Where Are They Now: Tony Lorusso

Where Are They Now: Tony Lorusso

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This isn’t exactly a proper Where Are They Now story, because most people (well at least if you live in New England) know exactly where this guy can be found on a near daily basis. The rider is Tony Lorusso, a native of Brockton, Massachusetts and who now calls Rocky Hill, Connecticut home. Lorusso is a legend in New England Motocross, and has the credentials and speed to back up his status.

For 2012, Lorusso came out of his “semi” retirement and raced the Southwick National. He rode a nearly bone stock RMZ 250 and finished a remarkable 17th overall. His moto scores were consistent and fast, and he went 15-17 on the day. Say what you want about the fast local guys at Southwick, those moto scores are no joke for a 40-year-old semi retired guy, and who just happens to ride a stock bike.

We caught up with Tony while he was working on the irrigation system at his practice track, Connecticut River Motocross, otherwise known as “The Worm Farm” and picked his brain on getting old.

Racer X: Tony, man, was that really you out there on the #203 bike at Southwick? I know you are fast at that place, but that was an impressive performance!
Tony Lorusso: Ha! Yeah, that was me. I pretty much came out of hibernation for this years National. I started racing some local stuff about two months back and raced myself back into shape. The NESC events have 20-minute motos, and I would sign up for two classes, so that meant four 20-minute motos per weekend. So that put me back in decent shape, along with some riding here at my track.

Your results at Southwick were really good in the 1990s, but seemed to fall off in the last ten years, so it was good to see you back up there.
Yeah, I have always raced the National, but in years past, I didn’t really prepare for it, at all. And my results showed. Last year I didn’t even qualify, I was so unprepared. But way back in 1996, I finished 3rd in the first moto, which was awesome. That was my best moto score ever. But then in the second moto, I went down at the start and could only work up to 14th, which was a bummer. But the last time I really had a strong result was when we were still racing the 125s back in 2003 or so. It seems like the four strokes have helped erase some of the local advantage at that place. But once we started racing the national on the four-strokes, it raised the bar on the playing field, if that makes sense. I think the bikes are more forgiving for the track than the 125s are, and some of the locals really knew how to push a 125 in the sand, and that’s why you used to see more of the locals in the top twenty.

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Lorusso returned to the national scene at Southwick and Unadilla.
Carl Stone photo

How did the day go? Silky smooth, or was it rough going?
Man, everything was just smooth and easy for the most part. I got into the race through the consi’s and didn’t have to race the qualifiers. I guess the bad part were my starts. I had really bad starts in both moto’s, and I think it is because my bike was dog compared to all the other team riders. But I just stayed strong and made sure not to sprint the event. I just worked my way up from mid to back of the pack starts and did my best to click off riders one at a time, and kept my pace strong. The last 15 minutes was good, I just stayed on it while I think a lot of the kids were getting tired and starting to go backwards, speed wise.

Tell me about your bike? I understand it was basically totally stock.
Yeah, I just picked up the bike about a month before the race from Motorsports Nation, a local dealer here in New England. It’s stock. I put a Pro Circuit pipe on it, and a Moto Tassinari airboot, and remapped it for race fuel. That’s it. There was no other motor work. Oh, and Factory Connection did the suspension, but it was nothing fancy, just stock pieces for the most part.

That is pretty impressive, and I guess that explains why you had lousy starts as well.
Yeah, it would have helped to have a little more motor for sure. Getting lousy starts means you have your work cut out for you. And Southwick is all about keeping solid momentum for the entire moto. The last ten to fifteen minutes are when you can make some serious progress, if you have the energy and pace to keep pushing. That is really the secret there, unless it is muddy.  The mud is a whole separate deal though.

How much racing are you doing locally?
Not a lot. I was doing one half of the NESC series, up until two years ago, but I have pretty much stopped up until now. I guess I reached my max number of championships in New England. Between amateur, vet and expert I think I have about 50 of them. I didn’t really feel like I had much more to prove. Now I am focused on running my track here and doing my lessons here at the track, so I still ride a lot. But when it comes to racing, I am not fully doing it like I used to.

