Davi’s World – A Visit to the Millsaps Training Facility

Gone are the days of easing into the pro racing scene. Nowadays a top amateur is a hot commodity and can often earn a massive salary right from the get-go, as 125cc teams are anxious to find the Next Big Thing. Riders who have fit into this category in the past include Ricky Carmichael, Travis Pastrana, James Stewart, and now, riders like Broc Hepler and Davi Millsaps.

Recruited by Team Suzuki before he was even of legal age to compete as a professional in the AMA, Millsaps was forced to sit out the first race of the Eastern Region 125cc Supercross Series because he was only a few hours shy of his 16th birthday. One of the most successful amateur racers of late, the entire motocross community has its eyes on Millsaps, and there’s no doubt that this has put a lot of extra pressure on the shoulders of the Georgia boy. “I get pretty nervous at the races, Millsaps said, “especially at the first couple of races, when all the photographers were constantly in my face, snapping away. It’s calmed down since then, but I still get really nervous. I don’t calm down until the gate drops, basically.Fortunately for “The Duke,—as his friends like to call him, thanks to his middle name—he’s got a lot going for him by way of tons of natural talent and great resources back at home in Georgia. In addition to having world-class Supercross and outdoor motocross tracks at his home, Davi has unlimited access to the Millsaps Training Facility; a virtual motocross paradise in his hometown of Cairo, Georgia. “My mom and two partners bought the property just after the Loretta Lynn’s Amateur Nationals last year, with the idea of creating a motocross training facility, said Millsaps. “By October, it was up and running. It’s pretty cool.MX HEAVENLaid out on 50 acres of land, everything about the Millsaps Training Facility is built with dirt bikes in mind. With four tracks designed and constructed by renowned track builder and former 125 and Supercross Champion Mark Barnett, the Millsaps Training Facility (or MTF, as it is known to its regulars) has something for everyone: a full-blown Supercross track, a smaller Arenacross course, a National-caliber motocross track and a mini track to play on the pit bikes. In addition to the tracks, there are 20 parking pads for motor homes, complete with electrical and water hookups, as well as a lounge that can sleep up to eight riders. A full-service shop that sells parts for bike repairs and has a full-time mechanic on duty can also be found at MTF, and a game room and clubhouse is in the works as well.Riders who wish to use the facility pay a daily gate fee, and Team Mach 1 Yamaha’s Ezra Lusk is a regular at MTF, as are several other top pros when they are in the area. The real attraction of MTF, however, is being a member of the facility’s private club. “There are only 20 members at a time, explained Davi. “The members pay a monthly fee to ride and train with my mom. She’s really good at helping you learn to ride better; she’s pretty much been my only coach through my whole career. She’s tough! If you are a member, you are pretty much a member until you decide that you don’t want to be anymore. At that time, a spot opens up for someone else to join.Up-and-coming mini racer Austin Stroupe is among the 20 members, and Davi reports that his progress at the MTF has been commendable. “It’s pretty cool to see how my mom can help riders improve, he said. “Kids come from all over to ride at MTF. There is this one kid from England who comes over. When he first started, he couldn’t jump a little 15-foot double that most of us could do on a pit bike. Now he’s one of the top C class racers.ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING INAfter spending the previous couple of days in nearby Tallahassee, Florida, with Ricky Carmichael to shoot photos and compose the feature that you’ll find elsewhere in this issue, I decided to pay a quick visit to Davi across the state line. Ezra Lusk and Brock Sellards were also supposed to meet me at the MTF, but t threat of rain kept the big ballers from showing up. Maybe Brock had to detail that dope-ass Volkswagen truck of his…When I first pulled through the gates at MTF, I was surprised to see no riders circling any of the tracks. As I drove through the facility in awe of its size and purpose-built design, I noticed that no one was to be found at any of the motor home areas, either. That’s when I saw all 18 of the current attendees gathered around a dock, built on a man-made lake that sits smack-dab in the middle of the track area. At the end of the dock was mounted a BMX ramp, and I arrived just in time to see Davi pedaling like hell towards the dock aboard a BMX bike, complete with 2-liter soda bottles duct-taped to the handlebars. The Duke pulled off an awkward Superman seat grab before splashing into the lake, then proceeded to pull off a couple 360s to the delight of his friends before finally noticing my arrival. While the rest of the kids used a huge telephone pole-mounted swing to splash into the lake, Davi greeted me and rushed inside to gear up. Storm clouds were rolling in, and we had less than an hour to try and get some great photos.Inside the shop and dressed in his riding gear, Millsaps decided to bust out a freshly painted Arai helmet for our photos. Just customized by Florida custom painter Brian List of List Designs, the Arai looked plenty trick with its metal flake and pinstripes. “Oh wait, I need to put on my neck guard first, said Millsaps, referring to the trademark protective neck roll that he has affixed to the bottom of his helmet. I was tempted to make fun of his neck donut, but I’d heard in the past that he gets defensive about it so I kept my lips shut.While Millsaps drilled holes in the bottom of his helmet’s shell to attach the donut, I noticed that many of the other riders were suiting up as well. As I walked out to look at the track, I noticed a huge step-up jump in particular. One of the fellows that was hanging out began to talk to me about the facility, and I pointed to the jump and said, “I’ll bet Davi can get pretty whipped on that one… “Oh yeah, said my impromptu tour guide. “He gets backwards!Watching Millsaps in action on the MTF tracks wasn’t unlike watching RC race around his personal course. Davi seemed to know every bump, berm, and jump in the place, and the way he threw his Suzuki RM125 around was impressive, indeed. Unlike his all-business style that I’d seen at the Supercross races, his mannerisms on the bike at his home track made it clear that he was enjoying himself and unconcerned about the pressures of the expectations placed on him. As promised, Davi got pretty flat and whipped out on that big step-up. Check out the shot of him on this issue’s free pull-out poster to see for yourself…After watching Davi and his crew race around the various tracks at MTF for only 30 minutes or so, the dark clouds that rolled in finally gave way and began to drop some of the largest rain drops I have ever encountered. While the riders raced back to the shelter of the service shop, I ran back to my rental car, said my goodbyes and departed for the airport. As I pulled out of the gates of the MTF, I promised myself that the next time I visited Georgia, I’d bring my riding gear and a neck donut of my own…CATCHING UP WITH DAVI DUKENow that you’ve got a series under your belt, how would you say that your pro debut is going? Are things going as well as you’d hoped?

