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5 Minutes with... Antonio Balbi

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Rewinding a couple years, Brazil’s Antonio Jorge Balbi Jr. made an immediate splash in the 2006 AMA Motocross Championships with several impressive rides, causing many to leaf through their programs to determine who number 965 was. Gradually improving, 2008 was a big year for the 25-year-old, as with sponsorship from the Moto XXX Honda team, he took a top-five finish in Supercross (Daytona) and backed that up with a top-five finish in motocross (Unadilla). While you may think that Balbi would be signed, sealed, and delivered for 2009, he’s one of the many riders left in the economics lurch. Still, Antonio’s optimistic as he keeps sharp racing back home.

  • Balbi at Freestone
  • Balbi after devouring a Daytona mud pie
Racer X: Let’s talk about your 2008 AMA season. You had a pretty standout year both in supercross and motocross.
Antonio Balbi Jr.: Oh, it was definitely a great year, as things went really well for me.  As far as supercross, I wasn’t that ready for Anaheim I, because I had signed a deal with Moto XXX only a week or two before the race. I barely had a few days of riding supercross. I put things together very last minute, but by the second race I made the main event and that was a big deal for me! I began to make a lot of main events after that. In Daytona, I really put it all together, and that race will always be on my memory. Just to beat Kevin Windham [in a heat] was crazy, because I really like that guy. I always watch for him. When I saw him coming up behind me, I said “No, I’ve got to go.” [Laughs] It was a bit more of a motocross than supercross race, but I don’t care.  [Balbi finished fifth in the main at Daytona]. Overall, it was a great supercross season; I made a lot of main events. I had some problems qualifying for a couple races, but it was good. For the short time I had to prepare for it, I think I did a good job, and the team was happy with that. 

  • Balbi rode for Brazil at the 2008 Motocross of Nations
  • Balbi at Hangtown this summer
Going to the outdoors, we had a lot of time to prepare and get ready, and things worked out good. I went to Glen Helen riding really well and had a good weekend, but then I fractured my thumb and that slowed me down for a couple rounds. Once I got healthy again, I put it all together and took a lot of top-10 finishes, and one special finish at Unadilla when I ended top-five with a fourth in the second moto. It was a great year, for sure, and I’m really happy with my results. At the end of the season, in the final three rounds I kind of had a little bit of bad luck and that messed me up. I think I could have finished in top 10 in points if it wasn’t for that, but it doesn’t matter. I’m happy with my season and things went great. [When the season wound down after Steel City, Balbi was credited with twelfth overall.] I can’t thank Moto XXX enough, along with all my Brazilian sponsors. I’m really looking forward to coming back and doing a lot better next year.

Let’s talk about next year. What are your plans at this point?
Well, my plan is to be back in America and race full-time, but things are really tough right now. Even the big dogs are having a difficult time, and several team riders are still unannounced – things are really slow in America right now.

Due to the economy?
Yeah, the economy is definitely not helping. I have talked a lot with Moto XXX, and some other teams, but the answer I got is that they just don’t have the budget decided yet. They cannot commit to what they can or cannot do, or what their budget is. Moto XXX really wants me on the team, but they just cannot say anything definite right now. I know they’re not doing that because they want to; it’s just the economy. Right now, the greatest thing for me is that I’m racing in Brazil, making some decent money here, and keeping my mind off what’s happening. If I was living in America now, and seeing all the guys getting ready and racing supercross and not having a chance to do the same, I would be going crazy. But as I said, with doing some Brazilian Supercross, it’s pushed my mind away from figuring 2009 out. I’m still working, and riding supercross full-time in Brazil. I know that I’ll be ready for Supercross in January, whatever bike I’ll be riding. I really want to tell everyone in America that wants a rider who will work hard, that I’ll be ready for supercross. I hope that I can get a good deal before Anaheim. 
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