The CycleWorld website ran this interview by Maria Guidotti on Damian’s progress into the CIV PreMoto3 class in July 2016…
Can you imagine what goes on inside the head of a rider tackling the Mugello Circuit’s corners for the first time as a racer? Now consider that this guy is only 12 years old, is an American, on his first trip to Europe, and he is riding a new bike (the RMU 250 four stroke) with a new team.
Four-foot-ten inches tall and 60 pounds, Damian is a little guy with clear ideas and only one goal in mind: winning.
In America, in his rookie year, he regularly beats 22-year-old riders and is leading the WERA (Western Eastern Racing Association) Superstock Championship on a KTM 390 after having already won the PreGP Championship. His debut in the Italian championship is the springboard for this 12-year-old kid from Chicago who could be the new Kevin Schwantz.
After taking his first steps on dirt flat tracks when he was three, when he turned seven he received a Honda NSR50 from his parents as a present. He started riding go-kart tracks with such natural instinct that it surprised his young father, a 40-year old police officer from Chicago.
Thanks to Dainese, he landed in one of most prestigious Italian talent scout teams, RMU Racing. With the support of the Italian Motorcycle Federation, Jigalov was invited to test at the Misano circuit on his 12th birthday. The following weekend he was racing in Mugello in the 3rd and 4th rounds of the CIV (the Italian championship).
We met him at Mugello right after Race 1 in which he finished 5th. Jigalov was a revelation in the Italian championship, where many of the top riders have moved through these first steps, from Biaggi and Rossi to the new faces of Moto3 like Romano Fenati, Nicolo Bulega, Fabio Di Giannantonio (second last year in the Italian Moto3 championship), and Enea Bastianini. For Adrian and René, Damian’s parents, it was the confirmation that all their sacrifices to get their son racing were worth it. Unfortunately, he crashed on Sunday and injured his hand. But we sat down and spoke with Jigalov to find more out about this young talent…
Cycle World: Why have you decided to race in Italy?
Damian Jigalov: “I have chosen to race the Italian CIV because it’s an important championship to start with, and making my debut at Mugello racetrack is really special. Italy and Spain are the best countries to race and grow in order to become a professional rider. In America there isn’t a championship at this level, and the Premoto3 is the ideal entry class for kids of my age. In addition, we have instructors from the Italian Motorcycle Federation who support us during the race weekend. We usually have a briefing in the morning and one in the evening. They explain to us how to improve and we also watch Moto3 races. I learned a lot from watching the races of Nicolò Bulega (rider on the SKY VR46 team). I studied the lines. I need to learn how to ride the RMU 250 4t, because in the U.S. I race with a bigger bike, the KTM RC390. I’m currently leading the WERA Superstock championship. I’m the youngest. When I beat the other riders that are older than me, like 16-years-old, sometimes they get frustrated, but the riders who are 22-years-old, they think it’s really cool. They have “adopted me like a mascot.”
It is not easy to start with a technical and demanding track like Mugello.
“It’s is a very difficult but beautiful track, I haven’t heard of a single rider who doesn’t like Mugello. I really like the fast and flowing Arrabbiata, Turn 1—San Donato—where you brake so hard and the rear slides a lot, while the most difficult parts of the track are the first two chicanes. They get harder and harder as the race progresses and you get more tired.”
How was the debut?
“I was very nervous. I didn’t know what to expect and what the level of the competition was. After the first practices I was more comfortable and I knew I could fight for the top 10 or top-five positions. On race day, I was nervous again, but as the lights went on, I was focused and concentred.
How much does it cost to race in Italy?
“The total cost of our trip to Europe for 30 days is $30,000 US dollars. The plan was to race four rounds of the Italian CIV Championship over two race weekends. Last year we spent the same amount of money to race the entire season in the U.S. I would like to continue racing in America but considering that the level for my class is low, I’m wasting my time if I continue over there. Fortunately, we have sponsors that support us.”
What about MotoAmerica?
“We spoke with Wayne Rainey, but he couldn’t accept me as a wild card because of the insurance. I’m too young!”
Who are your heroes?
“I have always followed MotoGP. I like Valentino Rossi and I’m a fan of Kevin Schwantz, but I also like Cameron Beaubier who is the MotoAmerica SuperBike champion.”
How did you start racing?
“I started riding when I was two-and-half years old. When I was three my dad bought me Honda CRF50. When I turned seven we switched to road racing with a Honda NSR50. Since I realized that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I’m completely focused and I spend my time riding and training.”
What about school?
“I have all A and B grades because if I don’t do well at school my parents don’t allow me to ride. My favourite subject is science. My friends at school don’t understand what I’m doing, they think it’s easy, but it’s not like baseball or football. I like studying and I’m good at it, but whenever I don’t have races I’m always training at the gym or at the track. This is what I want to do in my life.”
Is not too early to decide about your future at 12-years old?
“This is what I like to do. When I put the visor down I have only one thought: winning.”
Do you have a plan B?
“If it doesn’t go as planned, I will work in a car dealership until I become a finance manager and invest money.”
When will we see you back on track?
“The plan was to race Mugello and the following races at Misano at the end of July. Following the crash in Race 2 at Mugello, I will have to skip Misano and do Imola at the beginning of September. If we find some extra budget we would like to finish the season in Italy.
What about 2017?
“The plan is to race the entire season in the Italian CIV.”
You can read the original article here.