James Rispoli: SuperSport Champion!
James Rispoli believes in pursuing what he loves, and these days, what he loves is winning races. The 20-year old from Attica, New York, has been setting the AMA Pro Road Racing SuperSport class on fire this year.
Rispoli shot to the SuperSport championship lead early this season. Leading the extremely competitive SuperSport class doesn't seem like a stretch when you factor in Rispoli's racing experience, which dates back to 2001. What is surprising, however, is that he didn't start roadracing until 2006 before turning pro in 2009.
Rispoli got his start in dirt track racing. His best friend's dad was a local racer, and after Rispoli tried it himself, he was hooked. After spending a couple of years in the 85cc classes, Rispoli moved up to the 250cc class in 2004.
The championships were already adding up, but 2006 was a breakout year. Rispoli earned six AMA Dirt Track Grand Nationals wins en route to the AMA Daytona Winter Short Track Series championship.
Rispoli showed his first hint of roadracing talent that same year, finishing second in Lightweight Superbike during the AMA Grand Nationals at Mid-Ohio.
Adding roadracing to his resume was a natural choice for Rispoli. "We saw that Nicky Hayden and a bunch of people from dirt track had made it in roadracing, and we figured we'd give it a whirl," he says.
"Giving it a whirl" translated to seven WERA Regional championships in 2007. At the same time, Rispoli still brought home two AMA Dirt Track championships. While it sounds like the transition to roadracing was easy, Rispoli assures that it wasn't that simple. "It was going pretty well until I had a long break. It felt like I had to start all over again. When I really committed to roadracing is when I really started to pick it up," he says.
Rispoli made his AMA Pro Road Racing debut in 2009, earning a pair of fourth-place finishes in the SuperSport class. That same year, he made his debut in the AMA Pro GNC Flat Track Championship, finishing second in points.
Roadracing and flat track would be enough for almost any racer, but not for Rispoli. He also went to Bonneville, where he set a land speed record in the 650cc Twins class with his top speed of 151.215mph.
With so many challenges already met, it's easy to see why Rispoli seemed calm at the prospect of defending his points lead in SuperSport. Although he still led the championship going into the final SuperSport race of the season, the finale's results would determine the ultimate champion. When that race got underway at New Jersey Motorsports Park on September 3, it was business as usual for Rispoli.
"Really I don't have the pressure: it's the guy in second place who has pressure. He's got to win if he wants to take over first," Rispoli reflects.
Rispoli finished second at New Jersey, clinching his first AMA Pro Road Racing SuperSport championship on board the LeoVince-sponsored ANT Racing/STAR School/NationalGuard.com Suzuki GSX-R600.
As for the future, Rispoli hopes to make a career of roadracing. "In five years I want to make it to the world level. If you do well there, you'll get a shot at MotoGP," he says.
One constant factor through the various styles of racing has always been Rispoli's dad Phil. Rispoli credits Phil's marketing and business savvy, as well as his unyielding support, as the reason for his success. "He's been there 110 percent the whole time. He's helped me get to the next level. I couldn't have done it without him; we wouldn't be here," he says.
But, Rispoli adds, "He's not one of those moto-dads that oversees everything at the track, either. He knows when to come in and he knows when to stay back."
It's clear there is no staying back for Rispoli, whose immense talent has gotten him a professional roadracing championship at the age of 20. LeoVince congratulates Rispoli on his great season, and we look forward to seeing what this rising star has in store during the years to come.