Andy DiBrino is a multi-discipline petrolhead, who wins regional road race championships, holds his own on an MX bike, can drift a 3-series BMW like a pro, and is a two-time Super Hooligan National Champion (SHNC). He came on our radar at the first Dirt Quake USA, when Icon put him on a bike, and the clean-cut racer was blown away by the Castle Rock shenanigans.
(Photo: Nick Zaback)
He doesn't fit the typical template of a hooligan racer, and is one of the rider who have moved the Roland Sands Designs-promoted SHNC to an unimagined level. We featured Andy in our special MotoBeach supplement that we gave away free with Sideburn 31, and his KTM Superhooligan racer in SB43. We sent him a few questions and received these fantastic answers. Get stuck in, and we hope you are as stoked by Andy's enthusiasm as we were.
Hi Andy, You raced Harleys with success and then moved to KTM, why?
Unfortunately, things weren’t going anywhere with Harley-Davidson and my support fizzled out with the Harley program. I won two championships on the Harley back-to-back, and it didn't seem to matter to them at all, and all the Harley ambassador type stuff I was trying to do with them didn’t pick up any steam. I went above and beyond for that brand, so it was a bummer that things went the way that they did, and I lost all incentive to stay on their bike. I had a cool thing going through See See the first year, and then Latus Motors Harley-Davidson stepped up for 2018 and gave me a solid program. But they were kind of let down by Harley as well, so they cut back my deal significantly going into 2019.
The first time found out about the KTM 790 Duke was actually at Latus Motors. They had one on a lift in their service area, with 19in flat track wheels mocked up on it. I thought it was my new hooligan bike! But it was actually a dyno bike for an AFT twin project of theirs. But that got the wheels in my head moving about switching to the KTM. So, I went out and bought a KTM on my own and brought it up to Savage Custom with this idea to convert it for hooligan racing. Latus Motors was nice enough to let me race their Harley a couple of rounds until I had the KTM ready to debut.
The switch primarily stemmed from wanting to do something totally new and unique. The KTM 790 fit perfectly within the Super Hooligan rules and seemed to have a clear advantage to me. But the jump also made sense because at the time, I had been making connections with KTM through Husqvarna and my Rockstar Energy sponsorship. I saw the opportunity to grow a relationship with them, and everyone I had met within the KTM group at that point were great people.
What I didn’t anticipate was that getting support from KTM would be hindered by my partnership with Rockstar, who is a brand partner of Husqvarna. KTM and Husqvarna have strict brand guidelines. Rockstar is with Husqvarna, and Red Bull is with KTM. So KTM couldn’t do anything officially with me until 2021 when my Rockstar deal was up. But behind the scenes, a relationship developed, and it was awesome for everything I had worked towards the last few years to come together this year with KTM. What I enjoy most about racing is making these relationships with sponsors, and ultimately, that is why I left Harley and pursued KTM. The folks over at KTM are extremely supportive and they communicate the best of any company I’ve worked with. KTM works a lot better for me as a brand. I am a die-hard racer, and they are a die-hard racing OEM with a selection of bikes that fit my personal brand perfectly.
Did the weight limits get changed before or after you raced the KTM for the first time?
Super Hooligans created the 400lb (181kg) weight rule about 4 or 5 races after I debuted the KTM and started winning with the bike. But because the series is AMA sanctioned they couldn’t implement it mid-season in 2019 like they wanted, and it was pushed back until the start of the 2020 season as part of the series rules. Now, all bikes must weigh a minimum of 400lb.
Andy's KTM 790 Super Hooligan, featured in Sideburn 43 (Photo: Nick Zaback)
Do you think the rule change was aimed at the KTM?
In my opinion, yes. Though the weight rule hasn’t slowed me or anyone else on KTMs down one bit. And honestly, I don’t think it is of any benefit having this rule. Joe Kopp still beat me in the 2019 series on a Harley that was 60 pounds heavier than my KTM. So, at the end of the day, the best rider is still going to win, regardless of a minimum weight rule. But Roland and Cameron [Brewer, Roland Sands' right hand man] have called Super Hooligans 'heavy bike racing' since the start, so while it had a lot to do with my KTM, it was portrayed as a rule to help level the playing field and embody that heavy bike theme which is understandable.
What's the difference in weight from KTM to Ducati?
It is close. In 2019, Frankie Garcia raced a Ducati Scrambler, and I want to say his bike was in the 350lb (159kg) range. It wasn’t set up as light as it could be either, and I never heard anyone complain about that bike and it had been around in the series since 2017. Honestly, I don’t recall weight being talked about at all until Super Hooligans created a weight rule. My bike at is lightest was equivalent to an FTR750.
It seems you have a strained relationship with some of your hooligan racing peers, your professionalism and focus seemed to wind people up, but there was a $50,000 bike up for grabs the first season you won SHNC, so I can understand why someone was focussed enough to make sure they won it. Would you agree your focus seems to wind people up, and if so, why?