I had hoped to do better, but whatever happens, happens, you know? I’ve had some bad luck and some pretty big crashes, but then again I have also had some great races. When James Stewart got knocked out at Indianapolis, I got excited because I thought that was my chance to win, but I ended up flipping out of the race in my heat.

What has held you back? Nerves?

I was really nervous at the first couple of races. At the first race, the camera guys were in my face all day long and it was nerve-wracking, for sure. Everywhere I went, there were cameras and flashes in my face. It wasn’t their fault, though; you gotta do what you gotta do. It’s better to have people wanting to take your picture than not wanting to, right? Even though the camera stuff has worn down, I am still a bundle of nerves. I don’t calm down until the gate drops. I sit there on the line and think to myself, “Oh my God, I am finally here!” I look to my left and there is James Stewart and I look to my right and there is someone else that is big time. I want to be big time just like them someday.

So what did it feel like at Daytona when you finally got on the podium for the first time?

Oh man, it was awesome. The biggest thing about Daytona for me was that I finally got a good start. All along, I have known that if I could get a good start I could stay up there. Up until that point, I had been getting terrible starts, though. It was funny; as the race wore down, my lap times got slower and slower, especially after the halfway point. It wasn’t because I was getting tired, though; it was because I didn’t want to make a mistake! I think the white flag lap was the slowest ever; it was something like four seconds off my best lap time. It felt super good to finish second behind Stewart. I was pumped, because it showed everyone that I really do have the speed, and that I am not just a fluke.

What is the biggest difference you’ve encountered between being a top amateur and being a pro?

At the big amateur races, everyone is joking around on the starting line and stuff, but everyone is real serious in the pro class, as they should be. At the amateur races, you have to bust it out for the six laps that you get for your motos, but as a pro, you have such a long race that I think you have to pace yourself. If you can stay consistent with your lap times, the finishes will come.

As an amateur, was the rivalry between you and Michael Alessi really as bad as it was reported to be?

I would say that the reports made the rivalry seem less intense than it really was. It was pretty gnarly. You know, Mike and I have never been in a fight, but there were times when I wish he would have thrown a punch. Looking back, it wouldn’t have done either of us any good to fight each other. He is one of the cockiest kids I know, and I am not cocky like that. When he comes to Millville to race, he is going to have a big target on his back. There are going to be a lot of pros just waiting to shoot an arrow into that target.

We heard an interesting story about 118, your number as an amateur…

Yeah, this guy Jamey Grosser has 118, and my mom called him to ask if he would consider selling it to us. She told him to throw a price out there, and he said $6000. That didn’t make my mom too happy! We were thinking along the lines of $500, so needless to say, I am number 188 now! (Laughs)

What is something that fans probably don’t know about Davi Millsaps?

