Photos By: Harlen Foley
& Thad Josey Provided by: ELKA
John Natalie Jr - Honda Factory ATV MX Racer
John Natalie Jr. started his ATV racing career over
15 years, and he has raced a wide assortment of
ATVs over the years ranging from the Banshee, 250R,
Cannondale, KFX400, and various hybrid machines,
but in 2003 with release of the all new Yamaha YFZ450
also came an all new John Natalie Jr. as quickly
found himself in the spotlight. In only his second
race on the YFZ450, he took his first two wins of
season in both the Pro and Pro Production Class
at Southwick to finish out 2003, and he has been
virtually unstoppable ever since and winning numerous
races and championships along the way. In just the
past two years, John Natalie Jr, has been crowned
the Champion in the following major ATV events:
ATVA MX Nationals, Pro Quad Stadium Series, ATV
Winter Olympics, 12 Hours of ATV America, Great
Outdoor Games, and the Dirt Riot.
such an impressive track record the past two years,
we just had to find out what John Natalie Jr. had
up his sleeve for 2006, so we gave him a call and
here is some of the exciting news that he shared
What have you been doing since the end of the ATVA MX
John Natalie Jr.- Ten Quick Facts
||Factory Pro Racer
||15 Years Old
||Monster energy drink
I have been racing a few events like the 12 Hours of
ATV America and a few GNCC Races, but since the 12 Hour,
I have taken over a month off from riding since fracturing
a bone in my hand, but just before Christmas, Michelle
and I headed down to Florida for some training and testing.
How is your hand since your
bad wreck at the 12 Hours of ATV America when you
hit a rock which sent you over the bars?
Its doing pretty good, but it took about three weeks
to heal before I could do anything. I finished out
the 12 Hour and it started to get really sore afterwards,
and when I went to the hospital, they wanted to put
a cast on it, but I just purchased a suit for the
GNC banquet, so I wouldn’t let them put on a
hard cast. It has since healed up fine, and I feel
100% for the upcoming season.
Are there any big changes
in your race program for 2006?
Yes, I have signed a two year deal with Honda, so
for 2006, I will be a Factory Honda Rider and no longer
just a support rider, which is a big step forward
in my racing program.
Awesome news, so now that
both you and Tim Farr are Factory Honda Riders will
there be a Honda Rig at the Nationals, or will you
still have individual setups?
Everything will remain the same as last year in that
respect, and Tim and I will still pit out of our own
trailers for 2006, but I have heard that if Yamaha
comes out with a Factory Rig that Honda will as well,
and I have also heard through the grapevine that Yamaha
plans on bringing out a rig in 2007, so I am hoping
that in 2007 we will get a Honda rig.
other changes in your race program for 2006?
Curtis Sparks, John Natalie Jr, Dee Manshack
Yes, I have made the switch to IMS / Roll components
paired with Elka Suspension, and I am now sponsored
by the exhaust manufacturer HMF Engineering, so my mechanic
Dee Manshack will be replacing Curtis Sparks as my engine
Your racing program has definitely
undergone some changes over the winter, but I am most
surprised to hear about Curtis Sparks not being involved
in your racing program for 2006, since you have given
him so much credit over the past year?
My new deal with HMF
Engineering created a conflict of interest with Curtis
Sparks for him to be building my engines without using
his pipes, so I have decided to go with Dee Manshack
since he is a great guy and has been my mechanic the
past year, and I put a lot of trust and faith into
Dee because he builds a great engine. I talked to
Dee about the situation, and he decided that he would
be willing to give it a shot, so he built me an engine,
and it ran really well, so I am confident that I will
have another great year with Dee as my engine builder.
talk about your HMF deal, so will there be John Natalie
Jr Signature Series exhaust coming in the near future
like the Bill Ballance and Mike Penland Signature Series?
