Interview by: Chris Cooksey, Photos by: Doc Weedon
For centuries, sports have always needed heroes and villains, and for the last decade Vince Friese has been near the top of riders’ and fans’ lists as one of the biggest villains in the sport.
If there was someone hitting the ground or someone in a heated argument or fight near or even on the track, Vince was commonly involved in some way. Right along side Vince during that time frame were the Alessis, so when Mike Alessi and Vince Friese joined Motoconcepts with Tony Alessi as their Team Manager, it was only natural that it would just turn into the Motoconcepts team as a whole taking on that villain role. I am definitely not saying it was undeserving and that they did not do anything to create it or further it—because they did and they did—I’m simply pointing out the fact.
Fast forward now to 2018 and when you mention Motoconcepts in the paddock, nine times out of ten you are going to hear either about how good of a guy and how good for the sport Mike Genova [team owner] is or maybe how incredible Tony Alessi has become as a Team Manager, or you’re going to hear about their riders and their great results. There was a time when no manufacturer or respectable rider would touch their program, but now they have the most corporate of them all, Honda, giving them support and very respected, nice guys like Jake Weimer and Justin Brayton riding their bikes and singing their praises. It just shows everyone how quickly perception can change.
Not only has the team turned their image around with riders like Brayton and Weimer on the team, Friese’s image has also done a complete 180—and deservedly so. Vince is now just another top ten 450 rider trying to make a living racing dirt bikes, and it looks like he’s finally enjoying it while he can. Vince has been in every main event in 2018 and sits 13th in the 450SX points. After his best finish of ’18—a 10th—Chris Cooksey caught up with the #55 to talk about it.
Vince, how was your San Diego Supercross?
It was good—first top ten of the year. That was the goal and I finally got it done, so good night.
How does it feel on a night with controversy everywhere with crashes, injuries and take outs, and you weren’t involved in any of it? Or were you?
No. In the main event, I tried to run a good clean race and do my thing. Tony Alessi and Mike Genova talked to me—not about staying out of the drama, about just riding my own race. I’ve had the speed. I’ve had the fitness. I’ve had the bike. It’s just little things that have kept me from getting results I’ve wanted to get. Those guys helped me through it this week, and I kind of changed my mindset. They said, “Go out and do the best laps you can do and let the cards fall where they do. Let the position come.” That’s what I did tonight and it worked out. Normally, I’m a guy that goes out there and tries too hard, and tonight I just let it come to me.
You were racing forward in San Diego, where maybe in the past you were racing with your rear-view-mirror at times?
A little bit of that and a little bit about me stabbing it in the corners so hard because I’m trying too hard. Then I wear myself out early—like fighting with a guy for a position for a long time instead of maybe just letting him have it and latching on the back of him and making time up learning something from his lines. Little things like that. I kind of changed it up tonight. It really worked out and put me in a position I wanted to be in.
The unfortunate part for your team in San Diego was Jake Weimer getting injured in practice. I don’t know how bad that was, but what does that do to the team mindset, knowing a teammate and a training buddy went down like that?
That’s a bummer man. Jake’s a good dude and he was just coming back from a bad injury. He was just getting back up to speed. I think his fitness and all that was coming around, so that’s a bummer. It sucks to see. It’s part of it, you know. He’s done well. It’s happened to everybody, and it’s just part of this.
So you guys just have the soldier on mentality?
Yeah, he comes back to the truck and were bummed for him, but we have a job to go do. You can’t dwell on that stuff too much. It is what it is. You try to move forward and have the best race you can.
Now you that you and Justin Brayton are starting to be consistently up there, is Honda coming over and giving you guys more support? What’s your life in the pits like compared to a couple of years ago when it was just you and Mike Alessi? I’m not going to lie; you guys probably weren’t the most liked guys in the pits at the time. Is it a lot different now?
For sure. I think as a team, everybody has done a really good job turning around the perception or whatever. We’ve always been good guys. Mike Alessi is one of the nicest riders or just guys period that I know, and Tony too. They’ve been a little misunderstood, as well as myself. I think people are starting to see that they are good guys. Mike Genova is obviously an awesome guy. The perception has not been the greatest, but it’s been better lately. It’s crazy, just get some results and it changes that. They’ve made the bike unreal. I think everything. Honda’s been great. I’ve been a Honda guy since day one. I love that bike. Tony, the mechanics, Chad our engine guy, Rob at Race Tech and the KYB guys have all done an amazing job. They’ve put in a lot of hours this year to give me the bike that I want and have obviously done a great job. It’s been a good year.
The Motoconcepts Team is an SX-only effort, but do you have any personal plans for the summer or racing outdoors after SX is over?
For right now, I’m just gonna kind of focus on this SX series, and if something good enough or worth my while to bust my butt and do a bunch of 30-minute motos comes along, and you know, if someone is going to pay me enough to make that worthwhile, then I’ll go do it. If not, I’ll be at the beach.