For a generation of international riders, America’s Amsoil Grand National Cross Country Series kept calling. Shane Watts, Paul Edmondson, Juha Salminen and David Knight carried huge credentials when they moved here, paving the way for riders like Josh Strang and Paul Whibley to give it a go these days. But Strang and Whibley found their biggest success on the American stage. It’s been since Knight’s last season, 2008, that a full-on World Enduro Champion has competed in the series.
Now Italy’s Alex Salvini is going to try out a GNCC at this weekend’s Amsoil Ironman. It could just pave the way for a full-time deal in the U.S. in the near future. Salvini won the E2 Class in last year’s Enduro World Championship.
Racer X: We’re here at the AIMExpo today. How’d you end up all the way over here from Europe?
Alex Salvini: I just arrived yesterday. This weekend we’re racing GNCC. It’s going to be a new experience for me. It’s a lot different here in respect to Europe. I don’t know what I have to expect with the race.
A lot of our fans over here in the US might be pretty familiar with our riders, but just to give them some background knowledge, what series have you been racing? What are some of your major titles you’ve won?
Basically, I always ride motocross in the beginning. I got two times some European Championship. European Supercross Championship I got in 2004, and then some Italian Championship in the motocross. Two-times second in the World Championship in MX3. I made also part of the Italian team at the Motocross of Nations in 2008. And then in 2011 I switched to enduro. I’ve been Rookie of the Year the first year. Last year I became World Champion. This is my biggest championship win.
What caused you to switch from motocross to enduro?
Basically because in 2007 I was a motocross rider, and then when an Italian rider got injured just before to leave for Six Days, the Italian Federation called me a few days before and they asked me, we need your presence at the Six Days because we have no riders to send there. I participated in the Six Days. My first time, I never rode before an enduro. It was my first time and I got third on the podium in the E1 class, sixth or seventh in the overall. We won the World Title in 2007. And then after that, I continued in the motocross, but in 2009 and ’10 the Federation called me again for the Six Days. I’ve been always the best Italian rider [in the event]. So after that I decided to switch because the motocross was in a little bit strange moment in Europe at that time. It was impossible for me to find a good deal with a factory bike. I was thinking that it was better for me to switch to enduro on the factory bike then keep going in the motocross with a private team. Then, the first year I struggled pretty much, but after that I got better feeling, so already in the first year at the end of the year, I got some podiums and won many tests, special tests. I became Rookie of the Year. I was pretty happy about my first year. The year after, in 2012, I had some technical problem with the bike. I got injured but I won the Italian Championship, and also I got a couple podiums in the World Championship.
Recently learned that you’re coming over here to race the Ironman GNCC. How did that even come about? Was that your idea? Did someone invite you over here?
No, it was my idea. I try always to do some new experience. A couple years ago I went to Australia for the Four Days [Australian Enduro]. This year we aren’t going to go to the Six Days, so I have a lot of free time. That’s why I try to look around at some new championships or some new races to do, and in U.S. there are still some races. I asked Honda Europe and my team if it was possible for them to go support me in the U.S. And Honda Europe called straight to Johnny Campbell and they figured out everything. So in the end the JCR team supported me here, and I’m really happy to be here to try this new experience. Maybe for next year, I already signed last year for the World Championship, but we never know. Maybe in the future, if I like the race and the style of this race, maybe I will come in the future full-time for the whole season.
So with enduros you go out and you do stages, whereas GNCC is just a straight, three-hour race. Is there anything you’ve been trying to do to prepare for that?
For sure, it’s going to be a completely new type of race for me. I never rode and competed in a three-hour race, never in GNCC or motocross or enduro with stages like in Europe. So I don’t know really what I can expect from the race because I don’t know anything about this kind of race. That’s why this week I have to speak with all the team to understand better the rules also and everything. But I tried to prepare myself in the last few weeks in the motocross. Spend some time on the motocross bike to do some motos but not like three hours, just like one hour, two times. I don’t know even what I have to do to prepare myself for this kind of race! Just try to get fun on the bike. This race, I think, will be for fun. For sure I will try to do my best and try to do the best result that I can, but anyway, it will be fun to race. I don’t want to stress a lot. Just come here and enjoy myself and make a new experience.
Are you familiar with some of the riders and some of the guys you’ll be riding with that weekend?
Yeah. A couple riders I already met at the Six Days. There are a couple of Australian guys like Josh Strang, also Charlie Mullins and some of the American riders that I met a couple years ago at the Six Days. Here, I’m completely a beginner. It should be fun to see how I can do at this kind of race.
Just here to test the waters, not really sure what your racing deal might be in the future, but you said you’re considering if it all goes well it might be an option for the future?
Yeah. Like I told you, nothing is decided for my future. Next year I still stay at Honda Europe for the World Championship, but after that I can change something. I can decide to come here. It depends if I have a good chance to come here or not. I’m just coming here for the GNCC here and to see how is the championship, this format.