Son of legendary two-stroke motorcycle racer Randy, Dakota Mamola's promising two-wheel career has been stymied by a lack of funds, as he tells Lena Buffa.
When he was just three years old, Dakota Mamola was already riding a small motocross bike. When he turned 13, road racing suddenly became more attractive to him - and he got better and better at it.
He progressed quickly and made his debut in Spain, competing in the Pre-GP category. Dakota ranked third in his rookie season. The young American then raced in the British 125cc series and also in the Superstock 600 European Cup.
His career received a real boost in 2014 when he raced in the highly competitive Moto2 Spanish series (CEV) with team Aspar. His performances were good enough to allow him to replace the injured Nico Terol in the Silverstone round of the World Championship.
“It's been good because every year I've changed class and championship, so I've run a lot of different racetracks, and a lot of different motorcycles, so I can say I've learned a lot,” Mamola told Motorsport.com.
“However, I never really had the chance to have good pre-season testing because the deals were always made too late just because of some financial problems. It's really hard now to race and find sponsors.”
Dakota bears a famous name in international motorcycle racing. His father Randy may not have clinched a world title during his 500cc career, famously finishing runner-up no fewer than four times, but he’s considered to be one of the finest riders of all times.
Interestingly, Randy never put pressure on his son to become a motorcycle racer.
“My father always said: ‘If you want, ride. I'm not going to push you. It's something that needs to come from you. If you enjoy you play.’
"So I first enjoyed playing soccer and used motocross more as a weekend thing, but then when I started becoming better at it and riding more, and the bike started to become faster, I liked it more and more.
"Actually, I feel bad for my mom, because she's the one who suffers more. She suffered with my dad and then now she's suffering with me!” Dakota said with a smile on his face.
But having his father around also brings some drawbacks: “My father helps me a lot. But a lot of time we fight because it's a father and son relationship.
“A lot of times I don't want to think he is right and we fight, and then after I think he knows more than me. Sometimes I don't like him to know more than me but finally I know he did it years ago and he was good at it, so I know I should listen.”
Dakota has found it very difficult to find the money to go racing lately, choosing to put his career on pause and instead becoming the personal assistant of MotoGP star Cal Crutchlow.
“Back in January, Cal called me and asked if I would be his personal assistant. It was more joking, but I knew he was serious, but he didn't want to say it directly," recalled Dakota.
"He wanted to say as a joke for me then to think about it. And I thought about it and accepted his offer."
In his new job, Dakota travels to every round of the MotoGP series, an interesting way to learn the ropes.
“Basically, before the weekend starts I prepare all his helmets, gloves and leathers. I try also to keep him calm before the race weekend so he has not much to think about. And then also I must supply him with anything he needs.
"Also if he has a crash or any problem with the boots or gloves or helmet, I must speak with the sponsors. Because my sponsors are the same sponsors as his, it's easier for me to speak to them.
“It's definitely a different year this season, but I think being involved in racing and going to all the races in the world championship for the first time is definitely fun.
“I also get to learn from good riders instead of being at home and doing nothing but wait. So definitely I'm happy where I am.
“For sure, I’d prefer to be racing, the problem is budget. Budget right now is very difficult, no sponsors are available in the US."
Born from an American father and a Belgian mother and living in Spain, Dakota speaks four languages. But for him, it’s difficult to even find the money to re-join the Moto2 Spanish series.
“There's so many Spanish riders, it's nearly full,” he explained.
“The problem is to be in a good team, you need about 180,000 euros for one year. So it's difficult to find one sponsor that wants to pay this whole money.
"In the CEV, if you're not in a team good enough to be in the top five, you're not going to move up. It's as simple as that. To be in a normal team and not fight for the win, I prefer not to ride at the moment.
“I had a chance to race in MotoAmerica but I preferred to wait because I want that series to become a bit bigger, and also I want to see if something else was going to come up here [in Europe] because I'd prefer to race in Spain because of the level of competition."
In the meantime, Dakota continues to train hard physically and to travel to the MotoGP races.
“I think we should wait and see this year and make a decision. Like I said, I try every day, I don't give up because I know I have some talent and I just need to work. I hope some luck comes my way."