We caught up with Michael Leib at Pala Raceway as he prepared to get back to racing at the biggest motocross event of the year – the 2015 Motocross of Nations in Ernee, France…
DBR: Until fairly recently the USA have been the dominant force in the world of motocross. However, the European nations have been able to take the MXoN title away from the USA for the past three years. Do you think the Euros have stepped up their game?
Michael Leib: Yeah for sure, I think the European guys as a whole have stepped up their game. I think they definitely have the whole package and just the raw speed. They are also thrown into different situations as well – they have to race tracks like Lommel and other technical tracks like Uddevalla and Kegums, which we don’t have here in the states.
Those tracks are very different and I’ve obviously been to all of them and I’ve also been to quite a few tracks here and in my opinion you have a little more thrown at you over there in Europe than you do here in the states. So obviously the Euro riders have taken advantage of those experiences and upped their game for sure and the last few MXoNs have been a struggle for the US team…and that’s nothing against the American guys but everyone is just upping their game at the same time and getting faster.
DBR: So who is your money on this weekend? Obviously excluding team Puerto Rico!
ML: Ernee is a tough track! I raced there in 2010 for the French championship. But you know I think I have to say team France. But to be fair, I’m not just saying this because you guys are here, but Britain also has a pretty strong team!
DBR: You’re racing for Puerto Rico this weekend. How did that come about? And are you looking forward to it?
ML: I actually got a call two weeks ago and was asked to go and race for Puerto Rico. Its technically a US territory so we can use our US passports, guys like Osbourne and Albertson and the Martins have done it in the past, quite a few American guys have done it.
I’m really looking forward to it, obviously I’ve done a lot of racing over in Europe and I think that it’s something cool to say that at one point I raced the motocross of nations. Hopefully one day in a few years when I get where I want to be in this sport I might be going to race for a different team but for right here right now it’ll be something that I can look back on and be proud of.
It’s hard to get what you want out of this sport and I’ve put a lot in and there’s still a lot I want to accomplish but this weekend will definitely be cool, especially after the year I’ve had. So to start my 2016 season off with this and put the rest of the year behind me and get back to racing, I’m definitely looking forward to it!
DBR: So what are your personal goals this weekend?
ML: I want to put in a solid MX2 qualifying race on Saturday. I’m only going to have one practice day on the bike and I haven’t ridden a Kawi in five years so I’m kind of getting thrown in at the deep end. But at the same time I’m going to be on a good bike, I’m racing a Dixon Kawasaki, so I’m really looking forward to that. Dixon was the team that I was on when I got on the podium at Fermo in 2012. So I get on with those guys well already, so yeah my personal goals are to just be fast every time I get out on track and let the cards fall where they fall. I’m trying not to have too many expectations but to just go over, have fun and be fast.
Catch the full interview with Michael in an upcoming issue of Dirt Bike Rider magazine as we go in depth into his past, present and future including an inside look at his revolutionary clothing brand; Canvas MX. But for now, enjoy this fast and furious exclusive GoPro lap as Mr. Leib puts the hammer down at Pala raceway!