Interview: Team FMF/Honda Race Tech Mike Williamson
Mike gave me a tour of the mechanics area and we talked about what it’s like to be a part of this team. I wanted to better understand what his main responsibilities are as a mechanic and all of it’s complexity during and after a big race.
Mike is originally from southern California, and he started his career at the age of 15 working on bikes with some guidance from his dad. He soon had job offers through a local bike shop and started putting his talent to work. In 1999 Mike took to the road with Danny traveling around the country as his mechanic during the supercross and motocross seasons with the FMF/Honda race team.
Angela: What is your schedule like this week leading up to the next race in Millville?
Mike: Monday: Fly home and take the motor to the shop. I will take apart the motor to make sure nothing is wrong with it in case I need to get a specific part sometime during the week. Tuesday: Back at the shop, and it’s time to rebuild the motor piece by piece, put it back in the motor box, and then do inventory on the truck. Wednesday: I’ll catch up on some personal things, and get ready for the rest of the week. Thursday: I will fly out to the next race destination, and go straight to the hotel. The semi-truck is usually there waiting for us. As soon as we get there I start to tear down the chassis to the bare frame. Friday: I rebuild the whole bike, from the frame up. This includes rebuilding the suspension and brakes. I go through the entire bike and make sure nothing is bent or broken and replace whatever parts are needed. Basically I build a brand new bike every week! Saturday: The entire team gets up early and goes to the track. We set up the truck, which is at least a good hour or two. Go through tech inspection, and Danny gets to practice. After practice, I need to pull the cylinder off and take a look to make sure everything’s good to go. Then I’ll get tires ready and mount our spares. We usually get out of there around 8pm. Sunday: Race day!
Angela: When you are track side, what is going on before and during the race?
Mike: It’s pretty busy …. the guys are out for the parade lap, and when they come back you top off the gas tank with fuel because the motos are longer, and it’s possible to run out of fuel. I take off Danny’s parade lap goggles, and give him new goggles for the race, and get him focused. During the race, depending on where Danny is, I keep track of the time, let him know what position he’s in and how many laps are left to the finish.
Angela: What kind of stress comes with your job?
Mike: You stress a little bit when your guy is up front because in the back of your mind you are thinking ‘Did I check everything?’. You always want them to do their best.
Some people stress …. in the pits you might see guys smoking cigarettes or pacing around looking worried. I try not to stress myself though. I figure I did everything right and he’ll do everything right and it will all come together …. but it doesn’t always work that way!
Angela: What do you and Danny talk about before a race?
Mike: Communication is key! We talk about where to start on the starting line, and what the the overall plan for the weekend is. He’ll tell me what lines he thinks are good. It’s exciting when Danny gets a good start, the adrenalin is pumping!
Angela: What about in between motos?
Mike: In between motos I wash the bike, pull out the carburetor, replace the air filter, put on new tires, and make any adjustments that Danny wants me to make.
Angela: After the 2nd moto, and the race is over, what’s next?
Mike: I wash the bike and pull the motor out from the frame, place it in a special aluminum box and get it ready for the flight home. Then I’ll roll the chassis inside the truck, and tear down the tent and pack up. This process takes a few hours.
Angela: What’s your favorite thing about this line of work?
Mike: I would have to say the people. Everybody’s really cool to work with and you meet so many interesting people on the road.
Angela: What’s your relationship like with Danny Smith?
Mike: Danny is a great person to work with. He is one of my best friends. We support each other in this business and we make a great team!
Angela: You travel a lot during the season, how do you feel about that?
Mike: I like to travel, but it wears you down. It takes a toll on you, but once you get into a routine it’s not too bad. It’s almost harder to take a few weeks off and then get back into it. Sometimes, if we are racing on the East Coast, we will just stay, work on the truck, and maybe practice at LaRocco’s tracks.
Angela: The National MX season is almost over, what are you doing during your time off?
Mike: My favorite thing to do is go to The River, Lake Havasu, or Glamis and hang out with my friends. I will be going into the shop to work on some of Danny’s old bikes, but basically have fun.
Angela: What are your goals for the next year?
Mike: I would like to work for a factory team with Danny Smith.
Angela: Parting shot?
Mike: Have fun whatever you’re doing.
After talking with Mike, it’s no surprise that he’s highly motivated and dedicated to the sport of motocross. He’s a single, 23 year old man that has what it takes and loves what he’s doing!