I knew the European riders knew who I was but didn’t understand how I was going to race because of the Ivan incident a week before. So I just said I would race my race and do my thing which was good, because on Saturday I won my qualifying race and I think after that they were like, this guy is actually decent. Cairoli was there, de Reuver, Rattray, Philippaerts, they were the guys, legit. I was a barely turned 17 year old kid.
I won the qualifying race on Saturday then in the first moto got second or third behind De Reuver. The second moto, got a bad start and fell on the first lap with another rider and had to come from way back and just missed the podium, that was a bummer.
As far as Desertmartin, I actually enjoyed that track and atmosphere. The people, the crowd was insane. It was so cool. Marc, we are good friends today but in that moment, he was antagonizing, like ‘come on American, let’s do this.’ The crowd was hyped, they were into it and going nuts.
The riders were fast, no matter where you go the top riders are the top riders, they are fast. When you are that level, you put in the work, you know what it takes and you leave no stoned unturned, that’s what makes the top guys the top guys.
Do people forget how good you were?
For sure, 100%. People don’t really understand but I have been racing professional from 2004, the dudes I had to race were legit, legends of the sport. To be able to not just race those guys but be competitive and try beat them, it took a lot of work. And some of the best races of my career was that 2007 outdoor season racing Carmichael and Bubba, I was on the podium with both those guys in Red Bud 07. It takes so much work, it’s never-ending work, focus. You eat, breathe, live this sport.
I think like you said, the people don’t really realise how good I was in my prime. I was pretty good back in the day, I might not be that good anymore but there was time I was pretty decent! I had to race the world’s best riders, racing RV and RD they were hard to race, very good riders and tough competitors.
Would you do anything different? Pro Circuit not KTM? Take it less serious?
(Laughs)… That’s an interesting question, you can’t go back on it now but had things been different with a different team, situation? Yeah, people don’t understand. The KTM bike, and I am going to be totally blunt, it was terrible. It was awful compared to the bikes (KTM have) now 20 years later. If I was riding that now – totally different.
There was no linkage then, the suspension was awful and the dirt was totally different to the GPs, (for the non linkage shock that worked in GPs). The way they tilled it, ripped it, the tracks were different. I ended up getting David Philippaerts’ suspension for 07 and as soon as we got that the results flipped and I was on the podium with Carmichael and Bubba, I was riding good and almost won the title.
If I had to do things different, it would be easy to say yeah, maybe Pro Circuit would have been a better option or maybe factory Honda which I had an offer. But again, I was 16, KTM offered me a very good contract and it was hard to say no. I have no disappointments on my career, yeah, there could have been some championships but it is what it is.
I am still happy, I have a beautiful wife, beautiful kids and beautiful home and I just love racing.
Interview: Jonathan McCready
See Alessi at Desertmartin in 2005 below: