Mamola on the Mend

Henny Ray Abrams | February 7, 2011

Being the son of a racing legend may open a door or two, but it’s what happens when you walk through that matters.Kenny Roberts Jr. won a World Championship, but young brother Kurtis had more modest success. Cal Rayborn III couldn’t replicate the results of his father. And Graziano Rossi’s kid isn’t doing too badly and will start winning again once he sorts out his bum shoulder.Valentino Rossi isn’t the only son of a former racer being held back by a bad shoulder. Dakota Mamola had to cut his 2010 campaign short and delay the start of his 2011 season to deal with a damage to his shoulder that happened over three years ago. The ginger-haired son of 500cc legend and paddock fixture Randy Mamola, Dakota was well on his way to following in his father’s footsteps when he made the decision to suspend his career in the short term while thinking of his long term future. It was a mature decision for a 16-year-old and one not easily taken, especially since the Mamola family lives in Spain, where riders leap into the 125cc World Championship on their 16th birthdays.Dakota Mamola raced in both the British and Spanish championships in 2010, hitting his stride at the Snetterton Park round of the 125cc championship, where he finished second overall to a 28-year-old and won his class. But it wasn’t long afterwards that he decided to take a hiatus to fix the shoulder he’d injured motocrossing three-and-a-half years ago.Now, five months out from the surgery, which was performed by Dr. Arthur Ting, Mamola still can’t ride his race bike, but knows it won’t be long.”My shoulder, it’s real complicated,” he said in an interview conducted from his family’s home in Spain via a Skype video chat. The younger Mamola has his father’s hair color and some of his character traits. They have a similar smile and the same speech habits of occasionally pronounced enunciation. Having grown up in Spain with a Belgian mother, Dakota speaks fluent Spanish and French and can understand some Italian. He has his father’s outsized personality, though without some of the habits Randy was famous for; i.e. mooning. Dakota was recently featured in an Alpinestars video.


The shoulder was dislocated and the nerve damaged by a spill in 2008. Since then, the injuries have prevented normal muscle growth around the deltoid. In the ensuing more than three years, he’s dislcoated the shoulder three more times, which required three more surgeries.The nerve damage was severe and only 15 percent has been recovered, “so he has a little bit of firing going through there,” his father said, but “without a deltoid it leaves the arm just unstable. It’s not unstable from day to day. Obviously, he goes mountain bike riding or he does push-ups, but they’ve asked him to lay off of it and just to see if it comes back. The thing that’s on his side, obviously, is that he’s 16 years old.”Sounding more mature than his 16 years, Dakota said Dr. Ting wanted to operate in 2009, “but I was young back then and he was just like, Okay, let’s just wait a tiny bit more just to see because I’m young, just to see if the nerve would grow back. But the year after, which was last year, it was basically the same. Then he decided, okay, we’ve got to do this operation now and stop it. He was going to do it in December, but I told him, ‘Look, if I’m going to stop racing I might as well do it now and start recovering from it.’ “Dakota had to immobilize the arm in a sling before beginning rehab.”What they’re looking at is shutting it down a year,” Randy Mamola said. “The thing is, because Dakota is so young, we’re just hoping that this nerve will generate. It’s a 50-50 chance. We’re not sure where that’s going to be, but hopefully, with youth on his side, it’ll start to show some signs of improvement. So he’s doing therapy and also doing some work on strengthening the arm, but nothing over to make it too tired, because you want the nerve to grow. A nerve can grow back as much as a millimeter a month or so. So if it’s damaged by four inches, that’s a long time.”Dakota Mamola has been racing a long time. He started road racing as a 10-year-old having ridden off-road bikes since he was three.The 2010 program included most of the British and Spanish Championships rounds, though not all, so there was no hope of winning a title. The main differences between the two champinoships were the weather and track safety. The tracks in Spain, many of which host MotoGP races, are “a lot quicker, faster and more level. In England, they go up and down. It’s more exciting. Blind corners. I like Spanish tracks. Jerez is one of my favorite tracks. But going to England and racing all these different tracks, Brands Hatch Indy, Oulton Park, all these tracks are completely different to Spanish race tracks.” Mamola didn’t go to Knockhill “and all those ones where the walls are close to the edges and the jumps are,” he said.The day Mamola finished second at Snetterton Park hadn’t started well; a clutch problem in Friday practice followed by a seizure in the next session. Mamola crashed in the qualifying and second qualifying was canceled when a hole in the final corner had to be filled. He started from the fifth row of the grid, but made his way to seventh on the first lap and third on the second lap. The battle with the leader continued to the end. Mamola set the fastest lap time, but lost by .119 of a second. “But being there, not having that much practice and going and almost winning – I won my age group – almost winning shows me that I have some kind of talent.”And even though that talent is on hold, Mamola got a number of offers for 2011. He had to pass on offers from two different teams while regaining full fitness.”My objective is to get on the bike this year,” he said, hopefully in the Spanish championship and, possibly, the Italian.The ultimate goal is the World Championships, which he’s hopeful of reaching in 2012 when the new 250cc four-stroke singles replace the current 125cc two-strokes. Mamola said that “even if I don’t ride much this year, it’s not like I’m going to lose a whole bunch, because everybody’s going to have to learn this new bike for next year.” If he does regain his fitness, he’d like to test the new Moto3 machinery this summer.But that’s in the future. As for the present, Dakota, whose father is one of the keenest observers of the MotoGP scene, picks Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo to retain his MotoGP World Championship.”I bet on Lorenzo, just because, I mean, I like his character, the way he rides,” he said. “I mean, I have respect for [Valentino] Rossi. I mean he was always, he was great, he was the one. Once Lorenzo started coming in and I could see he was strong the way he was riding, I turned to being a fan of his. [In 2009] I actually bet on him and this year I said the same because he was strong this year.”


Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.