To say motocross is Mario Testa’s life would be an understatement. The Lodi resident has turned what was once a recreational activity in his backyard into nothing short of a career.
“It used to be recreation and just riding around the backyard,” Testa said. “It’s a hobby sport, but it’s a kind of a job. I would really like to become a pro.”
Testa is on his way to his goal after qualifying for the 29th annual AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships which open Monday in Hurricane Mills, Tenn., at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch and Campground.
A competitive rider since he was 6, Testa was one of more than 20,000 hopefuls from across the country to earn one of the 1,386 qualifying spots.
The 16-year-old has definitely put the work in.
Last summer, Testa attended several training schools instructed by Gary Semics to improve his techniques on the bike. Testa also took some private lessons from Semics.
Testa also took online courses through Treca Digital Academy instead of attending Cloverleaf High in order to balance the hours between school work and motocross practices.
“After I attended some of his schools last summer, I wanted to take it further and we set up some private lessons,” Testa said. “It all snowballed from there. I got a chance to go down to Florida with him and ride in the winter.
“Yeah, you miss your friends and the whole school atmosphere, but this was a better opportunity and I didn’t want to pass up on it.”
Testa made the trip to Bushnell, Fla., with Semics, who has trained professional riders such as Jeremy McGrath. He traveled throughout Florida competing from Christmas Day to the end of February.
“It was totally awesome,” said Testa of Semics, who lives in Lisbon. “I took a lot from him. He’s really improved my cornering speed, my starts and my jumping overall.”
The 5-foot-7, 135-pounder did suffer a setback while in Florida when he broke his collarbone — an injury that typically needs a month to heal. The injury didn’t stop the determined Testa, as a month and a half later he was racing at the area qualifier in High Point, Pa., in April.
“(The injury) really didn’t even cross my mind,” he said. “It was four weeks off my bike, but I was working out every day still. You have to keep going.
“It didn’t slow me down. Once I was able to get back on my bike, Gary and I worked as if I was the same as I was before or better.”
His competitors would probably echo those thoughts as Testa took fifth in the 250 C Stock event. If he didn’t crash in the second run of the modified, he probably would have been a two-event qualifier.
Testa, who was an alternate in the modified for regionals in Unadilla N.Y., did get a second chance last month when a spot opened in the modified event. He finished third overall to earn a spot in the nationals this coming week.
Combine that finish with a fourth in the C stock and the county resident was giddy to earn the trip to Tennessee.
“I was real fortunate (for the second chance),” Testa said. “Having one class, I knew I had to make it happen, but once I found out it was a little weight off my shoulders.
“Once everything started I just took it one at a time and pushed forward.”
Testa didn’t do it alone, however, as the modest racer was quick to credit all those who helped him get to this point.
Along with Semics, he credits his parents Tom and Lisa, fellow rider and county resident David Kilgore, and his corporate sponsors.
“I’m so grateful,” Testa said. “I’ve been trying to make it there and now that I have, I just need to go there and get the job done.”
As for the future, Testa believes that if he keeps working that everything will fall into place.
“You have to come up through the ranks and take it one step at a time,” he said. “Hopefully I make it, but you can’t get ahead of yourself and your training.
“You need to live, eat and sleep the sport.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.