AX Interview: Michael Willard

AURORA, Ill. – After missing out on a chance to travel overseas to the Bercy Supercross, Ohio’s Michael Willard decided to borrow his buddy’s bike and head out to Des Moines, Iowa for some racing action at the AMA Arenacross Series’ Prequel Race. Winning three of the weekend’s four races, Willard’s future plans for 2009 changed dramatically.

Turning many heads with his performances in Des Moines, Willard received an opportunity to join the factory-supported Kawasaki Team Green program for the 2009 Arenacross Series season. One of the most well-rounded riders in the sport thanks to his past experience in supercross, motocross, and the Canadian Motocross Championship, he adds to a long list of championship hopefuls.

While continues to fine tune his new bike and get acclimated to his new team, Willard is optimistic about the season that lies ahead and hopes to really accomplish a lot and make a name for himself on the Arenacross circuit.

How has it been getting comfortable with Team Green?
It’s been good so far. We were kind of late in getting everything together. But I think it’s gonna be really good. The bike is awesome. I can’t say enough about that. I got a motor guy and he built my race bike up and I got to break it in and I think it’s awesome. It’s a great opportunity for me, especially considering all the other manufacturers with their support. Kawasaki is at the top of their game and they are some people I would want to stick with for quite a while.

What exactly is your deal with Kawasaki?
I’m doing the full AMA Arenacross Series and there are three non-conflicting East Coast AMA Supercross races that I can do. Daytona, Jacksonville, and Toronto. So I’m going to do those too and basically my deal is just for arenacross and supercross just in case something happens and I can get a ride for outdoors or something like that.

What brought you to come out to Des Moines in November in search of an AMA Arenacross Series ride?
I was supposed to go to Bercy but that deal kind of fell through. I basically had nothing going on and I wanted to race. My dad and my mom were going to be out there anyways because they work on the crew so I decided to borrow my buddy’s new Honda CRF250 and went out there and ended up doing really well. Things worked out for me.

What was it like to achieve so much success in Des Moines?
I’ve always been riding arenacross since being a little kid growing up in Ohio. I knew I could do well. I’ve raced supercross the past couple years and finished top 20 in each series. Everything seemed to be ok and I thought I would do alright. I was planning on getting top three, but with winning both nights it ended up being a little better.

What does it mean for you to have this opportunity?
I’m taking full advantage of it. I really want to do something here. Do well this year and maybe come back to it next year and win, if not podium for the series.

Compared to other disciplines, what do you think makes the AMA Arenacross Series so tough and so unique?
Arenacross makes you need some sort of game plan when you race it. 25-lap (main events) and you got to ride smart. There are only 20-second lap times so it’s not like you have a lot of time to make up (ground). You just need to be smart on the bike and get a good start and that is probably about 80 percent of the race right there. Just stay with consistent laps and you should be good.

What do you expect to accomplish this season?
I don’t really know. I know that the first couple rounds are going to be a little tough but I want to go out there and make a statement. Let everyone know I’m here to race. My goal would be to podium for the season. I don’t want to say I’m going to go out there and win everything because I do, but some of these guys racing arenacross of veterans at it and have been racing for a long time. I definitely have respect for them. I’m going to go out there and just do my best and make Kawasaki and everybody look good.

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