ATV Motocross

Tuesday Feature: Rocco Arno

Tuesday, June 24, 2008 | 12:00 AM

After climbing quickly through the amateur ranks, Bridgeton, New Jersey's Rocco Arno is living his dream of racing in the ITP Tires/Moose Racing AMA/ATVA Pro National Motocross Championship series. The 23-year-old privateer has put in some top ten finishes and has podium speed even though he lacks the support some if his competitors enjoy. Rocco is part of the new generation of professional ATV racers that is trying to make a living at the trade he loves. Now that he has reached the pinnacle of ATV racing, he faces perhaps his biggest challenge; achieving factory status. We caught up with the hard-charging privateer while he was in between testing sessions to gain his perspective on racing against the factories, how he plans to stay in the top ten, and who may become the next Pro-Am rider to line up against the best Quad racers in the world.


This is your third year in the Pro division. Tell us about your progression up to the top from the amateur ranks.


I started racing locally in 2000, then after becoming the 2-Stroke B Champion, 2 Stroke A Champion and District 6 Champion during my first two years of racing, I knew that I wanted to keep going. I had earned around 46 wins by then and knew that was what I wanted to do with my life.


When you finally reached the Pro division, you went without factory support. What is it like racing with your parents as your main supporters? Do you and your father get along well racing together?


It’s tough being on our own, but we do pretty good. I get along with my Dad as good as I can I suppose. I mean, we have our disagreements and fights, but we both want to do well and we work together pretty good. He backs me 100%. But, I do most of my own mechanic work. I work on the quad all week long, then he helps at the races.


You guys are competing against some of the most well-funded factory teams in the history of professional ATV racing. How much of a disadvantage do you feel you have?


Well, as far as the quad goes, I have good equipment. They have some things I don’t, but that is not where it hurts the most. It’s what happens during the week that is the biggest obstacle. I only have one quad to practice on and I have to work on it all the time. Those guys have several quads they get to work with.


It’s just all of the hands on work that I have to do during the week. I’m the mechanic, team manager, marketing guy, and everything for my racing effort. I have to do so much work, then go out there and try to beat guys that have a half dozen people taking care of things for them.


Rocco, you were one of those kids that jumped up from the hyper-competitive Pro Am class and made an immediate impression in the Pro class. Do you see some of the kids like, Thomas Brown, Clay Holmes, and Cody Gibson following in your footsteps?


For sure. Those guys are training and riding like the pros nowadays. Those three riders you just named are already going really fast. They look like they’re ready to step up soon, but let me tell you, it isn’t easy. I thought I was ready when I moved up but things weren’t as easy as I had hoped. In the Pro class it isn’t just three or four of you battling every weekend, it’s a full gate. Every rider is mean and hungry and they all ride more aggressively than I was used to.


I’d say that is the biggest obstacle. In the Pro Am class we're all basically buddies, and wouldn’t be too crazy with each other on the track. In the Pro class, hey, they’re out for money. They will run you off the track like it’s nothing, you know? The holeshots are totally different. In the Pro Am divisions having a fast quad will get you to the first turn first. In the Pro class every single rider has a fast quad and every time the gate drops those guys are out for blood. It’s their job, you know?


All things considered, you are hanging in there exceptionally well. You have been solidly in the top ten all season and as it stands right now, you are beating several of those guys with factory rides. That has to be opening some eyes among the factory team managers. What would a factory ride mean to you?


I don’t make any money racing right now. I’m doing it for the love of the sport, and the only way I get to race is because of my family. Those guys are making good money and making a living out of it because of those rides and that is what I want. I’m beating some of them, but the only way I’m going to get faster is to get a factory ride. That’s what all of the hard work is for.


What’s your take on the series so far?


It’s been awesome. Probably the most fun I’ve had racing yet. It seems so huge compared to what it used to be like. There's been an average of 700 riders so far, and the promoters have really stepped it up. We have the Pro sections at the tracks, and everything has been really well organized.


What was your favorite event so far?


I’d say Kentucky, because I had my career best finish (fourth) there.


What are your goals for the rest of the season?


My goal is to work as hard as I can and stay in the top ten. I’ve been riding hard all year to be where I am, but there are some factory guys behind me that are going to be coming after me. I’m going to do whatever it takes to stay in the top ten and hopefully one of the factories will notice that I have what it takes to get podiums and wins. I think I can do that with some extra support for sure.


Right on, Rocco. Everyone loves an underdog, so you just keep going out there and beating the factories. Anything to add in closing?


I’d like to thank my Mom and Dad for everything. Them, and all of my sponsors: Curtis Sparks, Custom Axis Racing Shop, Maxxis Tires, Rath Racing, Douglas Wheels, Fly Racing, Precision Stabilizers, and everyone else that helps get me to the races.