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Between the Motos: Billy Laninovich

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There isn’t anyone in motocross who doubts the ability of Billy Laninovich. Billy has won 250F supercross races and has been at the front of many nationals during his career. But the breakthrough year that he and his supporters have been waiting for just hasn’t happened yet. The 2008 season was no different for Billy—maybe even worse than recent years. Although there were a couple of bright spots for the MDK/KTM rider, it wasn’t what he was hoping for. I called Billy, who is widely regarded as one of the nicest guys in the pits, to find out what is on the horizon for him.

  • Billy Laninovich was riding for KTM on the West Coast last winter.
  • Billy had some flashes of brilliance, but no wins in 2008.
  • Washougal was the last race with KTM for Laninovich.
Racer X: What happened in 2008 for you?
Billy Laninovich: Supercross didn’t go the way I wanted it to, but I was riding better than I did last year. Last year I struggled a lot because I was coming off my knee injury—my fourth ACL reconstruction. Then I started riding well this year, but just having some bad luck and struggling with my starts and stuff. On the West Coast break in March I had a pretty bad crash at Perris. I knocked myself out, tore a muscle in my back and herniated three disks in the crash. It was pretty brutal.

I heard about that through the grapevine, but it was way after the fact; not many people knew how bad that injury was for you.
Well, I think it was because we were on a break. If I was missing at the races people would find out what happened. Actually, I didn’t even go to the doctors until a month and a half into it. I was laid up in bed for two weeks and I could barely get out of bed. I couldn’t lie on my back and it was all swollen and black and blue. The doctor said that I was lucky I didn’t break my back. They drained a quart of blood out of my back. It was nasty. I was off for about three months with all that. And then one month after I started riding, I went racing again. The first two weeks I was just cruising around to see if my back could handle it. I had maybe two weeks of riding hard before I went to the nationals.

And you were on a 450 when you started riding again, right?
Yeah, our plan all along was to ride the big bike outdoors. I struggled really bad at the first couple. I thought it was too early to go back, but the team thought I should race myself into shape. I didn’t want to because I knew I would do bad. If you aren’t in shape at the nationals you can’t finish near the top, and I hadn’t been riding for three months. I got a 12th at Red Bud, but I was so tired I couldn’t get through the second moto. I almost passed out. Washougal was my best ride; I got a tenth overall there. I was starting to feel better on the bike and my fitness was starting to come around. And then KTM decided to let me go.

{LINKS}What was that about?
I’m not really sure … I don’t know if it was KTM or if it was our team manager that made that call. I wanted to go get a Yamaha and do the last few rounds, but they wouldn’t let me out of my contract. They just wanted me to sit out the last three rounds.

That seems odd since you got a top ten at your last race.
Yeah, I don’t know. I started feeling better. It really took a lot out of me when I hurt my back, and it took a while to feel better. I’m not sure what their reasons were.

What do you have lining up for next year?

My agent is talking to a few teams right now. I want to race, but it's going to be hard to find something. There are teams going under and there will be a lot of guys needing rides. I’m going to do some races in Europe this fall. There is a series in Germany that I’m racing, but hopefully something will come together for me here. I would really like to ride the 450 next year. The Lites class is so hard to compete on if you don’t have a great bike. If nothing comes up I’ll probably just get a bike and do some West Coast rounds. Hopefully something will come up….

  • If you're looking for a rider, Laninovich is looking for a ride.
I still don’t know why you weren’t in the Best Whip event at X Games this summer.
I didn’t have a bike! KTM took all my bikes back after Washougal, so I haven’t had anything to ride. I haven’t hit ramps in a long time, either. I didn’t even see that event. Who won it?

Todd Potter won with a turn-back whip. It wasn’t really a traditional moto-whip.

Yeah, Todd can whip it good though. He’s good at it. I was going to hit some ramps with Twitch and Deegan before X Games but they took my bikes back.

Well, good luck landing a ride. Hey, I have the number to this obscure Chinese manufacturer. Interested?
[Laughs] Um, not so much.
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