Except for trying basketball when he was 13-years-old, the only sport Wes Valerio has competed in is motocross. His father is the inspiration for this interest.
“Dad started me at 3-years-old and he was racing then,” Valerio said. “I got my first bike when I was 3 and my first race when I was 5-years-old.”
Jack Valerio raced for several years, although riding was what he did the most on a motorcycle. At one time he raced in an intermediate division and ended his racing career as a 30+ Junior.
Young Valerio’s first race came when he was 5-years-old and his father was 35. So they combined the numbers and Wes now races with the number 355 on is bike.
And his father kind of drafted him into Valerio’s first ever race.
“My dad signed me up for Arenacross,” he said. “I don’t really remember it except being on the gate with a whole bunch of people. I was nervous and at the big jumps I’d stop at the bottom and stare at them before going up.”
But the experience was so good he wanted to continue and eventually his father bought a faster KTM 50.
“I think we switched because of the suspension and that the PW50 was too slow,” he said.
When he was 9-years-old, Valerio moved up to a KX60. For a young rider it’s a big step, as they have to learn how to shift while racing.
Most of those moving up usually spend some time competing in two classes; the one they are leaving as well as their new one. However, Valerio didn’t do it this way.
“What I want him to do was to race 50’s and 60’s at the same time and then race 60’s and 80’s at the same time,” Jack Valerio said. “What happened was whenever he made the switch to a bigger bike Wes didn’t want the smaller bike.”
Moving from a single speed bike to one with a transmission went smoothly for Valerio. Then around when he was 12-years-old he moved into the 80cc division.
One key to his making smooth transitions to bigger bikes is comfort as that brings confidence. For Valerio setting the suspension to his liking is important, as he prefers it to be on the stiff side.
This was also the time when Valerio realized he had a talent for racing.
“I was happy, it made me want to more and I thought maybe I can make a career out of it,” he said.
He also experienced being identified with his chosen sport rather than being just thought of as a kid that raced.
“It kind of happened when Team Sinister came and helped me out,” he said. “Then Ritchie West came to me and asked if he could help us. So I kind of realized that I’m fast and people wanted to help me.”
According to his father, Valerio decided to move up again when he became too tall to continue racing an 80 machine. In fact he went a whole summer without a bike until his father bought his a new Yamaha 250F.
Jumping from an 80 to a 250 4-Stroke was a major step, in weight, power and how the bike responds to throttle inputs. Helping make this transition was a 150 4-stroke that Valerio rode before the change.
“That helped a lot when I switched to the 250F,” he said. “But it was still a big difference as it took a whole different style of riding. More throttle control and more muscles as I suffered from arm pump a lot.”
He father remarked that Valerio actually made a quick adjustment to the new bike and its different motor. The 80 was a 2-stroke, which has its power contained within a somewhat narrow rpm band, while the 4-stroke spreads its power through the rpm band.
Another aspect of riding a racer faces is higher speeds when arriving at a corner.
Asked how he handled this Valerio said, “I learned how to use the front brake. It’ takes a lot of practice as does shifting down before the turns but I kind of carried that from the 80s to the 250F.”
The first year on his current bike was a time of learning and getting used to the new machine. His baptism of fire came, after with only two hours of riding the bike, when he went to the Dodge Amateur Nationals in California.
“That was a rough one as I wasn’t used to the bike, wasn’t confident with it yet so that didn’t turn out too good,” he said. “This year has been good but the Nationals could have turned out better as I had bike problems.”
This past season Valerio never rode in a complete series so he didn’t win any championships although he was a contender at every event he rode in.
And like anyone that participates in a sport, Valerio has his likes and dislikes about motocross.
“I hate the roost as it hurts. Mustang and Stead are the worst but Fernley isn’t that bad but it gets all in your mouth and stuff,” he said.
Anytime a rider is close behind another they get the roost kicked up from the leading bike’s back tire. He also added that getting in and out of his riding gear is something he doesn’t like.
“The best part is having fun, that’s what I like,” he said. “Just the feel of the bike, the jumping, and the corners. When it’s smooth and fun, kind of hard to explain but sometimes I zone out so I don’t think about anything but I’m just riding.”
Like any rider there are a couple of very appreciated sponsors.
“One is 76th Oil and West Racing as they help me out with my gear, helmets and stuff,” he said. “And Mom, Lisa, Dad and my older sister as well as Jesus.”
Before every race, Valerio has a very important prayer session.
Looking into the future, and realizing that he’s still only 16, Valerio has some long-term goals that include both competition and technical education in the motorcycle field.
“I love Supercross and want to be the fastest man in that if I could as I like that kind of racing a lot,” he said. “And if I can’t be a motocross racer then I want to be a mechanic. For college I want to go to MMI (Motorcycle Mechanics Institute).”
Right now however he’s looking at next season and hoping for better training weather.
“Snow kind of slows it down as I mostly train riding but lately I’m using weights,” he said. “Next season I really want to bring home a title as I’ll be racing in 125/250F Junior and Schoolboy classes as well as Stock and Mod at the Nationals.”
For this Sparks racer, spring can’t come quick enough.
OTHER RACING NEWS
•Hardcore motocross families and riders will be at the Honey Lake Motocross Park in Milford, California to celebrate New Year’s. Gates open Thursday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. for early birds that want to camp out and there will be a bon fire as well as entertainment to bring in the New Year.
For the survivors of that party the real fun begins Friday morning.
Then Sunday, beginning at 11 a.m., weather permitting, the annual Hangover Marathon will commence. There will be two three-hour long races, one for the big bikes with younger riders followed by another one for the 30+ and older veterans.
When the dust, or snow settles, finisher pins and awards will be handed out.
Those wishing more information should either call the track phone at, 530-827-2639 or the website at: www.honeylakemx.com.