Mike Alessi: Back In The Supercross Saddle

Kit Palmer | January 5, 2011

The opening round of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series will mark the return to racing for many riders, such as James Stewart, Ryan Villopoto and Chad Reed, and it will also mark the return to Supercross racing for Red Bull KTM’s Mike Alessi. Last year, Alessi chose to sit out the 2010 SX season in favor of preparing for the outdoor motocross championship and testing the new KTM 350 four-stroke. Even though Alessi admits that Supercross has never come to him as easily as motocross has, he has shown promise inside the stadiums, especially in 2009 when he posted some top SX-class finishes in his last year with Suzuki, finishing fourth twice and third once.In order to get back into Supercross mode, Alessi spent some of the “off-season” racing Supercross in Australia but, on paper, his results left a lot to be desired. But it wasn’t all about the results for Alessi, it was more about getting back into Supercross mode – getting his timing down and just getting the indoor feel again.We caught up to Alessi, who was busy practicing and testing his new 350 on his private practice track in the high desert of Hesperia, California, and managed to get a few words with him at the end of the day.So how has your Supercross testing been going?Actually, it’s been going really good. I’ve been testing a lot with our new team manager Roger DeCoster lately, as well as with the rest of the team, and I think it’s been going really good. I’m anxious to get the first round out of the way and get the season going.How was your experience in Australia?It was a good experience to go to Australia, to race Supercross again, and to see a different country, that was really nice. But going to Australia gave me a good chance to learn a little bit more about the motorcycle and development and stuff like that, and that always helps out a lot when you’re leading into the beginning of the Supercross season. I felt like we got a lot accomplished.How did you feel riding Supercross again?At first I was a little bit sketchy, a little bit out of control, but then I just had to remember, that in order to do well in Supercross, you need to go slow to go faster, because it’s – the harder you try, the slower you’re going to go. That’s how it seems to work in Supercross, but yeah, I was a little sketchy at first, but overall it hasn’t gone too badly. You just have to find a 10th of a second here, a 10th of a second there [regarding lap times], and it all adds up, it really, really does. You just have to keep working at it.How’s your practice track been holding up after all of the weather and cold temperatures we’ve been having in Southern California lately? It’s been a tough time for testing for most of the teams.

Good. We just got finished testing at my house and we had a good day. We had Trey Canard out here today, and Andrew Short, and we had a couple of other riders, too. It was definitely a good day. [The teperature] wasn’t too bad, about 50 – 51 degrees, which isn’t too bad when you consider it’s been snowing up here the last couple of days, so it was real nice to be able to ride today, because everything is pretty much rained out down in Corona [California] and at all of the test tracks. Our tracks were bone dry today.I understand that you’re testing your actual race bike for the first time today? How is it compared to your previous bike?Yeah, I was just testing it today for the first time, [it’s] quite a bit different. It’s a little bit – we’ve got some new parts that we’re trying, so it’s kind of last-minute stuff before the first round. But I like it.You and your teammate Andrew Short will be riding the 350 in AMA Supercross for the first time. We spoke with Short a little while ago and he felt that the 350 should be good in Supercross and that it had some advantages over the 450. Do you feel the same way?I think the 350 in Supercross is going to be really, really good. It’s definitely a little bit lighter than the 450s, so it’s going to make it a little easier to ride. It’s really quick out of the hole and off the start. It’s just a really fun bike to ride in Supercross and should be really good.You’ve ridden the 350 both outdoors and indoors now. How do you think the 350 will be on the starts indoor compared to the outdoors?The big difference is the ground being a little harder and the start-straights being shorter, and that [shorter straights] is going to be a big advantage, because the longer the start, the more the 450s are going to be able to catch up. The shorter starts will be much better for the 350.What are some of the differences you’ve made to your Supercross bike compared to your outdoor bike?We’ve done a little bit of stuff here and there in the engine, moved the powerband around a bit. And I think, for me, it’s really good. I’m really happy with the bike and the development we’ve come up with in the last couple of months. It’s a little bit different than in motocross for sure. I like a little more bottom-end, obviously, so I can get the speed and the momentum to jump stuff out of the corners, the triples, and stuff like that. In motocross, you need more [power] in the middle and on top, because you’re riding it more in the top-end. But I really like the motor.What about the suspension, testing?It’s going good, not too much to complain about.So, after a year off from Supercross, are you excited to be back?Ahh, that’s a tough question. I definitely like Supercross, but I enjoy motocross a little more, because I’m just a little more naturally talented at motocross than I am at Supercross. Supercross has always been harder for me, it always seems like I struggle a little bit, especially in the whoops, but I’m looking forward to it.And the outdoors, too, of course?Definitely looking forward to May.What are your plans for the rest of the week?I’m riding again tomorrow, doing late stuff on the race bike, then we have press day on Thursday, so it’s going to be pedal to the metal the next couple of days. 

Kit Palmer | Off-Road Editor

Kit Palmer started his career at Cycle News in 1984 and he’s been testing dirt and streetbikes every since – plus covering any event that uses some form of a knobby tire. He’s also our resident motorcycle mileage man with a commute of 120 miles a day.