Andy DiBrino has carved a unique niche an American motorcycle racing as one of the most versatile riders in the country. We sat down with the man at Huntington Beach’s Super Hooligan finale.
Motorcycle racing is an extremely specialized sport. It takes fine-tuned levels of skill and bravado to compete successfully in almost any discipline, but what if just one aspect of the sport isn’t enough?
This happens to be the case for 24-year-old Andy DiBrino, the Oregon resident who, along with capturing the first two Super Hooligan National Championship titles, competes with distinction in MotoAmerica, American Flat Track, and AMA Motocross, making him one of the most versatile riders in the country to strap on a helmet.
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DiBrino is a full-time racer in the old-school way, earning his dollars by hunting sponsors, fixing bikes, driving all over the country and racing anything he can get his hands on. In one week, earlier this year, DiBrino raced the AMA Motocross 125 All Star race at his hometown of Washougal, drove halfway across the country to Sturgis for the AFT and Super Hooligan races (the latter of which he won), then got back in the van and headed to Sonoma for the MotoAmerica Stock 1000 race, where he took fourth place.
There’s an air of On Any Sunday graft to DiBrino, and we caught up with him on the verge of his second Super Hooligan title win at the Moto Beach Classic at Huntington Beach last month.
You’re one of the few who can call themselves a legitimate, full-time motorcycle racer, correct?
Yeah, I guess so. The Super Hooligan stuff has helped me find a way to just race motorcycles and make money, especially with how much attention it’s been getting and the support everyone’s been pouring into it.
I think people like the fact that I do all these different things, but realistically the Super Hooligan series itself is why I’m able to do what I do and not have a normal job.
It’s ironic, isn’t it, that the Super Hooligan series has become the main source of income for racing?
Yeah, it’s crazy. It all started for me in 2017 when RSD (Roland Sands Design) announced the Super Hooligan series and I had commitments through the whole MotoAmerica season. When I found out all this money they were putting up and the prize [a new Indian FTR750], I said, “Hey, dad, I got this XG750 that See See Motorcycles has [Andy’s sponsor], that’s set up. I got to do this.” There was a shot to win a motorcycle and make money for real.
He wasn’t too happy about it at first, just because he didn’t know what Super Hooligan was going to be, if it was going to be the real deal or not. It was a risky move, but it paid off huge. I was able to win the championship by a single point over Joe Kopp. It totally paid its dividends.
The crazy part was I led the series for most of the season, but then I had a road race meeting at my home track, Portland International Raceway, with the Oregon Motorcycle Road Racing Association. I had to do that. There was no way I could back out of it, so I missed a round and forfeited my points lead, but the double-header gave me the opportunity to be back in the hunt.
When did you start riding?
My dad got me a bike before I was four years old, a PW50. I started learning how to ride on an airstrip where my grandparents live in Oregon.
Where in Oregon are you from?
I was born in Portland, and I just live in Tualatin. I’ve been there my entire life. First time I rode was at a track called Albany Motocross, and I learned how to ride with Justin Hill. It was me and him on our PW50s on the kid’s track.
I grew up racing motocross and my neighbor was Matt Bisceglia. We went to school together. Then when I was 13, the U.S. Red Bull Rookie Cup tryouts were announced and that was the first year that my dad got a Ducati track bike. We started watching MotoGP, went to Laguna Seca, and that’s where I heard about it. We were watching MotoGP there and I was like, “Dad, I got to go try this.” I got accepted into the Cup try-outs, and that was also around the time that I started in Supermoto.
Did you make the cut for the Rookies?
No. I went to Barber Motorsports Park for the tryouts, but it was enough to get me hooked. The funny part was my dad said, “I’m not going to support racing, but if someone else thinks you’re good enough and will pick up the tab, sure.”
But as soon as he saw the racing, he changed his mind. He bought me a road race bike as soon as we got home. It was this cheap, 1967 Honda CB160. That was the entry-level road race class at the club races. There was no lightweight class, like the Ninja 300s. That’s how I started out.
And then I got into flat track about four years ago at my local indoor flat track, Salem Speedway. It was just some friends who said, “Hey, come try it.” I did and got hooked, again! It rains a lot in the wintertime in Oregon, so indoor flat track is really all I can do sometimes.
Do you want to keep road racing? What do you enjoy more—road racing or flat track?