Natalie Jr on his 2006 Honda TRX450R with his
proto-type HMF Exhaust System Installed
Yup, I am going to have my own signature series exhaust,
and we are developing it right now. The goal is for
it to be able to pass the sound test and produce the
maximum amount of power, so it will be best pipe available
for motocross racing.
there be any unique features on your HMF signature
Yes, my signature series exhaust is going to have
its own custom look with a different end cap, and
I am working on my own unique color and of course
it’s going to have my name tag on it, which
will include my signature along with “Ironman”
and probably “People’s Champion”
How many signature line products
do you have currently available?
Right now, I have the Blingstar aluminum line and
HMF line, and I am working on several others to add
to the list.
Natalie Jr testing his new Roll Design front
end paired with his Elka Track System Front
Suspension in Florida
What made you decide to switch
your supsension from Fox to Elka for 2006?
Martin Lamoureux at Elka approached me about riding
for them, and he promised atleast the same amount
of support as Fox, so I decided to give them a test
because I have heard great things about the company
and I was impressed with their product. Also, more
importantly to me was the level of service that I
received from Elka because when you call and order
a set of shocks, you don’t have to wait months
to receive your shocks because they have everything
ready and in stock. Also, they are always at the races
to take care of everybody, which I feel is important,
so I decided to work with them on making their product
even better and provide the most complete suspension
package on the market with their level of customer
Also, I already just started testing
their new Track System Suspension and we already have
them dialed in better than the Fox Shox I was running
I image it doesn’t hurt
either being sponsored by both Elka and IMS/Roll since
they have a close working relationship in designing
and developing matching components?
Yes, it is a huge benefit,
Doug Roll visited with me at home along with the Elka
Boys, so we could start dialing in the A-arms and
swingarm length along with what we were going to do
for a linkage on the 2006 Honda 450R.
We dialed in the right caster and
camber on the A-Arms along with deciding on the right
length swingarm to work with the Elka linkage and
suspension, and in the end, we decided it was best
to just stick with the stock swingarm and pair it
with the Elka Link and Elka special rear shock, and
up front, I am going with the Roll A-Arms with the
Elka Track System Suspension.
John Natalie Jr has also been testing
a new MX Tireball in Florida
glimpse at John Natalie Jr's 2006 Honda TRX450R
I heard rumors that you have
been testing Tire Balls?
Yes, I have been testing with Tireballs while I have
been down in Florida at Croom and Hardrock with Tire
Balls Founder, Wade Summers, and they are coming out
with new motocross balls which are much lighter than
before, and they have been working really well for
me, so I will plan on running them at the Nationals.
For MX racing, what do you
think are the benefits of running Tire Balls?
First, you don’t have to worry about having
a flat tire which could ruin a moto plus they provide
a plusher feel over the small bumps and the hard square
edges bumps because you don’t have the instant
rebound from the tires with Tireballs, which allows
the shock to do the work.
It sounds like you have a
fair amount of new sponsors for 2006, so who are all
of your sponsors for 2006 so far?
American Honda, Honda Pro Oils, Elka, IMS / Roll,
Shift, HMF, Maxxis, RPM, Pro Designs, Douglas Wheel,
Motorsport Outlet, Quadtech, Blingstar, Scott USA,
a Honda Factory Ride and impressive sponsors list to
match, I imagine you must feel fairly confident in your
chances of a repeat championship?
Natalie Jr caught everyone off guard when he
wrapped up the ATVA MX Pro Championship at London,
KY with two rounds remaining, so he was presented
his #1 Plate the following race at Unadilla
I went up against the Factory Suzuki team last year
as a privateer, and I was able to beat both of their
riders which had a limitless amount of money, limitless
amount of mechanics and time to test, and they were
able to fly out to the events, and I still went out
last year and won on what I call the rocky style. I
just did what I needed to do training wise, and I did
what I could do on a limited budget, and I was still
able to come out on top last season.
Since you bring up the Team
Yoshimura Suzuki, you must admit they were at disadvantage
last year racing the LTZ400, which required some major
modification to be competitive in the Pro Class, and
this year they will have the new LTR450 with fuel
injection and many other advanced features, so shouldn't
this level the playing field and maybe even give them
a slight advantage?
