We decided to give Phil Alderton a call today for this Between the Motos interview, presented by Suzuki.
Racer X: It’s been a while since we saw you, Phil. What’s new? Phil Alderton: Well, what I’ve been up to for the last year and a half is I’m just living life on life’s terms, which is something I’ve had a lot of difficulty with in the past. Even during the times when I was successful, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the little stuff, whether it’s driver’s-license issues, income-tax issues or child support – I’ve just been working on all of that, and I’ve been working here and there. I’ve had a few different jobs, too. I worked at Alpinestars for about a year, and recently I’ve been working at a motorcycle dealership in Marina Del Rey – Honda/Kawasaki of Santa Monica. I’m kind of ready to get back into the motocross industry. I feel like I’m more focused and more ready to do that now even then when I was successful with the dealership in Ohio and Honda and Yamaha of Troy.
For the readers who don’t remember you, you’re pretty much the main man responsible for the formation of the Honda of Troy team, which eventually transformed into Yamaha of Troy... Yes, I started that whole racing program back in late 1992, and we ramped it up in 1993. We did that through 1998, and then Yamaha approached me in ’98 and we became a Yamaha team from ’99 on.
You had quite a bit of success there.
I feel like I did. Looking back at it, I think we won forty supercross races and four championships from 1999 through 2002 – [Ernesto] Fonseca, [Stephane] Roncada, Fonseca again, and then Chad Reed. So, yeah, I feel like I was pretty successful at that. I had a lot of good people working for me. Erik Kehoe worked for me up through 2001, and then a friend of mine named Dean Baker worked with us from ’94 through 2003, maybe. So, yeah, I guess I had a lot of good ideas and I was able to hire the right people, including the riders. That being said, we got a lot of help from Yamaha, as well. It was definitely a team effort, and when you get that many good people together, success will follow.
Do you still follow the Yamaha of Troy team?
Yes, absolutely. I follow it all the time. After I left at the end of 2004, they had a couple of rough years. And even this past year in 2008 with Jason Lawrence, that might be considered a little bit of a rough year, but they won a championship. I’m not a part of it any more, but I still root for them all the time.
What are your thoughts on Jason Lawrence?
I think Jason is obviously a fantastic rider, but I think he needs a little direction. I know that may sound funny coming from me, but who better? [Laughs] I think that if he does get that direction, he’s young enough to where I think he has a great future ahead of him.
Of all the riders that came through your program, do any really stick out? What I’m asking is, who was your favorite rider?
Well, there were some different guys that I enjoyed for different reasons. One of the guys that I always got along with really well and was fun to hang out with and was a great rider was Mike Craig. From a success standpoint, I think Fonseca, Roncada and Reed were the most fun to work with as far as winning races and championships. Ernie was assigned to the 250F when it first came out, and he won a championship for us that season. Roncada, in 2000, not only won the 125 East at the time, but he also came up one-point short in the 125 Nationals behind Pastrana. It’s hard not to enjoy working with guys who win you races and championships.
Looking back, do you miss the role of team manager and is that something you’d like to get back into?
Absolutely. Yes, I miss it a lot. I miss the people and the competition. Motocross racing, it’s something I’ve done since I was thirteen years old; I raced pretty solidly through 1990, and did the team thing from ’92 through 2004. It was a huge part of my life. It was so enjoyable that it didn’t seem like work. I get to go to the races and Sunday night came around and I’d be home, then Monday would come and I looked forward to going to work. I’m really passionate about it and it’s definitely something I’d like to get back into. I’m certainly not in the position to start anything on my own, but I’d really like to be a part of something again. If given that opportunity, I don’t think it would take really long for my potential employer to realize the value that I could bring to the table with all of my experience.
I definitely think just looking at what you’ve done with Honda of Troy and then Yamaha of Troy, that alone should speak volumes.
So, do you still ride much? You were an amateur national champion at Loretta Lynn’s!
Right, right! You know what? Up until this last month, for the last year and a half and since I’m working this job at Honda/Kawasaki of Santa Monica, I have to work Saturday and Sunday. But up until about a month ago, I raced every Saturday out at Glen Helen with that REM series. Jody Weisel at Motocross Action, he’s been supportive of me from both a friendship level and professional level for years and years, just like Davey and Racer X has. He has let me come out on Saturdays and he gives me a bike to ride, no matter what. So I’ve gotten to race almost every weekend, and it’s been really enjoyable and really fun, and I can’t thank Jody enough.
That’s good to hear. If I remember correctly, I remember Davey mentioning that when he first started the newspaper, you were one of the first advertisers.
The first or second, I think. We continued on with that and we used to do our part-number ads where you’d put the year of the bike, clutch plates, part numbers, etc. And I can’t remember what year it was, but it was a few years before I stopped doing the Yamaha of Troy thing, but we switched over to concept ads, and Davey helped design those, and I thought it was a really good series. I remember back in 2000 we did a thing with Roncada where it was employee of the month. Davey was designing back then and has always been very creative, and it was a team effort back then, too.
You’ve had some of the coolest looking teams over the years. I especially liked the one year Honda of Troy had Brian Swink, James Dobb, Mike Craig, Todd Dehoop, Mike Brown...
That was in 1995, and we had a great team that year. Again, we had some real good sponsors and we were in AXO gear at the time, and Jim Hale helped us out a lot. Also, it was Jim and Robert Ibon who came up with that whole Fifth Dragon deal. I know things have changed a little bit now, but my idea was I wanted all my guys to look exactly the same – from the riding gear to the boots. Even if it was different color ways, I’d make sure everyone wore the same thing on the same day, and our bikes looked the same so we really looked like a team. That was really important to me and I liked it.
Let me put you on the spot: Who’s going to be the 2009 AMA Supercross Champion?
Dude, that’s easy – James Stewart. And as far as 450 outdoors, [Ryan] Villopoto. It’s a no-brainer.
Will we see you at Anaheim 1?
Yes, I will definitely be there.
Well, if anyone in the motocross industry is looking for someone with tons of experience and is eager to make a difference, you’re available, right?
Yes, 100-percent available. Like I said, given the opportunity, I don’t think it would take very long for somebody to realize the value of their investment. All I want to do is work, man, and get with a company or organization where I can make a difference. I’m still very passionate about it and 100-percent ready to go. If anybody wants to contact me, they can email me at Alderton2005@yahoo.com.
Anything else you want to add?
One other thing I’d like to mention is that I’ve been staying with a friend for the past year down here in the South Bay, and he doesn’t have anything to do with motorcycles or motocross, other then he’s a fan, and his name is Nate Woods. He’s a legend down here as far as excavating and heavy-equipment operating, so if anybody needs tracks built or anything, he’s a good guy, too. He’s been a big help to me, so I just wanted to give a shout out to Nate.
You miss Ohio, Phil?
[Laughs] That’s a one-word answer: No!