I can’t really pick a favorite. To me, motocross is probably my favorite. That’s the first thing I started doing, always been my first love. I love road racing, the strategy and the speed and how cool the bikes are. I was trying to make a career doing pro road racing, but in the U.S., it really wasn’t possible unless you’re on a factory team. Even the best guys are lucky to get a free ride.
If I want to road race, I could road race. But for me, I like racing everything so much that it doesn’t really matter what I’m racing. If I can just find a way to sustain it and make it a job, then that’s what I want to do. Lately it’s been Super Hooligans, but I’m trying to figure out what I want to do for next year. I don’t know if I want to stop doing Super Hooligans because the events we get to do are so cool. I like the bikes and the racing’s fun. It’s kind of a toss-up between doing that, pro road racing or doing pro flat track full-time. It’s a tough call.
Do you think the flat track thing has more legs at this stage?
For sure. I think at this point, I’m 24 years old, I’m not going to be racing MotoGP, I’m not going to be racing WorldSBK. I’m probably not going to be a superbike champion. If I wanted to put some more effort into it and focus on it, I think I could be a MotoAmerica Champion, maybe in the Stock 1000 class or something. I think that will always be there. I’m sure that maybe road racing will get to the point one day where people are making money again. There’s ways to do it. I think if there’s a will, there’s a way, but I think the opportunity to make money now is in flat track.
Have you made money out of the AFT side of your racing this year?
I got some good support. Rockstar Energy came on board to help me this year. That was more so for the Super Hooligan program, but they also wanted to help me out with my AFT program, which was just basically four rounds. I ended up doing five rounds—Daytona, Calistoga Half Mile, Sacramento Half Mile, the Buffalo Chip TT and the Rapid City Half Mile. Anyway, I needed a new bike so they helped me out with Husqvarna and got me connected with them.
I got some good support as far as getting a bike going. But none of my sponsorships were really aimed toward that. I made one main event and got a little bit of purse money, but for me that was more of my own effort just because I wanted to get experience in case I was going to chase that full-time in 2019.
Are you going to be able to do it full-time next year?
It’s hard to say. For me, I think that’s the next step. It’s perfect timing. That’s kind of what I’m leaning towards is wanting to do a full AFT program next year in Singles. The Latus Motors team I ride for in Hooligans ran a top-notch pro flat track, and road race team in the past. I think they have a bit of interest in going back to flat track racing professionally as well, maybe with a Twin. I think for me, if they do that, they’d be fielding someone else on a Twin and I would be riding the Singles class.
What’s George Latus like to ride for?
He’s been great. George loves racing. He loves winning, so he’s been happy this year! It’s funny because I never really rode for a team before this year and there’s a little bit of pressure at the beginning because I knew George likes to win. If you look at his race teams in the past, they have a pretty big history of winning. But it’s been super relaxed. They build me a bike, I keep it there and they just make sure it’s ready to go.
They’re a Harley-Davidson dealership. So that was kind of the big push, because I’m a local rider and Super Hooligans is popular. I worked with them a little bit in the last year, and Joe Kopp was riding for them last year on the Triumph.
That’s interesting, considering you beat him to the title last year.
The first time I ever rode flat track was the Joe Kopp flat track school [laughs]. That’s the craziest part. Riding for that team is awesome. There was no, “Hey, you have to win the championship, or you have to do this.” They were just like, “Go do the best you can. Represent us well.” It’s been super low-key. The bike builder and mechanic, Mike Stegmann, he was the guy doing all the race bikes for Bobby Fong in MotoAmerica. He’s like, “This has been the easiest bike program I’ve ever done!” I’ve always wanted to ride for that team. I talked with them back when they were road racing about maybe being a 600 rider. This year it all came together well.
Tell us about the motocross racing. You raced a Yamaha this year?
Yeah. One of my best friends, Joey Lancaster, started that 125cc Dream Race up in Washougal a few years past. Last year it caught on into nationals with the 125 Dream Race Triple Crown. It started last year, so I did Hangtown and Washougal. Then this year I raced just Washougal.
We have a 2004 Honda CR125 we’ve had forever, so I dug that out of storage. I hadn’t raced it since Hangtown. I rode a Husqvarna last year in the Washougal race. There was something like 70 entries. I had to qualify on Friday and I ended up finishing 22nd in the main on Saturday, which for me was good, as I hadn’t been really riding moto this summer.
