Catching Up With Billy Laninovich
Michael Antonovich / Transworld Motocross
After a career that included stints at Factory Connection Honda, Factory KTM, and Factory Kawasaki, Billy Laninovich disappeared from the sport in the summer of 2009. A failed attempt to restart his career in Europe brought him back to the US, but Laninovich distanced himself from the sport and took a job in the construction trade. When talk swirled in Southern California over the winter that he would return to racing at Anaheim One, it was considered an unconfirmed rumor until a Honda with a variation of his traditional '32' wheeled onto the line. With the Supercross season complete, he will spend the first five Nationals aboard a Troy Lee Designs / Lucas Oil / Honda.
How did your ride with Troy Lee come about?
They called me a few races after Christian got hurt and asked me to fill in, but I didn’t want to do it. I wanted to do my own deal and didn’t want to leave my team. I really wanted to do it on my own so everyone couldn’t say I did it on a factory bike. All the riders got hurt at Salt Lake City and they needed a rider badly, and I wanted to better myself for next year. I got the opportunity to ride the bike in Las Vegas and was hoping to do better, but we struggled and had bad luck in the first main event. I got taken out and bent the shifter and the shift shaft, so I had to come in. I won the LCQ but got a bad start in the Shootout. There were so many fast guys. Baggett was right there in front of me, and so was Cunningham and Bogle. There were a lot of really good guys back there. It was disappointing but I am looking forward to the Outdoors coming up.
How long did you have on the bike before Las Vegas?
I had three days. We rode Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and spent two days at the Honda track and rode at Ronnie Faisst’s speed and style track.
Where did you go when you fell of the radar?
In 2009, I broke my collarbone in Las Vegas while riding for Factory Kawasaki, and I started working for my ex-girlfriend’s Dad, because he owned a construction company. I was an estimator and I did that for a year and a half. I tried to go back to Europe and race the GP for Aprilla, but I ended up crashing and fractured the C3 in my neck. I didn’t have a bike or anything, so right after I came home from Europe I wasn’t happy and started training. I traded a guy seven lessons for a 2003 KX 250 two stroke, and that was the only bike I had. About four months before Supercross, the Miller family bought me a KX 450 to ride. I was riding that when Mike Craig called me and said he wanted to start a race team. He was the only one that believed in me at the time and I said yeah. We started riding December 17th and right after that, he was let go and they kept me.
When you were injured, did you ever doubt riding again?
I was over it. I had a lot of injuries in my career and the economy was going down, so the pay wasn’t as good and I didn’t think it was worth it at the time to race for that amount of money. I regret it now, but it is all in God’s timing. Then I wanted to race, and I remember I had a picture on my computer at the office of me racing. I just wanted to get back on the track so badly. It took a year and a half before I was racing again.
Is the pace faster now than when you quit?
It is. I think I am pretty much the same speed as I was before I quit, and these kids are on a whole new level with the aggression and everything. It was hard to adapt, and I expected to come out and be a top-10 rider, but I had a rude awakening at A1. I was going to the gym, but Supercross shape is completely different. It took me four races to get up to speed.
Your deal with TLD will run through the first five Nationals, correct.
Yeah, we plan on doing five outdoors and the X Games Best Whip, if we can get into that. They needed rider and I asked them a favor to be able to ride the Supecross track next year so I have a track to ride and suspension or help in any way that they can. Hopefully next year I can be a satellite TLD rider.
This isn’t a “one and done” season?
No, I’ll be back and way more prepared next year.
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