Interview with Danny LaPorte on Supermoto

I got the privilege to sit down with Danny LaPorte recently, between shots at a photo studio, to talk about his new favorite way to get seat time, Supermoto.How long have you been racing Supermoto? DL: The first time I tried it was in 1979 at Carlsbad. Next I went to test at Sun Valley, Idaho for a race. They got my bike all set up, and we took it to Sun Valley. Kent Howerton didn't have a 500 to ride, so I let him ride mine so I could go skiing. I just said to Kent, "Hey, ride my bike". That was the same year I won the 500 motocross championship. I haven't been riding in this recent chapter as some of the other guys.Do you see yourself racing for awhile? DL: I'm going to take it race by race. I want to keep it fun. It is a lot of fun to do one race at a time right now.What is the main appeal for you? DL: That it is pure racing, tight with the guys on the track. I think it is where racing in general originated, I mean the flat open spaces where guys can just race. At the moment for me, it is easy. Unlike motocross I can just go out and have fun. Motocross you have to stay on it to enjoy it, and be in incredible shape. It is great for the has-beens who aren't in the greatest shape, but still know how to go fast. The most important appeal is that everybody is on the same even playing field. The terrain is all mixed up so we are all equal. There are some that are good at one part, and the others are good at another part of it. So it equals out.What is the appeal for the fans in your opinion? DL: You don't lose sight of the riders during the race. The track is small, there is a lot of pacing and real racing. Supercross a lot of times, the obstacles put a lot of space between good and OK riders. Road racing gets so stretched out. Supermoto is so pure to watch. I think the fans also like to watch the guys pitching a motocross bike sideways on pavement.What do you see happening in Supermoto in the next two years? DL: I think the there is going to be a lot of popularity and frenzy, it'll probably have more events and races. I think it will get into the a spectator sport. It will be a great spectator sport. What's so great is that you can put it anywhere. I mean a parking lot, or city streets. Also we will see more Supermoto race-ready bikes being made. KTM already offers a bike set up for Supermoto so I think Japan will have Supermoto production bikes soon. I don't know who exactly but they will have to make one soon.What skills do you feel are useful in Supermoto that you got from Motocross? DL: I got some good skills from racing rallies in Africa. Living in Europe I got really used to driving a car really fast on regular roads. There is so much racing on regular roads over there I got used to pavement and slipping at high speed. But you really have to re-learn everything. It is really different. I have a lot of respect for road-racing guys. Jean Michelle Bayle switched to road racing but couldn't really do it. He had more technique and finesse, but he really couldn't do the switch with great success. Pavement is just so different. Some guys are coming into Supermoto with road racing style, but Wardy and McGrath wiped out the field with the motocross style, so that is interesting. As far as what makes a motocrosser good at this, the moto guy has the will, in a way that is a skill. He can figure out the sliding part. You will feel it, you find out where you can improve, and get better. Moto guys are adapting to it well. They are so extremely competitive, and are in good shape, with good reflexes.What would you like to see happen in technology with bikes or with gear? DL: Supermoto leather suits are overkill. What we really need is under protection. Hip, butt, knee, every bend in your body needs protection. Also we need the back plastic armadillo they have for back protection. The speeds are down from road, maybe 100 mph max, so you need a bit of ventilation. Under protection is so great because you can throw your moto gear over it. I think the old style half halter of leather over the shoulders worked great.Are you having some success with racing? DL: Well, I just matched the track record at Perris today riding with Wardy, Metzger, and Mickey Diamond. But now, they are all faster than that, they made a new track record when I matched the old one. But at least I matched the old record. I'm happy that I'm close to their pace, not far off. They have been riding this longer than I have. Mickey is going to be really fast, he has finesse. Wardy and I are more bulldog style. Metzger has taken on the road racing style, dragging a knee and all that.What is involved to get a bike ready for Supermoto? DL: Well, you really can run your stock hubs if you want, but then you'll need rims, spokes, tires, and better front brakes. Just get a bigger disk, and brake caliper. You can even use your stock master cylinder from your moto bike. Marty moates was out there riding a stock WR450 Yamaha and his brakes faded too much to stay riding. He was riding on the inside of me recently and I could see he wasn't going to slow down enough for the corner because of brake fade. I just made a space for him and let him ride off the track.All you need to do is go to online, and talk to Todd Kelly. he can get you all the stuff and build you a package for the whole bike. He will ship you all the goodies. It could cost about 1300 to 2500 bucks. Depending on how far you go. If you double up on your wheel sets and cylinder, you could just swap your wheels and your hydraulics at the same time. You could actually have another set of bars too, to leave the wheel, brake line, and cylinder together. Swap the back wheel of course too, then leave the rest of the bike the same. Just swap and go have fun.Also, you really need to add bark busters so you don't bust your hydraulics if you go down. That would be another reason to have an extra set of bars if you are swapping back and forth.What do you find most challenging about it? DL: Well, the sliding is the thing. That's where all the fun is. That's where all the room for improvement is. The finesse of the sport is in the braking, acceleration, and sliding.Thanks for talking to us at Dirt Rider Danny. It has been fun hearing your perspective. DL: Your welcome Russ, it's always fun to talk about racing.Don't forget, everybody, to watch for Danny LaPorte and others on OLN. Call your cable company and support the program.