I like to do as much as I can. I really love my motocross community back home. That’s just what I grew up doing, so I’ve been close with everybody for a long time. That’s the one thing I do that there’s no pressure. It’s just purely for fun for me, even though I do set goals and I get fired up about it. I still ride moto quite a bit.
Do you have a track at home?
I live on five acres with my parents still. I’ve been trying to get out of there for a while, just been looking for a big shop to live in the area. That’s on the list of things to do. But the neighbors used to have a pumpkin patch there and they’re not doing it anymore. They asked me if I wanted to rent it and build a track on it. I was like, “Heck yeah!”
I wanted to do a flat track, and my buddy just so happens to be this 40-year-old dude that bought an air bag landing and built a freestyle ramp because he wants to learn how to whip. He needed a place to put it, and suddenly, I’ve got a flat track with a TT course and a freestyle ramp and air bag landing! Down the street, the same guy also has a motocross track at a friend’s house, so we ride everything. We just roll out of the garage, ride down the street, go moto and come back, flat track and hit ramps.
So… backflips next?
Yeah. Last year I tried landing the first backflip on the Alta.
How’d that work out for you?
Not good. I didn’t land it. Definitely, a backflip on a big bike is in the future. We had Jimmy Hill come out and he threw some tricks out for us. Anything I can do, I try to do it. It’s just fun. For me coming up as a kid, motocross was just for fun. My dad raced motocross forever, so he got me into it. We’d go to the track, go ride, maybe go do a moto trip here and there to California just to hit some tracks and practice, or do Day in the Dirt, just stuff for fun. It wasn’t until I was older and I was into supermoto and road racing that I started taking it more seriously and thinking about, “maybe I could be a professional.” I started getting faster. I was good at supermoto.
Do you still ride supermoto?
It’s been a couple years since I’ve raced. I raced some AMA Supermoto West stuff back in 2016, but supermoto died so I couldn’t really go down that path. That was about the time I was getting good at road racing and got on the 600.
As far as I knew, I was going to be a road racer. I was doing that and doing well at it, and had one podium in Superstock 600. I got a second. But then the following year, I had already been dabbling in Super Hooligan stuff. That series changed everything for me. I didn’t want to stop road racing, so this year I did a couple rounds. I got a third in Stock 1000 at Road America, fourth at Sonoma, and broke the track record at my local track (Portland International Raceway) on the Yamaha YZF-R1. I think next year I’ll pretty much be doing all the same stuff as I am this year, apart from maybe focusing on AFT or continuing to do Super Hooligan racing full-time. I’m never going to stop doing it all. I’m super fortunate to be able to do that.
What do you do during the week when you’re not racing?
A lot of times it’s emailing sponsors. It’s nonstop. This time of year, it’s trying to get contracts for 2019 settled in and just maintaining relationships. Or I’ll be ordering parts for bikes. I don’t have a manager, so I’m doing emails all the time. I’m doing my social media stuff, planning trips, videos and photo stuff.
If I was just racing Super Hooligan, I wouldn’t be doing a whole lot in the week, but when you have motocross bikes, a flat track bike, a Super Hooligan bike, a road race bike, there’s a lot of bike work to be done. My life just seems, during race season, to be a cycle of loading the van up, going racing, coming home, unloading, bike prepping, maybe practicing, loading it all back up and doing it all over again. It’s just mayhem.
We’ve covered motocross, flat track, Super Hooligan, road racing, supermoto, occasional freestyle. Do you do trials riding? What about speedway?
I’ve done trials. I’m friends with a family that are well-known in the Northwest that have a 50-acre property that’s completely set up for trials riding. It’s like the Pastranaland of trials. There’re obstacles and courses and trails everywhere. I could get lost on their property.
I’ve never tried speedway, but it looks fun. I would really like to do some more supermoto for fun. For me, I just love racing. I was doing Super Hooligan stuff when there were plastic trophies on the line and I’d drive 1000 miles to Southern California to race. It’s just a bonus to be able to make something from it. It’s never been about money or anything like that. I’ll race anything I can for fun because I love it and I want to do it. It’s been cool to say I’m a motorcycle racer, and I’m just trying to keep this going as long as I can. CN