Michael Leib interview - Riding against the Grain
Interview Wednesday 16th May 2012 By Geoff Meyer
American racer Michael Leib has had something of a rollercoaster career in the FIM World Motocross Championships. Having raced in 2010 and 2011 for two different teams and struggling with results and the lifestyle in Europe Leib went home at the start of 2012 more or less with his tail between his legs.
For whatever reason it didn’t happen as he had hoped and the story of Michael Leib in Europe seemed over forever.
Reel forward to April 2012 and having raced the AMA West Coast Supercross series Leib gets a call from Steve Dixon of the Monster Energy Yamaha team. With Fellow American Zach Osborne and Swizz rider Arnaud Tonus both injured and out of the start of the FIM World MX2 Championship Dixon asked Leib if he was willing to come back one more time to give it a shot in Europe. The American would race the second round in Bulgaria and round three in Italy, and then head back to America to prepare for the 2012 AMA Outdoor Lites Championship.
As it would turn out Leib would have okay results in Bulgaria, it might be added that he had very little time on the Yamaha and was suffering big time from jet lag, but still he put in some consistent results. Then came Italy where he led a moto before fading as his condition worsened. Having had little time training for Motocross (as he was racing Supercross in America), he lost a 20 second lead, but still managed to finish on the podium at the Grand Prix of Italy, his best result in his career.
The rollercoaster once again took a wild turn when Leib was invited back to race the fourth round of the series in Mexico. On a circuit that wasn’t of the high standard usually presented by the FIM World Motocross Championships with heavy dust and strong winds most of the MX1 and MX2 riders decided they would not run the Saturday qualification race.
Leib who had walked the circuit earlier in the day and also rode the sighting lap decided he would ride. It was a move that would make him an unpopular figure amongst the GP regulars and see him pelted with insults and aggression from his fellow competitors.
We decided to give Leib a call as he prepared for either the Grand Prix of Brazil, or the opening round of the AMA Nationals, we say that because the American is in doubt which event he will do, with an invitation from Dixon to return for the complete FIM World MX2 Championship on the table Leib is sizing up what is best for him.
MXlarge: Michael thanks for your time.
Leib: No worries Geoff, thanks for calling.
MXlarge: How is the hand and what happened there?
Leib: I got hit by a lapper, popped the two knuckles out.
MXlarge: And you didn’t want to ride because of the pain?
Leib: Yes, it was pretty painful
MXlarge: How did you feel at that point anyway? Obviously you rode the qualifier and from what I am told you got a lot of shit from fellow competitors. Were you pretty much fed up at that point anyway?
Leib: Yes, it was a tough weekend. I mean we had the dead body lying on the road driving to the track on Saturday (a spectator tried to cross the busy road and was hit by a car), and the track was pretty dry and dusty, then getting all the aggression from the riders for doing the race, which Steve Dixon and I decided to do. I mean it was a bit unexpected you could say.
MXlarge: Why did you decide to ride?
Leib: I decided to do the sighting lap before the qualifier, to see how the track was. I mean I was there to ride. All the other guys get paid to show up there, whether they ride or not and I was pretty much on my own and I don’t have much on. For me it was a good chance to get more time on the bike. I wanted to get more comfortable and change some things on the bike. Basically I was there to ride.
MXlarge: How was the track in your opinion? How was it in the morning, was it clear it was going to be dangerous, or wasn’t it too bad?
Leib: For sure it was dusty, for sure it was dry. I mean I talked to Tortelli and the guys from Youthstream and they had tried to keep the track watered the whole week before the event, I think the terrain they had to deal with made it not possible to make the track they wanted. With that said, it wasn’t the greatest condition, and it was obvious it was going to be dry; there were two corners that were really dusty. I mean it was a rider’s choice to ride or not to ride. I agree that things could have been better, but I flew right across the World to go racing.
MXlarge: I heard you got a lot of comments from the riders; Desalle and other riders came to you and were not happy with your decision?
Leib: I got a lot of flak from the riders. I don’t want to mention what Desalle said, but yes a lot of guys were not too happy with me. I mean it was a decision that Steve Dixon and I made, I was pretty surprised by Desalles comments. I was disappointed with their attitude.
MXlarge: When did you know the other riders wouldn’t be riding?
Leib: I knew right away. Everyone walked the track after practice and then the delayed the start. I can say I did the sighting lap and the track didn’t feel as bad as standing on the side of the track. For sure there were issues with water, but after doing the sighting lap I was like, ok, we should ride.
MXlarge: It was a strange track, it looked as though there were some technical sections, but the dirt was so varying. How did you find the circuit?
Leib: The dirt was really strange. It is hard to explain how it was. I mean when you watered it the water sat on the top of the surface. You could flood it, but the water just went like an inch deep, it didn’t sink in, so the dust was still underneath. Obviously Saturday night the track crew worked their butts off all night, ripping the circuit, watering, ripping it again, watering, and Sunday the track was a lot better.
MXlarge: How would you describe the track on Sunday?
Leib: I didn’t think the location was that great. But for what they had to deal with they pulled it off pretty well. It didn’t feel like a regular GP track, but it was different. Watching the second moto from the sideline the track actually looked pretty good, it looked alright.
MXlarge: Let’s go back to Italy, because that had to be a highlight in your career.
Leib: I think Italy said a lot about what I wanted to say in the last few years. I mean I don’t have anything bad to say about, without those two years I wouldn’t be the person I am now. At the same time I wanted to say me piece. It was my fourth day on the bike and it was all new to me apart from the track. It was one of those moments in my life, it was an awesome weekend, in every possible way, and I had so much fun. If I decide to continue I hope to have more days like that.
MXlarge: Are you still thinking of coming back to do more GPs?
Leib: I have talked to Steve about finishing up the year in GPs. I pretty much have to make my decision tomorrow morning, so I either go to Hangtown, or I go to Brazil, it’s still not decided. There is a chance I might do Brazil and come back for the rest of the Outdoors, but I think if I do Brazil, then I will probably do the rest of the FIM series. If I don’t do Hangtown, then I want to be missing that race for a good reason.
MXlarge: Having raced with guys like Herlings and Searle, they are obviously solid riders, as good as a lot of the top AMA guys, so you must wanting to get to Hangtown and show the AMA guys what you can do, it not?
Leib: I don’t want to set the bar too high, but Italy I rode the bike like two days of Motocross after racing the Supercross series. I was really out of shape, I mean in that second moto I lost something like a 26 second lead and that just isn’t normal. I do want to get out in the states and show the people here pretty much the same thing I showed in Italy. If it doesn’t happen this weekend or this year then it will happen in the next two years and whenever it happens it will be the right timing.