Some people are definitely wound up about the fact that I like to take racing Super Hooligans seriously. But to me, being passionate and invested in racing is part of the fun. A lot of people see that and admire it. And then there are certain people who think it is silly of me. Maybe they’re just jealous, I don’t care. I love the Super Hooligan series. From my professional racing background, it can be hard for me to deal with the way things are run at times, but that’s part of it and I’ve gotten better at dealing with it and enjoying the series for what it is. I’ve made so many great relationships within the series, so for me, it’s been way more of a positive experience.
There are a few haters out there. I think there are hooligan riders out there that just act hard for Instagram. It is like a gimmick to them or something. I was in the hooligan scene before there was money on the line. I made multiple 1000-mile trips down to SoCal for hooligan races when there was maybe a plastic trophy up for grabs. But of course, when money was thrown on the line, I started taking it a lot more serious. The first person who encouraged me to race Super Hooligans was Aaron Guardado of Suicide Machine Co. And then Thor Drake loaned me his XG750, and it was game on from there. Anything negative I have heard from my involvement in this series has just fuelled my fire to keep going out and kicking ass.
When you won the FTR750, what stopped you entering AFT on it?
Chris Carr stopped me from entering AFT on it. Indian called me up and offered to support me at any four races I wanted to do. So, I was all excited! But Chris Carr totally shut me down. Honestly, my phone call with him was pretty discouraging with the way he talked down to me because I was a hooligan rider. He obviously didn’t think much of hooligans. Essentially, he said I wasn’t qualified to race the bike, and it would set a bad precedent that if you win a Super Hooligan championship, you are qualified to racing professionally in AFT Twins. While I could see his point of view, to my credit, I had years of pro road racing experience with AMA and MotoAmerica, plus years of outlaw professional flat track racing experience. And I had just beaten Joe Kopp for the Super Hooligan crown. But that all wasn’t good enough for him.
Davis Fisher winning his first AFT SuperTwins race at the 2021 Charlotte HM (photo: AFT)
I did ride the FTR 750 a couple of times, and it was special to have. But it sucked having it just sit in the garage. Since I couldn’t race it, I sold it to Davis Fisher. He has had a lot of success with the bike, and I am glad it got put to use instead of wasting away as a show piece somewhere. The only thing I regret is not selling it for more money…haha. I used the money from the bike to buy a brand new 2018 Toyota Tacoma that I drive almost every day, so in the end, I was pretty stoked on that. I am actually thinking about selling the truck and reinvesting the money into something else. Those Tacomas are already known for having the best re-sale value, and because of the used-vehicle market being so hot right now, I think I am literally going to sell it for what I paid for it over 3 years ago!
How do you currently feel about hooligan racing?
It is kind of a love/ hate relationship. I miss the support and exposure I used to get from it when it was in its 'prime' a couple years ago. I enjoy the hell out of hooligan racing, but ever since COVID, it really seems like it lost a lot of steam. It kind of appears to be going down a similar path as supermoto. It got really big for a while, and then people and sponsors started to move on. I hope it doesn’t die like supermoto basically did here in the States.
Andy taking the checkers at Castle Rock 2021 (Photo: Brendan Mainini)
What did you think of the 2021 SHNC four discipline Quattro format?
I thought it was a killer idea, perfectly suited for me. The only bummer was their single-bike rule. Essentially, if you raced a different bike at any round, you got a 10-point penalty. Because of the late announcement of the series, I didn’t have the time or money to convert my 790 for road racing, which was the first round at Laguna Seca. I had sold off all the stock parts like the 17in wheels back when I first built my bike in 2019. So, I was kind of forced to start with a different machine, and luckily, KTM had already committed to sending me their new 890 Duke R for some media projects and I was able to race that bike at the first round of the Quattro.
I had the opportunity to swap all my flat track parts off my 790 onto the new 890. But it is a crazy amount of work. Both bikes must get stripped down to the frame essentially. We only had one month after Laguna prior to the first flat track race, and my 790 was in North Dakota getting electronics worked on. That didn’t get finished until two weeks before Castle Rock, which was round 2 of the Quattro. I had to drive two days both directions from Oregon to West Fargo, North Dakota, to get my bike. So now with just two weeks on the table, it was an impossible task. I had so much time and money invested into the 790, that it didn’t seem like a viable option to tear it down and convert the bikes.
The biggest thing when setting up these KTM flat track hooligan bikes, is that Savage Custom welds tabs on the stock frame to adapt the smaller fuel cell. I didn’t want to do that to a brand new 890 Duke, and I had plans to keep road racing that bike anyway. I believed I could win the championship even with a 10-point penalty, and I came very close.
SHNC has innovated and made sure it didn't get stuck in a rut, introducing car park races, jumps, The Quattro, not staying a pure dirt track series. What is your view on that?
