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Michael Willard Interview

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The last time we checked in with Ohio native Michael Williard was back in 2010 when he was a member of the rejuvenated Honda of Troy team.  Now back on KTM, and racing Arenacross, Williard is hoping to earn an AMA Championship to go with his two Canadian National Motocross Championships.  Williard had been leading much of the 2012 Arenacross East Lites series until a technicality set him back – which is exactly when we caught up with him.

Racer X: Michael, let’s hear about your Arenacross series to date?
Michael Williard:
Well, it started out great, but then got a bit confusing.  I was leading the Arenacross East Lites series, but then also decided to try some of the Arenacross class races – as the KTM contingency is so good.  I wasn’t paying close enough attention, and got into the top ten in the Arenacross class which meant that I could not compete in the Arenacross Lites class.  So, I decided to sit out at Friday night’s race in Grand Rapids, MI to drop out of the top ten in the Arenacross points so I could get back into the Arenacross Lites series.  Unfortunately that also dropped me back to third in Arenacross Lites points, but I am pushing to get back into first.  Hopefully I can pull off this championship. Not only for myself but for my sponsors like Moose, Dragon Fuels, 100%, Mandingo Pickles, Cycra, my mom and dad, and everyone else who supports me.  It would be awesome to get KTM a championship in Arenacross as they have not really had much going on in Arenacross before this year.  They really stepped up with contingency this year, and it definitely helps out us privateers with getting to the races.  So, I really want to shoot for this Arenacross Lites East Championship, and then when the series moves out West I have about four rounds to get into the top ten in the Arenacross class – and get a top ten number for next year.

I have never seen more orange bikes in Arenacross than I have this year.
Like I said, KTM has stepped it up big time with their contingency program, and it’s a very good deal for us privateers.  Getting on a KTM, and going out and making enough money to get to the next race, and then pay some of your bills has been great – I couldn’t ask for anything more.  Actually I think that KTM may have underestimated the number of riders that would be on their bikes in Arenacross.  I imagine that they have been pretty surprised once we got a couple of rounds in Arenacross in, and they see how much money that they were paying out. I’ve ridden KTMs pretty much my whole life, except for a couple years on a Honda, and it has been a very good bike.

Speaking of KTM, didn’t you qualify for a supercross on a 125 two stroke a couple years ago?
Yeah, that was in 2007 when I qualified.  Back then I was doing the Canadian Nationals, and during the winter I got hooked up with Casey Lytle, and Michael Sleeter who were test riders for KTM at the time.  Sleeter kind of took me under his wing, and got me hooked up to do some testing, and just helping out in general too.  I think it was Kurt Nicoll who was the Team Manager at the time; but all the guys there helped me out.  I wasn’t really a full-on test rider, but it was pretty cool, and that experience helped me see how a real race team works.  When I was with KTM those three years I got two Canadian National Championships, and then qualified for the 2007 Seattle Supercross in 2007 on the 125.  There was some type of Two Stroke Challenge going on, and a couple of other guys raced two strokes too.  It was cool because I had a chance to make a lot of money with everyone pitching in from Mototalk.  A couple of the KTM mechanics built this “badass” KTM 125, that to this day is probably one of the coolest bikes that I have ever raced.  KTM got a bunch of publicity, and all the guys there were really pumped – and it made me feel good to be on the last two strokes that ever qualified for a supercross.

You’ve competed in so many forms of dirt bike racing; supercross, Outdoor Motocross, and Canadian Motocross - what drew you to AMA Arenacross?
Well, I grew up in Ohio, and so many of the Arenacross guys are from Ohio that it’s cool to get out, and battle with your friends.  My mom also works in the Arenacross series with sign-up, my brother is with the track crew, and even my dad helps out in the pits.  So it’s kind of a family thing, and it’s nice to be here with them.  Arenacross is an easy thing for me to do right now, and I’m making decent money.

I often hear from other riders that Arenacross has a friendly vibe to it; yet I would think that it would be the opposite with all the bar banging going on.
Yeah, there is some bar banging going on, but I think that due to the pits being so confined, and tight, that you are forced to interact.  It can be somewhat frustrating to be pitting right next to the guy that took you out, but you learn to handle it.  You have to be aggressive, and be willing to bang bars in Arenacross, but on the other hand you have to be smart, not always the fastest guy wins.  Arenacross is just so different than supercross, that’s why guys like [Jeff] Gibson, Chad Johnson, [Josh] Demuth, and [Tyler] Bowers are so good – they have been doing it a while.  It never surprises me at all if a successful motocross or supercross rider comes into Arenacross, and doesn’t me the main their first time out.

What plans do you have after the Arenacross series ends?
No big plans right now. I started a family a while ago, and I am very devoted to them.  As I earlier said, Arenacross is kind of easy for me to do right now.  It’s quick and easy, I’m with family and friends, and it’s not too much travel.  I can make a little money to help me out for the summer.  I want to take some time off, and watch my kids grow.  I know a lot of racers that miss out on a lot of family stuff, and I want to keep mine together and want be in my kids’ lives a lot.  So just Arenacross right now, and then spend the rest of the year at home with my family.

Michael, that sounds like a good point to wrap things up. Is there anything that you want to add?
I would like to thank my fiancée Tiffany Flowers, and my two kids Cruz who is 18 months old, and Carson who is 3 months old….without them I could not do this.  Also a big thanks to my mom and dad, and brother, they are here very weekend helping me unload and load.  Other people like Cycra, Al Albiker, AG Motorsports, Dragon Racing Fuels, 100%, all my buddies from Michigan at Mandingo Pickles, FMF, and PR2 Suspension.  These people have always been very loyal to me. No matter what I’ll always use their stuff, and really appreciate their help!

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