No, they might have stepped up the program a little
bit with the LTR450, but I have stepped up the program
as well with my IMS/Roll Design components and Elka
Suspension, and I know have more time to train than
ever before as a Factory Honda Rider. Also, considering
the fact that I almost had a 20 second lead every
race last season, I figure they have that 20 seconds
to make up plus I am going to try and add to that
this year because as long as I work hard, I can still
come out in front.
Plus, Paul Turner has started a little
war with me in the Carpe Diem video, which has me
more motivated than ever. When Doug Gust had Randy
Lawson as his mechanic, Doug won almost every race,
and then he switched to Paul Turner and hasn’t
won a race since, so I am not real worried about Doug
unless he gets Randy Lawson back as his mechanic.
It definitely sounds like
you are motivated to win another championship, so
will you still have time in your schedule to compete
in other racing events like you have done in the past?
Yes, I would like to race almost every weekend if
possible, and I plan on racing the new ATV Super Tour
along with as many GNCC races as possible and the
12 Hours of ATV America.
Well, it sounds like you will
have a busy schedule, and you really are planning
on attending most of the GNCC races this year and
not just a few at the end of the season?
Yes, I have always enjoyed racing in the GNCC series,
and thanks for Joe Borich, I was able to race in the
final two races of the 2005 season, so I am in the
process of building my own cross country machine for
2006, and I going to race as many of them as I can
when time allows, and as long as Honda doesn’t
have a problem with it because if I am running upfront
in points, they might not want me to risk getting
hurt racing in the GNCC series.
Natalie Jr raced in two GNCC events in 2005,
and he even lead the Overall at the "Ironman",
and for 2006, he plans on racing even more GNCC
You definitely proved you
have the ability to run with the Pros in the GNCC
series when you took over the lead in the second lap
at the “Ironman” of all races, so how
did that feel?
It was awesome when I got into the lead; I was wondering
what kind of pace to set, and when I saw William Yokley
behind me, I pulled over to let him pass because I
knew he has already won this race before, so I figured
that I would let him lead me around and set the pace.
Yokley and I started to pull away a little bit, but
I made a mistake and clipped a tree, which put me
back a few spots. I worked my way back up behind Chris
Borich, but then I ended up stripping out my front
sprocket, which sent me back to 9th to finish out
After the race, I told Joe Borich,
“You sabotaged me and cut off all my teeth,
or grounded them down so they would wear off”
(Laughing). On a serious note, it was awesome that
Joe & Chris Borich were kind enough hook me up
and take care of almost everything I need to race
in a few GNCC events.
You also mentioned the MXi
ATV Super Tour, so if it ever materializes, you plan
on racing it as well?
I have heard on the Internet that they have four races
set tentatively, but what sucks about that is you
try to plan your life and what you are going to do
for the year, and I still would like to go to Hawaii,
and I have to wait for those idiots to come out with
a schedule, and I surely hope they don’t come
out with a schedule at the end of January with a race
scheduled for February or even March because I will
be like “Holy Cow” because it doesn’t
give me much time to plan for the event.
Any other exciting news outside
you can tell, John Natalie Jr is more determined
than ever to repeat his Championship in 2006
and leave his competition chasing his roost,
so be sure not to miss any of the exciting action
by attending as many events as possible, or
atleast visit ATVriders.com to keep up on all
the intense racing action.
Michelle Reiser and I are getting married on September
9th and we are planning on going on a cruise for our
is great news, and I wish you two the best, and while
we are talking about Michelle, what do you think of
her Yamaha Ride?
It is awesome, and she is going to make them proud
this year because she is training really hard, and
she even has a blister (laughing).
Well John, I have taken enough
of your time and thanks for providing ATVriders.com
readers a chance to find out what has been going on
over the winter and your plans for next season, and
I look forward to seeing you at Glen Helen.
Thank you and everyone that has supported me.