Millsaps & Hahn | Kawasaki Connection
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Photos courtesy of Kawasaki
The opening round of Monster Energy Supercross at Angels Stadium will be the first “real” look at the new Monster Energy Kawasaki line-up with Davi Millsaps and Wil Hahn, a multi-year deal that will keep the young racers in the 450 class. Of all the pairings in the paddock, this one will be the easiest transition, as both Millsaps and Hahn train under Ryan Federow and keep legends of the sport in their corners in an advisor role (Ezra Lusk for Millsaps, Kevin Windham for Hahn). Are they tired of being around the other? Not yet, but the seventeen-week season still hasn’t started…
We are just about two weeks out from the start of the season and the question that has to be asked is: How do you feel?
I feel good. There has been a lot of work done since Monster Cup, on and off the bike. I feel really good, my bike is really good, and I'm looking forward to getting started.
You've had so much time on this bike, roughly four months at this point…
I rode outdoors for four weeks before I went to Supercross, then I rode Supercross for three weeks before Monster Cup. It hasn't been that long, but it has been a little while. We are starting to scratch the surface on making the bike great, and everyone will keep working to make it better and I will keep working to get stronger and faster. It's a great time.
Did the bike change much in the first days of testing before Monster Cup and then even more after that?
It has changed quite a bit, but honestly it is not that much. We went one way to test everything, and then ended up coming back the other way again. It is pretty close, nothing dramatic has changed much, so it is pretty good.
You've ridden for a few teams in the paddock now, so how does the environment at Kawasaki compare?
It is great. Everyone has a good personality and they are all willing to do what it takes to win. That is the attitude that I think made the team what it is, and you can definitely feed off of it. It makes you want to go out and do your best every time.
Your look is all-new this year with Thor gear, a Thor helmet, and 100% goggles. How did those deals come about?
Thor came about a few weeks before Monster Cup, because I rode in everything, but all the deals came about sporadically. I still have one deal in the works, but it should be done hopefully by the end of next week. And I have another deal that I hope gets done before Anaheim One. It has been a really crazy off-season, and I'm pumped on what I have so far.
Did winning the Monster Energy Cup put more or less pressure on you? Or did it have an effect at all?
I don't think it matters either way. There are people that have won the Monster Cup and done great, and there are people who've won and haven't done great. For me, it is a reminder to myself that I can go out and run in the front. That is basically all it does.
How is working with Mike Williamson?
It's great. I've only been with him as a mechanic for two weeks now, but he works really hard and isn't scared to work. That is something hard to find.
Does your mindset change now that you are a dad?
No, it doesn't change much. It only changes in that I am here for my family, and every time I go out there I have to give it my all for my family. And it used to be just for myself and my wife. Now it's myself, my wife, and the two kids. Now it is about going out there and giving a good name and life for them.
How much has racing and everything else changed since your first pro race at 16?
I think it is like fashion; You have something crazy here, and the next year it is something different. It is the same for our industry, and it is a rollercoaster. Looking back, I wish that I'd done things way differently and how I do now. I wish I put in the effort I do now back then, because I things would have went a lot differently. But in those stages you are following the ropes and maybe aren't around the right people.
The big talk in the industry now is drug testing. Is it the right thing for the sport?
I don't really think it matters either way if you test or you don't. If you are doing it (using banned substances) you will get caught, and if you are not then you are not getting caught. It definitely sucks with what happened to James, and maybe his appeal will go through, but for all of us we have to push forward and focus on racing because that is what we have to do. Testing for our sport, I don't think we need to be looked at under a microscope like the Tour de France, but if they want to test us, then they will test us.
How do you feel? It has been a while since you last raced…
Yeah, I've been on the sidelines for quite a while and have been able to spectate and be a sponge. I'm ready to go racing.
Granted, it wasn't a voluntary absence, but were you able to watch, learn more, and work with the team on the bike?
It is tough to always look at a negative situation as a positive, but that's all you can do when you are hurt. For me, I went to the races still and tried to think out of the box and learn why some guys are better in areas and what they are doing different. This opportunity came up, which I couldn't be more thankful for, and we put in solid offseason. Training with Davi has been great, and we're on a team that is full of proven winners for the last four years. It is great.
This is a good career path if you think about it. You came on at Star Yamaha after Loretta's with the Toyota program, then Troy Lee Designs Honda, then GEICO Honda, and now here. Is this what you expected?
I think if you dreamed a "path," I feel I did it right. I don't think I was ready when I was at Star to be on a factory team, to deal with the pressure or expectations and didn't know what it took. I had to learn that the hard way. You want your career to go a little straighter than I have had mine go, but I wouldn't change a thing because it's made me appreciate everything I have accomplished. To be here, it is one of the things you dream about growing up, and to be here now is almost surreal. I'll be racing on factory Kawasaki in two weeks.
You and Davi cannot be any closer since you both and working with Ryan Federow as your trainer, then riding the same track. How is it to always be around him?
It's been awesome. Like you said, we are riding and training together, doing our thing, and I think it is a positive push. I can learn a lot from Davi; he's been second in the series plenty, so he knows how to ride a dirt bike. We are pushing each other in a positive way.
This year seems wide open in competition, and knowing how well you rode last year before the injury, where do you rank yourself? Or do you not put any pressure on yourself?
At the end of the day these guys hired me to do a job, and that is to get results. They didn't hire me to get tenth, and for me I want to go out and get the results. I fit enough and ready to do that. Last year I felt the momentum going my way, and I need to apply what I learned last year. I think a realistic goal is in the top-five and learn how to get on the podium, but I need to take baby steps to get seventeen races in and enjoy every minute of it.
You have a new look this year with Answer and Gaerne, and it's not a team-wide deal like in the past. How did that come about?
It's awesome, because I've never had the experience to choose my own gear. The Tucker Rocky family welcomed me with open-arms, and that's been great because we lived close to them in Texas. I had a good relationship with everyone over there, and when the opportunity came about, we ended up making a deal come about. Randy and everyone there have been great to me, and maybe because I was around Kevin (Windham) enough, it helped open the door. Gaerne has been great, but I kept the relationship with Shoei and VonZipper that I started last year. It is really cool to surround myself with people that want to be with me.
How is it to be around your brother Tommy as he makes another run at the sport?
I'm really happy he decided to give it another go, because I feel that he has a lot to give. He turned 29, but that is not by any means done. He is in great shape and will be pleasantly surprised, and I wish him the best.
How much have you learned in your years as a professional racer?
A lot, and I think it comes in how I approached things and how I kept a cool head in certain scenarios that are thrown in the way. I've had a great time doing this, have worked for great teams and met great people. As young kids that were homeschooled, people were worried that we might miss out on a social life, but I meet such great people in this sport and I'm thankful for that.