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Garage Finds | Jo Shimoda’s Rookie Debut Jersey


Presented by Backyard Design

You only make your professional debut once, and for Jo Shimoda of Suzuka, Japan, that occasion came last Saturday night in Tampa, Florida’s Raymond James Stadium. Recruited by the now-defunct AMSOIL Honda amateur team three years ago, Shimoda transitioned into the GEICO Honda pro team seamlessly last season when he competed in the last few 250 Nationals. 

Several years ago, Shimoda moved to the United States to chase his dream of becoming a professional motocross racer and was accompanied by his mother and sister while his father remained in Japan to run the family business. The family struggled with the transition to the American way of life and knew that there was an opportunity to help other Japanese hoping to make the same trip over, so it founded SoCal MXTF, a Menifee-based vacation spot, if you will, for Japanese racers to stay, train, and work on their motorcycles at while in Southern California. As a result, Jo has always been surrounded by lots of Japanese motocross friends through the years, but that hasn’t kept him from branching out and establishing an American fan base of his own.

I first met Jo when he was still racing 85s. “The Shimoda family thinks you don’t like them,” said my friend Jeff Pestana, who has trained Jo on and off for years. “You never give them any press.” Truth be told, I hadn’t even heard of Jo Shimoda when Pestana said that to me, but I made an effort to get to know Jo after that. His mechanic, Cameron Camera, is super cool and even helped me coach Jo into shaking hands with authority, instead of like an overcooked lasagna noodle, like so many Japanese do. 


In 2018, Casey Davis and I put together a documentary highlighting the rise of Shimoda and his AMSOIL Honda teammate Carson Mumford, who I have known since childhood. The paths each took to get to the top of amateur motocross in America was striking in contrast, but it showed the type of commitment and passion it truly takes to be a top motocross racer.

Last weekend in Tampa, Jo turned in lap times that were well inside the top 10 during practice then went on to qualify straight into the main with fourth in his heat. At the start of the main event, Shimoda ran fourth behind his GEICO Honda teammates Chase Sexton and Jeremy Martin, but he was unable to maintain their pace and dropped to an eventual 10th at the finish. Truth be told, Jo seemed bummed after the race, but I think we all know that there are bigger things to come from the youngster. First-race jitters and the pressure of having his entire family in town to watch surely played a part…I think we will see the real Jo Shimoda this weekend in Texas!

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Donn Maeda

Donn Maeda is a 30-year veteran in moto-journalism, having worked at Cycle News and Dirt Rider before launching MXracer Magazine and TransWorld Motocross Magazine. Maeda is the Editor-In-Chief at Swapmoto Live and you can catch him on a dirt bike or in the saddle of a mountain bike on most days.

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