I don’t know! Maybe that I am just a nice kid. A lot of people think that I am cocky or arrogant, but I am really not. I say a lot of stuff when I am joking around, but I never really mean any of it. I am a good kid!

Are you having fun?

Oh yeah, of course!

DAVI MILLSAPS
DOB: 2/15/88
BIRTHPLACE: Orlando, Florida
RESIDENCE: Cairo, Georgia
HEIGHT: 5’10”
WEIGHT: 175 lbs.
EYES: “Turd eyes! Sometimes they go from brown to green.”
HAIR: Brown
BIKE: 2004 Suzuki RM125 (SX), Suzuki RM-Z250 (MX)
MECHANIC: Carlos Rivera
HOBBIES: Basketball, racquetball, snowboarding, tubing behind the boat
IDOLS: Travis, Ricky and Jeremy
CLOSEST MX FRIEND: Bryan Johnson
MUSICAL PREFERENCE: R&B, Eminem, D12, Hillary Duff, William Hung
VEHICLE: 2004 Chevrolet 2500
were cameras and flashes in my face. It wasn’t their fault, though; you gotta do what you gotta do. It’s better to have people wanting to take your picture than not wanting to, right? Even though the camera stuff has worn down, I am still a bundle of nerves. I don’t calm down until the gate drops. I sit there on the line and think to myself, “Oh my God, I am finally here!” I look to my left and there is James Stewart and I look to my right and there is someone else that is big time. I want to be big time just like them someday.

So what did it feel like at Daytona when you finally got on the podium for the first time?

Oh man, it was awesome. The biggest thing about Daytona for me was that I finally got a good start. All along, I have known that if I could get a good start I could stay up there. Up until that point, I had been getting terrible starts, though. It was funny; as the race wore down, my lap times got slower and slower, especially after the halfway point. It wasn’t because I was getting tired, though; it was because I didn’t want to make a mistake! I think the white flag lap was the slowest ever; it was something like four seconds off my best lap time. It felt super good to finish second behind Stewart. I was pumped, because it showed everyone that I really do have the speed, and that I am not just a fluke.

What is the biggest difference you’ve encountered between being a top amateur and being a pro?

At the big amateur races, everyone is joking around on the starting line and stuff, but everyone is real serious in the pro class, as they should be. At the amateur races, you have to bust it out for the six laps that you get for your motos, but as a pro, you have such a long race that I think you have to pace yourself. If you can stay consistent with your lap times, the finishes will come.

As an amateur, was the rivalry between you and Michael Alessi really as bad as it was reported to be?

I would say that the reports made the rivalry seem less intense than it really was. It was pretty gnarly. You know, Mike and I have never been in a fight, but there were times when I wish he would have thrown a punch. Looking back, it wouldn’t have done either of us any good to fight each other. He is one of the cockiest kids I know, and I am not cocky like that. When he comes to Millville to race, he is going to have a big target on his back. There are going to be a lot of pros just waiting to shoot an arrow into that target.

We heard an interesting story about 118, your number as an amateur…

Yeah, this guy Jamey Grosser has 118, and my mom called him to ask if he would consider selling it to us. She told him to throw a price out there, and he said $6000. That didn’t make my mom too happy! We were thinking along the lines of $500, so needless to say, I am number 188 now! (Laughs)

What is something that fans probably don’t know about Davi Millsaps?

I don’t know! Maybe that I am just a nice kid. A lot of people think that I am cocky or arrogant, but I am really not. I say a lot of stuff when I am joking around, but I never really mean any of it. I am a good kid!

Are you having fun?

Oh yeah, of course!

DAVI MILLSAPS
DOB: 2/15/88
BIRTHPLACE: Orlando, Florida
RESIDENCE: Cairo, Georgia
HEIGHT: 5’10”
WEIGHT: 175 lbs.
EYES: “Turd eyes! Sometimes they go from brown to green.”
HAIR: Brown
BIKE: 2004 Suzuki RM125 (SX), Suzuki RM-Z250 (MX)
MECHANIC: Carlos Rivera
HOBBIES: Basketball, racquetball, snowboarding, tubing behind the boat
IDOLS: Travis, Ricky and Jeremy
CLOSEST MX FRIEND: Bryan Johnson
MUSICAL PREFERENCE: R&B, Eminem, D12, Hillary Duff, William Hung
VEHICLE: 2004 Chevrolet 2500