5 Minutes with...Michael Willard

September 22, 2008 10:32am
Championship Powersports/Cycra Yamaha’s Michael Willard was the top-finishing American in this year’s Parts Canada Montreal Supercross. Wee, wily Willard was somewhat of a surprise this year. While the kid from Ohio has had success in Canada with two MX2 East outdoor championships and some podiums in MX1, he’s never really been a contender at Montreal. Armed with his own YZ450F, Willard felt (and looked) much more comfortable this time around. He posted great lap times all weekend, finished third in his heat race, and then worked his way by a few riders to finish second to JSR in the final.

By Danny Brault

  • Ohio's Michael Willard recorded his best ever Montreal SX finish with a second behind JSR in the MX1 final
Racer X: Michael, first off, congratulations. I believe that’s your best ride at the Montreal Supercross.
Michael Willard: Yeah, by far, you know. That’s the best that I’ve done in the four years I’ve been up here. I think my best finish has been a twelfth. In those years, I was riding for KTM and always had a bike that I picked up here with no time on it. This year I brought my own bike up, and Championship Powersports and Cycra hooked me up, and Von Zipper, One Industries, Fox Racing Shox and Motorex helped out too, so I appreciate everything that those guys did.

Take us through the main event and what you saw.
I think this is the best track I’ve seen at the Montreal Supercross. The dirt wasn’t as soft, but it rutted up a little bit, and it was more supercrossy than in years past. I got a decent start and worked by a couple of guys into second. I started catching [Jean-Sébastien] Roy a little bit; I think he made some mistakes, but then some lappers messed me up. I knew [Jason] Thomas was coming up on me, so I tried to settle down, finish the race, and finish on the podium.

Montreal always has an amazing atmosphere, and things sure got loud when JSR was out front in the final. What was that like?
Yeah, that’s all you could hear, was the crowd yelling. Like, the closer to the ending it got, it became louder. It was pretty cool. Congratulations to him. It’s his last race of his career, and winning, especially at his home in Quebec, is awesome.

I heard earlier that you’re supposed to drive straight home to catch a local race in Ohio. Think you’ll make it?
I don’t know. I’ve got to talk to the pops—he drove me up here. Yeah, there’s this local race at Ohio International, and it’s an awesome track and they have this huge pro purse. By the time we get out of here, I don’t think we’d even make it to practice. He’s getting pretty old [laughs], so I think I might let him rest and go out with the Racer X guys and have some fun.

  • Willard doesn't have anything lined up for `09, but he says he wouldn't mind returning to Canada to challenge for the MX1 title.
I’m guessing Montreal is on your schedule next year?
For sure! Buddy Ford does an awesome job bringing up some American riders, and hopefully, I can set something lined up for next year.

Are you talking with teams about deals for `09?
I’m talking to a couple right now. Nothing too intense—no letter of intent or anything. This year, I went down to the States and rode as a privateer, and it’s a little harder than it looks. Everyone’s equipment is a little better and the riders are faster and there are more of them. I think I had my sights set a little high and was bumming myself out every weekend when I wasn’t doing well. I kind of want to come back to Canada next year and ride the 450. I’d like to get a top-three finish or win the championship so I can say I have two MX2 titles and an MX1 title.