Jason DiSalvo won the most prestigious road race in the U.S. with a victory in the 2011 Daytona 200.
Fresh off the biggest win of his professional racing career, Motorcycle-USA catches up with 2011 Daytona 200 winner Jason DiSalvo to take a look back at an up-and-down year which has included time in World Supersport, Moto2 and now a return back to the AMA series for Team Latus Ducati, leading up to the historic win that once again put the New Yorker’s name back on the map…
MOTORCYCLE-USA: Let’s start with the Triumph World Supersport deal last year. Shed a little light on how that ended up going sour and where it left you in the off-season.
DiSalvo: All right. Let’s see. Well my last race on the bike was Miller last year and it was kind of a mutual agreement that was I would say, you know, was brought forward by me. In the end we both felt that it would be beneficial for both of us because neither of us were achieving the results that we wanted with the equipment that we had available and, you know, the biggest thing for me was just the track speeds were so far down that it was nearly impossible to be competitive. I mean, when I say the track speeds were down, we were pretty much at the bottom of the bucket and we were quite a bit down on our teammates, too. so, you know, that was a pretty tough deal.
Was your Triumph teammate (former AMA competitor) Chaz Davies noticeably faster on top end compared to your machine?
Yeah, usually on average about 15k faster on top speed than my bike. I went back and – right after everything was over and compiled all the data, but you know, it’s just something in the past now – I’m just looking forward. That was – it was definitely a learning experience and if anything it did improve my riding because oftentimes I was having to push a lot harder to make time up in the corners only just to lose it again on the straights. Try doing that over a 23-lap race and you’ll figure some things out.
DiSalvo’s run in the World Supersport series ended in controversy – the American and his Triumph team splitting before the season concluded.
After the Triumph deal fell through were you still actively looking for rides, or were you thinking that maybe your racing career was over?
I was actively looking for rides basically when we left the track at Miller. My primary goal was to be back racing full-time and doing it in a way that I could make a living off of it. It was always in the back of my mind that, you know, this might not work out. That’s always a pretty big reality these days in racing and it was just always something that I knew I just had to keep pushing through and keep training every day and staying prepared for when that opportunity came about. It was a good motivational factor, but there were definitely days when, you know, you don’t think there’s any hope.
How did the Latus Ducati deal come about?
You know, it was – I think a lot of things that have happened over the last six-to-nine months – really a lot of it evolved around our Moto2 performance at Indy. That did a lot. For us it was so cool because it was such a small but quality effort. We had some really good guys on the team and we took a program with not so many resources, but we made the most of everything that we had at our disposal – that was really a cool thing to be a part of and it kinda – on the world scene that single result was, I think, in a lot of people’s eyes validation for my claims at Triumph. Moto2 is cutthroat and it’s by far some of the most intense racing that I’ve ever been a part of.
The Moto2 ride definitely seemed to open some eyes. Did that land you the Ducati ride for 2011?
DiSalvo landed a top-10 finish in the competitive Moto2 class at Indianapolis; which caught the attention of teams and opened the door for some rides in 2011.
From there, I mean, it was just – we knew at that point that we had some good results working in our favor. It’s so true that the old adage in racing that you’re only as good as your last race and that’s really what helped me out – my last race was pretty darn good, so it got us – it definitely opened some doors and one of the things that I was really on the lookout for coming into this year, and I made it known to some people that were in the industry, that I was really looking for a team with a really experienced crew chief that made good decisions. It’s easy to say, ‘okay, this guy has experience, he’s been in the business for four years,’ but it’s another thing to say that a guy has experience and he’s making his decisions based on good old-fashioned common sense. I heard some rumblings that the Latus team was going be without a rider going into this year and they were looking for riders and I had heard some really good things about Ronnie Saner, the crew chief. So I called George Latus just at his shop and got him straight away on the phone and kind of told him my story, you know, and what I wanted to do for him – I wanted to come and win races for him and his team and then I got talking to Ronnie a bit and just in a couple of hours of conversation on the phone everything that I had heard about Ronnie was totally confirmed. You know, the guy just knows a lot about motorcycles. He knows how motorcycles work and he does stuff that really just makes sense. He’s not doing stuff because, ‘oh that’s the way we did it 10 years ago with this other rider,’ you know.
We had heard rumors that the Latus team was considering not racing this year at all due to a lack of sponsorship money. Was this a deal where you had to bring some money of your own to the table or did they offer you a paying ride?
No, they lined everything up and I think the biggest thing they were looking for was some factory support (from Ducati) and that’s still something that we’re continuously trying to drum up and, you know, hopefully our good results at Daytona will help facilitate that.
Team and rider appear to be clicking as DiSalvo gets a solid start to the 2011 AMA season with a win at Daytona.
How do you compare the Latus team to the factory Yamaha squad or other AMA teams you have rode for? This definitely seems to be a bit more of a grassroots effort.
It’s definitely more of a family environment, but the work ethic and the routine is on the same level of professionalism and I like to think that I kind of brought some of that with me. I mean, the guys were already super professional and everything but I kinda brought in some stuff like doing rider feedback and really being meticulous about that and keeping a good log of everything. You know, they had those systems in place, but I don’t think any of their past riders had really utilized them to the point or to the extent of which we have this year.
How about hopping on a Twin for the first time in racing? How was that to get used to?
That was a little bit of a challenge. I had ridden some Twins in the past doing some stuff with some schools but never full-time and never in full race trim, pushing to the limit. So I pretty much spent the first day on the rev limiter – it was just one of those things I couldn’t get used to, shifting the thing at 11,500 rpm. It was hard the first couple of outings but it’s something that I’ve gotten to terms with and there were some other little things to learn like the way the chassis responds because of the V-Twin engine, but overall it’s still a motorcycle. It does the same things that every other bike does on the brakes, it does pretty much the same thing every other bike does when you open the throttle.
Now you’ve gotten to the point you’re enjoying riding it, the Ducati 848 EVO seems like it’d be an awesome race bike.
DiSalvo and his new Ducati have scored a big debut win, but can they follow through with a successful title run?
It really is and it’s kind of fun because it reminds me of a dirt bike, the way that you can just kind of put down the power and the rear tire is really attached to the throttle. You can slide the thing and then when you don’t want to slide it you just give a little bit less throttle and the bike comes right back into line. Especially at Daytona I got pretty used to riding the bike with the back end moving around, which up until that point was something that I hadn’t really played around with too much during testing. We were just really working on getting good baseline geometry and stuff, but when we went out that first practice session at Daytona and the track was so dirty it was just something that kinda happened but then the more it happened the more I figured out, ‘hey, I really like riding this bike like this.’
That concludes Part 1 of this two-part feature. Be sure to stay tuned for the next installment, where we talk a detailed look at DiSalvo’s historic Daytona 200 victory…