Steve LaRoza started to catch the racing bug at the early age of four when his parents bought him a 1970 Kawasaki Coyote. He couldn’t reach the ground but he rode it every chance he got. LaRoza’s racing career started with poker runs, enduros and cross country events throughout the Pacific Northwest. As a teenager, Steve dreamed of racing professionally and at the age of 19, he started competitively racing in motocross.
In 1987, he qualified fourth in the Texas region for the AMA Grand National Championship in Ponca City, Oklahoma. In 1989, he received his AMA Pro license and set out to run in the outdoor national races in the 500cc class and the next year he branched out into supercross. A severe accident forced Steve to take time off from racing but that didn’t stop him, when he was able he continued to race in local California and west coast CMC races.
In 1995, LaRoza started to focus on off-road motorcycling including national enduros and cross country races, alongside District 36 (nor-cal) racing. In 2000, Steve decided to participate in a six-day desert race throughout Nevada, the BITD Nevada, thinking it would be neat to try something new. Desert racing is usually a team sport that shares seat time, but LaRoza signed up for the ironman class, driving the whole race on his own. LaRoza finished fourth in the ironman class after over 2,000 miles of desert racing.
LaRoza was hooked on desert racing after BITD Nevada and raced in the Baja 2000, placing second in class 40. From 2000-2004, Steve raced in Best in the Desert, Score-International and MRANN, racing over 120 races on a motorcycle during those four years. Steve LaRoza started adding some championships to his belt in 2002 with the Best in Desert’s (BITD) Sportsman of the Year, the 2004 Class 30 BITD National Championship and 2005 BITD Ambassador to the Sport.
In 2005, Steve’s daughter Alison, who was 16 at the time, started showing interest in desert racing after years of being her dad’s biggest fan. Off-road racing was a family event for Steve while he was growing up and he carried on that tradition with his kids. As most father’s would be, he was hesitant to put his daughter on a bike in the middle of the desert because he was concerned for her safety, knowing first hand how dangerous the sport can be. LaRoza decided to build a class 2000 car and have the two of them race together as a team. The first year the LaRoza father/daughter duo raced together, they ended up winning BITD Class 2000 Points championship. Steve loves having Alison as his co driver whenever the opportunity presents itself, as far as he’s concerned “you can’t ask for better memories than that!”
In 2006, with help from Casey Folks, Ford, and their other fine sponsors, the LaRoza team was able to start racing in a Ford Racing 7300 truck, winning the championship along the way. 2006 was a record setting year, LaRoza received the Class 30 BITD National Championship, followed by the 7300 BITD Truck Championship. Steve was the first racer in the Best in the Desert history to accomplish receiving two individual championships in the same year, one on a bike and one in a truck. He is still the only racer in the Best in the Desert history to have achieved this accomplishment.
Steve continued to race independently alongside racing with Alison, he participated in the world’s most difficult off road race, the DAKAR rally. Steve raced the DAKAR rally on a motorcycle not just once in 2007, but again in 2009 and returned a third time in 2011 as a navigator for Robby Gordon’s second Hummer. From 2008 to 2011, LaRoza raced in the WORCS off-road series in the 40 expert class on a motorcycle and placed in the top five in his class each year he raced.
For Steve, racing has been a passion of his and his career has grown because of the different people he has met along the way. LaRoza believes that his entire family has been truly blessed as a result of his racing career with being able to camp, travel the world and meet great lifelong friends along the way. In 2011, Cliff Irey from Ford asked Steve if he would be interested in helping Ford develop a 3.5 liter Eco-Boost motor for desert racing. In LaRoza’s mind, the only answer to this question was yes! In 2012 and 2013, with the Ford Eco-Boost, LaRoza racing won the VORRA overall points championship, the Group “T” class championships and Steve won the VORRA Sportsman of the Year in 2013. LaRoza continued to consistently place in the top five in Best in the Desert and won the Henderson 250 in 2014.
In 2013, Steve was the most nervous he had been in a car in years at his first Rally America event but the nerves didn’t last long. LaRoza had raced with Chris Fary in the desert in their Ford Eco-Boost but rally was a whole new experience. In their first Rally America race, the New England Forest Rally (NEFR), LaRoza Racing placed 5th on day one and 3rd on day two. That’s all it took for LaRoza to jump headfirst into rally.
The following year, Steve raced two Rally America events, New England Forest Rally (NEFR) and Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally (STPR). Alison LaRoza was her father’s co-driver at STPR and she took to rally like a fish to water. In 2015, Steve had his eye on Rookie of the Year for Rally America and pulled up stakes to move to New Hampshire and took a job working as an instructor at Team O’Neil Rally School. 2015 was a good year, gaining two podium finishes in 2WD national, in addition to a stage win. LaRoza ended the season with 4th place in 2WD National points and walked away with Rookie of the Year.
In 2016, Steve and Alison completed the Rally America National Championship. After chasing electrical gremlins for the first half of the season, the team was happy to walk away with 3rd place in 2WD National. 2017 is off to a great start for the pair, earning 2nd place in the Sno*Drift Rally, and pursing a goal of being the first father-daughter vehicle team to compete in the Dakar Rally in 2018.
Like her father, Steve, Alison began her racing career on a motorcycle. Alison competed on her XR80 and TTR125 in youth races growing up. When she was 15, she was able to participate in her first adult race: the Best in the Desert Parker 250. Following that race, Alison informed Steve that she wanted to continue desert races. Steve, as any father would be, was hesitant. The duo compromised by building a 2000 car and racing together as a team. The LaRozas went on to win the 2000 car class championship, and thanks to Ford Racing, they also won the 7300 truck class championship the following year.
Following their second championship season, Alison had to put racing on hold due to a full-time college course load and work schedule. Six years (and a few miscellaneous races) later, Alison received a bachelor's and master's degree, and was able to get back in the car with Steve full time. Since then, the team has picked up right where they left off, finishing 3rd in the 2016 Rally America 2WD National Championship, where Alison also received recognition as Up and Coming Co-Driver of the Year. 2017 has also started off on the right foot for the pair, finishing their first race of the season in 2nd place.