I think that both Wil Hahn and Michael Leib are in a similar spot, in their respective classes, as they have been overlooked a lot thus far, despite showing a lot of potential. Oakland, the fourth round of the Monster Energy Supercross series, was no different, in my opinion, hence why they are featured in ‘Under the Radar’ this week!
Wil Hahn (450SX): Wil Hahn has been flying under the radar since round one, in my opinion. It is not surprising that the likeable Texan has been overshadowed, as Ken Roczen (his fellow 450SX rookie) has been exceptional thus far. However, Hahn deserves credit for his rides; he has actually done a lot better than I anticipated, honestly. I presumed that it would take him a lot longer to become a consistent contender for top ten positions. But, Wil was in the thick of it from the moment that the gate dropped at Anaheim 1 – a combinable achievement.
In Oakland, Wil was undoubtedly the strongest that he has been; the results do not lie! Hahn was the ninth fastest in qualifying practice, and qualified straight out of his heat race (for the first time this year). But, what clicked for him? Well, the dirt was softer than what you would typically find on the west coast and Hahn is an east coast guy, so perhaps that helped him? It was quite clear that his starts were stronger too, which was advantageous.
Sure, his eighth was impressive, but I am left wondering what could have been. Hahn felt the wrath of Justin ‘Bam Bam’ Barcia early on, which caused him to lose a handful of spots. I was quite surprised that Justin was so aggressive with Wil. Hahn had to free himself from the tuff blocks and roll the triple, following the move, so he obviously lot a lot of time, as he dropped down to eleventh. Wil immediately went to work after this, as he gained one spot on each of the next three laps, and then moved up another position when Weston Peick suffered from a DNF.
In the end, Hahn was rewarded with eighth place for his efforts, but it could have been even better. It is worth noting that Wil was the first guy to clear that big quad, as well, so he is clearly feeling at one with his Geico Honda. Hahn is ninth in the series standings, currently; he is almost the best of the rest, behind that elite group! Now, I think that Wil could end up finishing inside of the top five a few times this season; he has already proven himself, after just four rounds.
Michael Leib (250SX): It is no surprise that Michael Leib has been strong this year; he proved that he is capable of finishing in the top ten in supercross last year. However, he has stepped it up again this year, as he finished sixth in Oakland, which is the best supercross result of his career. Prior to this year, his best finish was a tenth, so he has seemingly stepped it up.
It is certainly worth noting that Michael is doing the most with the least, as the riders ahead of him have full support from a team with great equipment. Although it seemed like it was a quiet ride for him, he actually made a lot of passes on some good guys, as he ended the first lap of the main event in twelfth. Perhaps his poor start was a result of his lesser equipment? We all know how much of an advantage those top teams have. Following his mediocre start, Leib passed a lot of tops guys before finishing sixth, which was extremely impressive.
If Michael continues to ride like this, I am sure that some team will pick him up for next year, as he has been a consistent threat thus far. Unfortunately, he did not qualify for the main in Phoenix, which has hindered him in the series standings. Currently, Leib is eleventh, which is quite good, considering he did not score points at round two. If he had finished eighth at the second round, he would be eighth in the series standings. Leib can still improve on his finish, of course, as we are right around the halfway point in the series. I would not be surprised at all if he continues to beat some of the bigger names.
Words: Lewis Phillips
Image: James Lissimore