A Dream Comes True
Italy’s Giacomo Redondi took a chance, packed his bags, left the comforts of home, and headed to America. He’ll go home with a WORCS number-one trophy.
Lots of top racers become so entrenched in their specialty that they rarely if ever venture outside that bubble.
There are, of course, many reasons for this. In order to successfully chase championships, many feel it necessary to focus entirely on the task at hand, concentrating all efforts towards that singular goal.
Then there’s the less mentioned area of ego. Champions don’t like to lose and stepping out of one’s normal world exposes them, makes them vulnerable and stacks the odds against them. In other words, they lose the advantage, increasing the likelihood of losing. That’s both embarrassing and confidence shaking, and the ego rattling that results can negatively affect near-future success in their chosen field, possibly costing income as well until results return to normal.
So it’s unusual—and a refreshing change—when a successful racer steps out of that comfort zone they enjoy and strike out in new directions.
Giacomo Redondi is one example. Not only did he leave his native Italy to race in the United States this year, he did so on different machinery than he was contracted to race in Europe and did so as a privateer.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARK KARIYA AND HARLEN FOLEY
But against many odds, he succeeded, winning the 2018 Rocky Mountain ATV-MC World Off-Road Championship Series (WORCS) crown in his first attempt—while still competing in Europe during breaks in his U.S. schedule.
What prompted him to try a new style of racing in a place far from home where very few spoke his native Italian and where he had minimal support, meaning he’d be starting almost from scratch? We posed that and other questions just days before he lined up to represent Italy on its World Trophy team at the 93rd FIM International Six Days Enduro (ISDE) in Chile where his successful year culminated in third place for the team and third for him personally in E3.
Since most of our readers aren’t familiar with you, provide some background on you and your racing accomplishments before this season.
My career started in motocross and I became five-time Italian Champion, then I finished third in the European Championship in 2007. Then I switched to the 250 and the next year I won the Italian championship and I did one off-road race at home. [KTM off-road racing manager Fabio] Farioli was there; he asked me if I wanted to try off-road racing and of course I said, yes, because he was with the best team.
So I did off-road racing and after two years I became 125cc Enduro World Champion. I finished second three times in the Junior class. In my last opportunity in 2016—because it’s for those 23 and under, and I was 23 that year—I won 15 GPs out of 16. It was super-good, that season. I also won the SuperEnduro Junior Championship in 2014.
Last year, after I finished the 2016 enduro GPs, I was thinking that the offer that I had for racing in Europe and enduro GP was not as good as my level [deserved], so I decided to make my dream come true and come to the United States. I did everything by my own efforts so I was lucky but super-happy and proud that I won the WORCS Championship.
Didn’t you do some races in the U.S. before that?
I raced some [AMA] EnduroCross in 2014 because it was training for the 2014-15 SuperEnduro season, because in Italy we don’t have any EnduroCross tracks to even practice on. I spent one month at Cody Webb’s house so it was super-nice and I need to say thanks again to him and his family.
This year when I had a break [during the traditional WORCS summer break] I went to Reno to race the EnduroCross round there also and I trained a little bit during the week with Colton Haaker. It was good also because I made the main finishing 11th, so it was fine.
After that I went to Mesquite, [Nevada, for the eighth of nine WORCS rounds] and I did a really good race—I think my best of the series riding-wise because Taylor [Robert] was there and we were fighting to the end and I ended up a close second to him.
Just before the last round at Primm, Nevada, three weeks later, on Tuesday I had two bike issues so I was a little bit scared. I arrived in Primm at the last round and I was calculating what I needed to do to take the title.
After the sixth lap, they wrote on the pit board, “Champ!” I started to push, but from seventh where I was, I finished fourth, like two seconds from third-place finisher [and defending series champ] Gary Sutherlin so it was super-nice.
The most important thing that weekend was to take the title and we did it.
Last year, did you race any WORCS?
Last year I raced the last one in Adelanto, [California], to try the series because in Europe, we don’t know and we don’t follow a lot of racing in the United States. It’s the same in United States: You don’t follow a lot the Enduro World Championship. Maybe you know who won. Of course we know that Kailub Russell won [the GNCCs] and Taylor Robert is the man of the West Coast.
So, I decided to go to Adelanto last year because it was the last round and I decided also to race WORCS instead of GNCC because I prefer to stay in So Cal compared to the East Coast [laughs].
I really enjoyed it and my mom helped a lot to get me settled in—because I moved to Southern California with two friends who helped me out as helper/mechanics—and I need to thanks also to Pro Circuit and all the other sponsors like Acerbis, Alpinestars, Red Bull, Givi and Scott.
When you’re racing in Europe, you are contracted to race for Honda Red Moto. Yet here in the U.S., you’re racing KTMs. Obviously, it’s not seen as a contractual issue, but how difficult is it to race two different brands throughout the year?
When I decided to race WORCS, I saw the summer break was super-long—like three months—so I decided to go back home during the break. Also, staying in the United States is really expensive [laughs] so in those three months I went back home. I raced two Enduro World Championship races and I earned two podiums, so it was good. Also, I didn’t train for that; it was on a different bike than I used in WORCS so I was super-happy about that.
The bike, it looks more stock from the outside because you’d think you change the bike a lot, but the bike to race WORCS and the bike to race off-road/enduro is completely different. For WORCS you need super-hard suspension and a lot of power. In enduro, you need soft suspension because of the rocks and tight stuff and the power of the engine needs to be really smooth.
So I can feel the difference of the bikes, especially of the weight because in enduro we have the lights, the kickstand, the wiring for too much stuff. But this year I had my mechanic from 2016 with me in Europe so we did a really good job; I improved the bike a lot compared to last year. Also, I was more in shape this year because to race WORCS is not like enduros. You need to be in shape because one hour and 30 minutes or two hours is tough.