I love how Super Hooligans has gone from just being a dirt track series to being a supermoto and road racing style series too. But I think that has hurt the series a bit. This year was pretty evident of that when they added the road race. I think if they had announced the series sooner, it would’ve been more successful. Super Hooligans always announces stuff late, and it makes it difficult for people to plan. Basically, we had two months of notice that the first round of the 2021 championship was a road race. Like I mentioned earlier, my 790 was across the country in pieces, and I didn’t have anything to convert it for road racing. So, getting ready for the season was a scramble.
And we only had, I think, four riders that attended all four rounds. The turnout for the dirt track races was poor in my opinion. The diversification of the series is making it harder for a lot of riders to get out there and compete. Some riders don’t even have front brake set ups for their bikes. I think the road race made a lot of the Super Hooligan regulars just decide to sit out the series entirely. From a financial standpoint, it is expensive to set a bike up for road racing, as well as to go out and practice and get a road racing license. I believe the core of the Super Hooligan series consists of flat track racers and budget racers.
I think the best thing going forward would be two separate Super Hooligan series. A road racing one for starters, because that is the trend right now with Baggers getting huge in the MotoAmerica series. I think there is a lot of potential for that, and for me personally, it is a dream scenario. And secondly, have a separate Super Hooligan dirt track series for the original crowd of guys. I would still want to race that as well. And then maybe they could have an overall title for whoever does the best in both series combined?
Andy loves the Super Hooligan series
Hooligan racing seems to be at a healthy level, especially the Midwest Sportster scene, is that an accurate view?
The Midwest scene appears to be going strong still for sure. I’d like to make it out to a GNHC series race someday for fun. Up until this point, it hasn’t been possible with my schedule or logistics. But some of the events and tracks they have out there look amazing, so getting out there is on my bucket list someday.
Are you surprised Hooligan racing is still popular, when some, including us, thought it might be a fad?
Not really. I think it would still be a lot healthier if it weren’t for the pandemic. But I would agree, it is kind of going down a similar path as supermoto did as far as it being more of a fad. I think there will always be a solid group of racers around the country who are participating. But the future of it being a nationally recognized sport I feel is entirely in the hands of Roland Sands.
We see you using your social media to get opinions on the future direction of hooligan racing. Can you tell us what you were asking, what your were trying to discover and what you learned?
Essentially, I put some polls up on my Instagram story asking people their thoughts on all sorts of rules and what hooligan racing means to them. The answers were split of course, so it just reiterated a lot of feelings I already knew existed. Regarding the weight rule poll I posted, there was an overwhelming amount of people against it, so that came to me as a surprise. I saw some Midwest guys chime in on that, as they don’t have that in the GNHC series. I never posted a real follow up to those polls because I didn’t really find anything new or groundbreaking out on the great debate of hooligan racing. It was more of a deal for me to personally see what side of the fence people stood on. And some of the views from certain riders caught me by surprise.
Yes, he has a pet zebra (and a killer 'tache)
Your hooligan KTM wasn't AFT Production Bike legal, but now I think it is, do you plan to race it in AFT?
I believe it is legal now, yes. KTM [took it] to some AFT tests this offseason to help AFT work out some new rule changes that are more inclusive. As of right now, I have no plans. But that has more to do with the fact that I don’t have any plans lined up for 2022 yet. I am waiting to hear what Super Hooligans has going on as well as a couple of other things. But I’d love to race it in AFT for sure if circumstances allow me.
What results do you think you could get on it?
Right now, with just stripping off the lead weight I had to add for Super Hooligans, I think I could finish inside the top 10 in Production Twins. If I made some further development with the tuning of the bike and the suspension package, I confidently feel that I would battle for a podium at any of the TT events. The platform is totally capable of winning with the right guy on the bike and the right people setting it all up.
I think a hooligan support class would be great for AFT, what do you think? Perhaps even split it, east and west coast championships to keep competitor costs down.
I think it is a cool idea. I think that would’ve been great had it been executed a few years ago. Once AFT combines Production Twins and Super Twins, I think a hooligan support class could fit appropriately back into their program. Right now, I think it would kind of dilute things, just because then there would be three twins classes, and it would make things more confusing for fans as far as being able to tell bikes and classes apart from each other.
Have you heard anything about 2022 SHNC plans?
Rumour is that there are more road races, and still some dirt track races. I don’t know if it will be one big series, or if they will be separated. I kind of hope they are separate championships so that participation is potentially higher, and then they have some sort of combined title for the best Super Hooligan for the guys like me who want to race both. I sure hope rules stay the same, and I can keep doing my thing with the KTM! It is what I enjoy most and it is amazing to have an OEM like KTM involved in my program.
Read about Andy DiBrino's KTM Super Hooligan in Sideburn 43.
Follow him on instagram at @andy_dibrino