Catching Up With Tony Alessi
It can be said that Tony Alessi has an eclectic personality. Confident, yet somewhat soft-spoken, the father of Mike and Jeff Alessi has been there for the duration of their careers, becoming a sort of martyr for “mini bike parents” in the process. While many say that he is there to live vicariously, a few moments with the elder Alessi will have one realize that he simply wants the best for his children and that he believes in their abilities as racers. For the first time in years, practically since their privateer effort during Mike’s rookie season, Tony will be able to maintain constant communication with his sons at the races. As a “crew member” of the Motoconcepts team, Tony will help oversee the 450 operations and will tailor the bikes to the needs of the riders with the ability to use any part they deem necessary. We spoke with Tony on the future holds and what this new endeavor means to “Team Alessi.”
For the first time in quite a while you have both of your sons under the same canopy and the ability be around them both at the same time. Is it an exciting opportunity for you?
Yeah, it is exciting to have Mike and Jeff under the same tent and the same management. The last time that we had this was in 2006 with KTM.
Have they adjusted to the bikes well in the amount of time they have had?
The whole “MX1” program, which is the 450 program, is our program. We can build the bike around the rider in any way, shape, or form that we want. We aren’t calling the bike a Suzuki, but a “Motoconcepts 450.” It is on our dime with our development.
When the Monster Energy Cup and the overseas races came about, did you basically go out and purchase your own bikes to race?
For the Monster Energy Cup, the basic idea was to buy our own bikes, but it was the beginning of this. We did our own project and built bikes that we thought could be competitive. Mike qualified third and ran at the front, so that was a small step in the direction that we are going in now. The goal is to build a program that can compete with the factory level teams, because Yamaha and Suzuki are already gone, and it won’t be long before the other factory teams are out. This is the platform that will become normal in the future, the private teams. So if that is the case, I feel like we have a head start.
In the future, do you see it being the same way the Joe Gibbs Racing or Pro Circuit is, where it will be a factory supported team, or will it all be at the owner’s expense?
I think it will change. The factories will always have the need and want to sell motorcycles, and want to have their bikes involved in racing. I think at some level they will be involved, but I think that the new platforms will be private teams that are not selling motorcycles, but themselves as a company.
Will Motoconcepts stay a plastic and garage supply company, or will they offer in-house motor and suspension work the same way the Pro Circuit does, and sell what they race?
They are not going to build pipes or whatever for sale. They are more going to promote themselves and the products they are interested in, but not motorcycles or performance parts.
Mike stayed busy in the off-season with the overseas races and other local events. What do you think is the right way for a racer to go: to rest and relax while they can or to go to all the other events to stay sharp?
It wasn’t much of an option. This year, we had a short period of time to develop a motorcycle, just in September. And the process of developing a motorcycle means that you have to put it in competition and see where it is. If the objective is to win, then you have to know what the elements are to win. What are the other guys doing and why are they beating you? And you have to take that apart and try to do it to stay better than them. You won’t learn anything riding around the test track. You’ll only know what your speed is and that is about it. To know how your bike is in combat, you have to go race. You learn about the bike, and why you got beat, and what you have to do better.
No one can ever say that you are a “hands off parent,” and many say that you should take a step back in both Mike and Jeff’s careers. But you have been with them forever, and you think you need to stay beside them. What do you think of the people that give an opinion on how to raise your kids?
I don’t know if it always just that. It really comes down to how you are able to interpret information. For example, Mike might three people the same thing, but they will all come up with a different outcome of what he is telling them. But I have been around them long enough to understand their language, so that helps me process the information and what is going on with their bike. There isn’t anything lost in translation, so when they are discussing how they want to make their bike better, I understand better than someone else will. Because I have had more time with Mike and Jeff, and they are only guessing, where I can hear what they say and know what the correction needs to be. That puts me in a better technical standpoint than someone else because I know my kids.