If you want to win, you need to be in shape. In enduros, you ride eight hours on the bike, but you have a maximum of 15 minutes per test where you sprint every time.
Is your enduro bike a CRF450R or ’RX?
The ’RX. With Vertex, we make a piston with less compression. They did a really good job. Also, we changed mapping with my mechanic from Italy. He did a super-good job.
Also, after racing a 450 all year, at the ISDE in Chile, I’m racing a 500 a big-bore CRF450RX in order to be legal in the E3 class, so the bike is completely new for me. I just rode it one time before I went back to the United States after the break and yesterday, the training area in Chile was messed up so I only rode 15 minutes, but the bike was fine. We did a little bit of working on the mapping because the engine braking on the 500 is different than the 450. I think we did a good job. We will see if we did good or not by the end of Six Days [laughs]!
The camshaft is standard. Pro Circuit, the pipe that they make for Europe—we have [maximum] noise levels—so the bike is way smoother. They also gave me to try a normal exhaust that they make for United States market. It is way better for WORCS stuff, but for the slippery stuff and rocks, the one they make for Europe is perfect.
Where in California were you based?
I stayed in an AirBnB because I didn’t have a Social Security number, so for me it’s impossible to rent a house, so I stayed at an AirBnB in Lake Elsinore. It’s a good place and for training, I have all the tracks close by. Glen Helen is the farthest one; it’s 50 minutes so it’s perfect compared to Italy. First of all, we don’t have any tracks like that to practice at close to home because I live in the north of Italy. Normally, you go to the center of Italy to find the good tracks where they’ve done some world championship rounds and stuff like that because like Maggiore is closed. They use it only for an event; they open the track only then.
That is why I really enjoy staying in Southern California. Especially when supercross season ends, you can go training every day with the motocross pros during the pro practice days and that is amazing.
Who are some of the pros you’ve ridden with?
Aaron Plessinger and Jason Anderson. I spent three days with Pro Circuit doing testing at Glen Helen and I was on the side with Adam Cianciarulo, so I was super-proud to be there. I was taking pictures everywhere—I was, “Wow” [laughs]. It was incredible.
The first four, five months that I was there early in the year, 40 friends came to visit me just because they saw my stories on Instagram that I was training with some of the pros and they say, “Wow! I want to come!” And they came and took pictures with them; it was super-fun [laughs].
When you’re racing here in the U.S., you’d be considered a privateer, right? Or do you get help from KTM?
No, I bought the bike from Malcolm Smith [Motorsports in Riverside, California]—and I need to say thanks also to them because of the special price that they give me—and then I had my mom who always followed me and two friends that helped me out like a practice bike mechanic. When I need to do some work on the engine, I went to Pro Circuit and every time they do the job.
Did you ride the 450 XC-F or SX-F?
The SX-F, the motocross bike with a Rekluse clutch and Pro Circuit exhaust and that’s it—completely standard bike.
The Rekluse, was it the automatic or manual clutch?
The regular. At Six Days, I’m using the automatic because for the tight stuff I don’t need to think about stalling the bike, so I’m more relaxed and I can push better. From 2016 when I jumped on the Honda I was using the automatic clutch.
How long did it take you to adapt to WORCS-style of racing?
On the 20th of December 2017, I broke my collarbone, and on the first of January, I flew to Los Angeles, so I waited 15 days beyond that to more or less relax with my injury and then I started doing moto, moto every day—all day and all night long!
Every time we see what progress was made and we try to improve from the training. We tried to make everything work out perfect. I didn’t know with a big tank how many laps I can do, so IMS give me the tank so we think, “Okay, I need to finish races without running out of fuel. So I rode until I ran out then we checked the time in the sand, in the hard-packed, in the super-fast stuff—in all different conditions because in WORCS you can find completely different conditions from race to race, like Vegas is kind of like EnduroCross, Sand Hollow in Utah is completely a desert race, then Glen Helen is like a motocross track.
It was hard work, but I think we did a good job.
How have your friends back home reacted to you winning the WORCS championship?
They say, “Wow!” This year they say a lot of “Wow.” I put that also on my butt patch! [laughs]. Everybody say, “Wow!” this year and they were really proud about me winning. Also, my old team manager, he was really proud about me. They saw that I show who I am in the U.S. this year as a privateer. It was all due to my passion about this sport, especially I have an extra motivation to be in the United States where I think is the heart of the sport.
Of course I want to return to defend the championship, but now after getting the podium at those world enduro rounds, I have some offers also to return to racing in Europe. But like I said, I’d love to stay. Now, I focus on the Six Days and when I’m back in Italy, I will decide everything because now I have some offers to stay and race WORCS, but they didn’t speak too much because I want to have a free mind at Six Days and not think about everything else.
Of course, if I decide to race in Europe, in the winter time, I will be there in the U.S. to race some WORCS races anyway. It would be my dream to be there with the number one on my bike!
This year I wanted to race with my number—18—but they said no; it was taken. So I did 81 because I was on the other side of the world so I did it backwards [laughs].
When you’re in California and not racing or training, what did you do?
I traveled a lot, like a tourist. I went to Yosemite Park, Grand Canyon and Sequoia [National Park]. Then we went to San Francisco, San Diego and L.A., like twice a week [laughs]. It was nice. Also, I take a Jet Ski on Lake Elsinore; we spent a lot of afternoons there. It was amazing! Every night we’d barbecue at home. I think it was the best life there! My mom loves the United States more than Italy now, same as me! CN