Words/Photos: Casey Davis | @air_d617

Following a championship at Loretta Lynn’s in the highly competitive Supermini 2 class, Jo Shimoda signed a two year contract with Amsoil/Factory Connection/Honda. Shimoda’s US racing career began roughly four years ago though, after moving to Southern California from Japan. Shimoda is now one the sport’s rising young stars, as he is a real threat in the “B” class wherever he goes. We caught up with the #47 after the Freestone Amateur National to discuss his plans for the year and to hear a little more about the “Snapchat Master.”

We’re out here at Milestone MX, and it looks like you’re doing a bit of testing. What’s going on today?
Yeah, we’re doing some suspension testing. I had a little trouble in Freestone with my suspension, so that’s what’s brought us out here today. My bike wasn’t handling the way that I wanted it to in the high speed sections, so we’re here trying to figure out a better setting. However, we are having a little bit of trouble because the track isn’t very rough right now, which isn’t ideal for suspension testing.

As you mentioned, you just returned from Freestone, so talk about how the week went for you.
Freestone went pretty well even though my times were slightly off from the top guys. My corner speed was lacking a little bit and my speed around the outside lines wasn’t what it should have been. Garrett Marchbanks and Pierce Brown rode really well though. Right now, I’m just preparing for the Cal Classic.

Let’s talk about your mechanic Cameron Camera. You two have a very close relationship, as he’s been working with you for the last four years since your move to the US.
Cameron is a great guy. He’s the “Snapchat Master!” This guy is constantly Snapchatting. It will be quiet one minute, then all of a sudden Cameron will yell something as he records a Snapchat. He’s so funny (laughs).

Are you Snapchat famous because of Cameron?
I’m not famous on my own personal Snapchat, but that’s another story on Cameron’s. I think that’s how most people know me (laughs).

Recently you signed with Amsoil/Factory Connection/Honda, and you’re looking very comfortable on your new ride. How has everything been with the new bike and new team?
Everything has been amazing! Jeff Majkrzak and everyone at the team is very nice. Working with this team has eliminated a lot of the everyday stresses that come with motocross racing because they take care of everything. The bike has been incredible, as well! Until this, I’ve never ridden a bike like that!

Prior to signing with Factory Connection Honda, you were racing Superminis and occasionally a KTM 125SX. Going from Superminis to a full-fledged Factory Connection Honda, was that a difficult transition for you?
It was definitely a big jump. Before riding a Factory Connection bike though, I was riding a Honda CR125. It was a little difficult to ride that bike because it was a little slow. The switch did take a little time because there were so many new things for me to get used to, but I’m settled in and very happy my bike.

Mike LaRocco heads up the professional side of the team, but do you ever get to work with him?
On rare occasions. He primarily works with the Geico guys, but if I ever need any tips or advice I know I can ask him. Most of my time is spent with Cameron (laughs).

When you moved to the US, how was Cameron able to help you?
When I came here, Cameron was my first friend. I stayed with him at Jeff Pestana’s place for a short time, so right off the bat we were with each other every day. Cameron was able to help me communicate with other people since I didn’t speak English when I moved out here. Everything worked out great with Cameron and I’m so happy to have him in my corner. He’s not just a mechanic to me, he’s my friend!

How do the racetracks in Japan compare to the tracks here in Southern California?
First off, they don’t prep the tracks, and sometimes there isn’t any water, either. Other times they’ll water the course, but they won’t groom it. Sugo is a really cool track though, because they prep it. Everyone out here always complains about the tracks being too rough or too dusty, but that’s what I’m used to. Everyone out here has it really good when it comes to practice tracks, they just don’t know it (laughs).

Coming from those kinds of riding conditions, did you have to adjust your riding style to get used to the tracks here in So.Cal?
Yeah, I basically had to learn how to ride in this kind of dirt. The dirt is so much tackier out here, which requires a different kind of riding style. I learned that I can lean the bike a lot more thanks to the moist dirt.

You have a few more races to accomplish by the end of the year, so do you have any goals set forth other than the obvious, which would be winning?
My primary goal is to ride throughout the entire year without any injuries. I want to continue to progress every time I’m on the bike, as well. Being stationary in this sport means you’re going backwards, so I want to keep moving forward.