What is it about New England with all these fast guys who just keep going, and going? Of course you have Dowd and Henry, but there is also have Mike Treadwell, Keith Johnson, you, and a few others.
Well, I think the really big thing is that none of us really been off the bike for a significant amount of time. That is probably the biggest single reason. We all have a strong baseline speed that does not seem to go away. I think we do the same stuff every year, and that is the deal. Obviously we have the younger kids that are going fast, kids like Robby Marshall, Mike Sottile and Jimmy DeCotis. And they are really good. I would like to see them make it to that next level, but it is a big jump. But us older guys, we have been sticking it year after year, and none of us have really missed a big chunk of time. Also, I think the New England guys have a lot of competition—there are a lot of fast guys at any given local race. It seems like there is always 4-5 guys that have a shot at winning. That always keeps you on your toes.

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Lorusso competed in his first national in 1990.
Fran Kuhn photo

When was your first National?
[Laughs] That would be Southwick in 1990. I got 16th overall.

That was 22 years ago, and here you are today, still capable of going the same speed!
Time flies! As old as I am, I don’t feel like I am much older. I think that is because I am in the same environment I have been in since 1990, really. You don’t realize it each day, but I am in the same atmosphere as I was back then. Riding, training and working on the bikes. Sometimes I am sitting on the line and there is a kid who I gave a lesson to when he was on a 50 or whatever, and I think that is crazy, as here is some kid that was a pee wee and now is racing against me in the same class. But I feel good for my age and knock on wood, have no major issues.

But you know, when you get older, your mindset does change. I can still ride pretty fast, but I find that I think about things more. Maybe some of the lines you might hit when you are younger, now you second guess things and sometimes take the easier line or whatever, or the one that is less risky.

I know you did a bunch of nationals and supercross as you were coming up, but what was your best moto or overall result?
I did chase the nationals and some supercross stuff for a long time. But man, it always seemed that I had good first moto’s, then something always went wrong in the second motos. One year at Gainesville I got a 6th, but then had a bad second moto. But you know, it was always Southwick where I had my best results. I would also say the one year I earned national number 42, that was pretty cool. That was before they had the new numbering system, so it was a real number. So that was pretty cool, and was the lowest number I earned.

Let’s shift gears here. How long have you owned the track?
I bought the track in late 2001 or so. It’s been a lot of fun, but also a lot of work. People don’t realize just everything that you have to do with the place to keep it running. It is a challenging facility since we are on a flood plane. It floods. And then when it gets dry, it does not absorb the water very well. It is constant work keeping it tilled and disked.  But the soil can be really nice if the rain works with us and does not flood us out. But you know, on the right conditions and right day, this place has some of the best dirt in the country. There are no rocks and it can be super loamy. But there are always challenges when you own a track.

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Twenty-two years later Lorusso is still racing.
Carl Stone photo

So owning and running a track is not all fun and riding with your buddies?
No! But it has worked out well for me. I like the fact that I am still involved in motocross and can make a living at it. It is a lot of constant work, but when the winter comes, I get to take some serious time off.  I head down to Florida and just chill out.  I actually do most of riding down there in Florida. I still do enjoy it a lot, and I think that’s what keeps me going really, and at this age. But people don’t realize the work that goes into it; the grooming, the mowing, keeping the equipment maintained, and everything else that you have to do to stay on top things.

When you were coming up and chasing the Nationals, it was different world. You were a regular top 15 guy, sometimes better, and yet you never really got a ride.
Yeah, that’s true. Now it’s different. If you are top 15 or top 20, you are riding out of a rig and probably have a test track out West, and a mechanic. But that wasn’t my experience. But its progress for the sport, and that’s a good thing. I think the intensity and depth of talent is much stronger now. In other words, the difference in speed from fifth to fifteenth is much less than what it used to be, and the bikes are that much better. And the 250cc class is tough—there are so many teams that have good bikes—and they are fast. I wanted to keep my bike reliable and so I didn’t have to mess with it. In the 125 days, with a decent bike, Pro Circuit porting, you could get a good holeshot. Now, forget it. You need a worked motor in the 250 Class.

Well, we should wrap this up, but what else can you tell us about what works so well for you after all these years?
Well, you know, it gets hard to train for long periods of time, and do your motos. Mentally, I find that I can get burned out. Here we are 20 years later and I am trying to stay aggressive.  The Southwick National is a big part of my year, but I defiantly don’t work as hard as I should, or could. But now it’s just about having some fun and hoping to score some good points as well.

How many more years are you going to go?
I don’t know! I feel healthy and good, so as long as I am having fun with it, I am going to do it. Years ago, I was going because I wanted to get a better ride, but now not so much. I go if my friends go, and that’s it.

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