Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing the very talented Damian Jigalov.
If you’ve ever had the chance to watch Damian race at any recent WERA events you’ll quickly notice there’s definitely something special about him—he’s always calm, collected and seems to be having fun no matter what; but what really impressed me is that Damian is just 11 years old and already so focused and passionate about his future.
Perhaps Damian’s passion and dedication to racing stems from the fact that his dad had been riding track when Damian was born. As a small child Damian was surrounded by the track atmosphere which we all know is incredibly infectious. His first motorcycle was an XR50 which he started riding at the age of 2 around the paddocks where his dad did track. At the age of 3 he graduated to a PW50 and no training wheels. After that it was riding all the time wherever he could; around the house and at motocross tracks. As Damian was growing, his Dad was actively searching for a road racing track and eventually found the Wisconsin Racing series which wasn’t far from home. Damian also started attending the Herrin Compound to hone his skills with the pros. Once he started racing in the WERA minis, Damian was hooked and quickly brought home a 3rd then 1st place, eventually winning the championship.
Last year Damian started riding the 125 two stroke and ended up winning 7 different championships. He made such a positive impression that this year he is sponsored by Apex Manufacturing and riding atop the WOODSTOCK KTM390 in WERA.
So I had to ask Damian what his favorite thing is while riding, what captivates him: “my favorite part about riding is the high speeds and how low I get when I lean off the bike…I like getting all the way over and being able to just look over and seeing the ground right there.”
So it’s no wonder why Damian looks so comfortable out there, he feels right at home in a turn and is simply having fun. He says he’s of course extremely focused but at the same time relaxed, and I can totally understand that. Anyone one of us that rides track even casually for fun knows the zen like feeling of total focus and meditation that riding a motorcycle brings. It’s managing and mastering that feeling repeatedly that makes Damian so smooth and calculated out there.
Of course it may seem all fun and games at the races, but the reality is that Damian must train and focus 100% on this sport if he truly wants it to be his future. I was very curious and surprised to find out that Damian leads a seemingly normal childhood for as active of a racing career as he already has. He attends school and has a handful of friends. He comes home, does homework every night and plays. Of course he does miss days when he’s at the track but for the most part his teachers seem to be understanding and work with him on making up his assignments.
I think the best things I’ve noticed about Damian’s racing career is how his parents have approached it. I watch many kids go racing and we all know the mental and financial stress this can put on the family—nothing about racing is easy, especially in a country where it seems racing is a dying breed of gladiators. For Damian racing is only an option if he and only he wants it; his dad, Adrian, always tells him that if he’s not having fun anymore and doesn’t want to do it then he shouldn’t continue.
Adrian says: “He’s willing to put in the hard work that it takes, and i really think he does as well as he does because he wants it for himself. It’s not anyone else wanting it for him; he wants it.”
The pressure to perform can be daunting for such young impressionable minds, and I can see that Damian feels he has his family’s support on all fronts—mental and physical alike. Chatting with Adrian many times now I get a sense of true family love and camaraderie between father and son. It’s actually very nice to watch the two of them interact at track when no one is watching, you get this sense of closeness and family that I haven’t seen in years and seems to be lost in this day and age. Damian’s mom is also there whenever she can attend. She’s always caring for Damian’s health and wellbeing, packs the boys for every trackday/race and makes sure Damian has all he needs from behind the scenes.
So what does the near future hold for Damian? Even with great talent and full backing from your family, racing is a huge endeavor and requires sponsors. Last summer Damian caught the eye of Dainese which now sponsors him and plated the first seeds of racing in Italy. He was invited to the Chuckwalla Dainese Dayz experience and worked with Jason Pridmore and James Rispoli. Everyone was so impressed that Dainese reached out to the RMU Moto Racing team with the VR46 Academy and told them about Damian.
Damian is now scheduled to race 4 races in Italy this summer, 2 at Mugello and 2 at Misano in the pre moto3 series. He will be by far the youngest there, on an unfamiliar bike, in unfamiliar territory amongst the best of the best young racers the world has to offer. Quite a tall order for brave Damian. While his dad insists on taking this as nothing more than a learning experience and not wanting to stress Damian out, Damian definitely wants to succeed. His hopes are to do well so that he can secure a permanent position on the team for next season of the pre-moto3 series. Normally to move up to the Moto3 world class you need to be 16, however exceptions are made for riders that win the Italian or Spanish series. Regardless of the turnout, this is a spectacular opportunity for an American rider to experience what children born of racing nations go through.
Damian thinks and visualizes a lot, has great talent and the mental capacity to prepare himself and stay focused. However even with all that getting to Italy and racing just 4 races with RMU Moto requires a lot of funding that his parents have to come up with. We all know how much even “casual weekend” racing costs, now imagine flying your entire family over to another country and securing your stay and necessities. On top of that add the costs of mechanics and equipment. The fees are staggering, and this is just the beginning. In an attempt to help fund Damian’s Italy races, his dad has started a GoFundMe campaign along with actively searching for sponsors to help with this endeavor.
Fortunately both of Damian’s parents support his racing 100%. I believe he has the best tools and opportunities at his grasp to go far in this career. None of this is by chance or luck though. Adrian is always networking and communicating with people in the industry to try and establish a strong presence. I think many people don’t realize just how hard it is and that these opportunities don’t just fall into one’s lap. It’s a very delicate balance of skill, dedication, passion and entrepreneurship. We here at RedSpade Racing want to wish the best of luck and success to Damian in the following season at both WERA and with MRU Moto. As passionate supporters of this sport we love to see new up and coming riders such as Damian take the race community by storm. My sincerest wish is that Damian goes far and carries the American racing legacy onward.