Mitchell Zaremba is an outlier in the contemporary world of amateur motocross -- the twelve year old has the speed to run with some of the fastest riders in the country, commonly finishing in the top ten and the top five at major amateur nationals, but it’s the path that he takes to get there that separates him from his competitors. He doesn’t spend the majority of his time living and breathing the sport at a dedicated training facility and he isn’t enrolled in a homeschool program to allot him more time to focus on the sport -- Zaremba is choosing to do things the old fashioned way. The Ohio native still attends public school and is able to fit in all of his training, riding, and school work in before dinner time. He does the majority of his training with former professional racer, Chris Whitcraft, and current professional racer, Levi Kilbarger. Zaremba was able to snag a fifth place overall at Loretta Lynn’s last year in the 65cc class under the direction of Whitcraft and he continues to work with him in the hope of bringing his riding ability to the next level. We caught up with Mitchell to chat about his training program, how he’s able to stay busy during the winter in Ohio, and getting a podium finish at the Daytona RCSX.
How old were you when you got your first bike and how’d you get into the sport?
I actually got my first dirt bike on my fifth birthday, it was a PW50 I think. I just wondered if I could be good on it and then I just started practicing and tried for Loretta’s that year.
Do you remember your first race?
I don’t really remember where I did my first race, but I did a lot of practice at a local track called Apple Cabin.
You’ve been training recently with Chris Whitcraft and also getting some instruction from Levi Kilbarger. How has it helped your program to have a former pro and a current pro out there on the track with you?
It’s pretty sweet ‘cause they were pretty big in the pros and it just feels good that they’re helping me out for me to maybe get to that level someday. We do a lot of head to head drills, passing drills coming into turns -- like there are two ruts and two people comin’ into the same turn. A lot of ruts and turns, and we do a lot of starts too. Starts are pretty much the most important thing in a race, ‘cause if you don’t get that you have to come from the back. We don’t really work on jumping a lot, maybe a little bit, but we do a lot of turns and a little bit of straight away stuff.
At the beginning of the year you did some Supermini Dominator races and had some good success there, getting some podiums. How was that experience?
It was a little nerve wracking at first ‘cause I remember doing it on 50s and I didn’t really focus on the people and stuff; I was just having a good time. When I first got there I remember the crowd that night, I wasn’t that nervous but I was a little bit. After practice went and I was runnin’ with Kessler and stuff -- I was like “This won’t be too bad. I can do this.” I actually did really good, I almost surprised myself a little bit.
Did racing those help get you in the right mindset for RCSX?
Yeah, it was good ‘cause Daytona is a little bit supercrossy. The AX helped me with timing jumps and going fast through bowl corners and stuff like that. It gave me a little bit of hope that I can run with the big dogs in a brand new class that I haven’t been in.
Do you have a lot of opportunity to train and ride SX stuff around where you live?
Well, in the winter we have a track called RamJam that’s about ten minutes from my house. They always build complete SX stuff, so I’ve been there since I was five. That’s where I got a lot of my SX training in and stuff. They’ve helped me out a lot. Sometimes we’ll go down to North Carolina and ride some different tracks or Bennick’s Compound -- they’ve got like four tracks there like a pit bike track, SX track, outdoor track, trails, and a sand track. They’ve got it all, so it’s good training down there, too. In the summer, every Thursday night we go to that Apple Cabin track -- it's about forty-five minutes and they help me out a little bit, too. On the weekends, we just ride mostly until the big races come. We train down in Logan, Ohio at Kilbarger’s outdoor track and Chris is there too, so we do drills.
You made the trip down to the RCSX earlier this year and you killed it down there, especially in the Mini Sr. 1 class. How’d the racing turn out for you down in Florida?
It was actually pretty sweet. I remember goin’ to the line thinkin’ “I can do this, I was runnin’ with Kessler and Rogers before.” I remember gettin’ pretty good off of the start, like almost first in the first turn. I was runnin’ second for a few turns and then (Jett) Reynold’s got by me -- I tried to follow him through the pack for a bit and pretty much just stayed in third the whole race. I just kept my head down and rode like I knew how.
Were you happy to see all that rain on Sunday or was it kind of something that made you nervous heading into the final day of racing?
I mean, surprisingly I didn’t get that many bad mud motos. There was maybe one that wasn’t terrible, but it was muddy. The mud is alright; it’s hard to ride in definitely, but it’s an equalizer. It makes other people slower and if you’re good in mud then it will make you faster and you can beat them. It’s definitely hard to ride in, but you can get better at it. It was actually funny ‘cause the inside ruts would just go through the jump -- you wouldn’t even go over the single, you’d go through the middle of it. It was crazy!
It’s very rare that a kid finishing in the top five and top ten at major amateur nationals is still attending public school, but that’s exactly what you’re doing. Is it difficult to balance that schedule with your racing and training schedule?
Not normally, no. I get all my homework done right after school and like I said, sometimes we’ll go ridin’ after school. I do a lot of workin’ out after school, too. On Mondays and Tuesdays, I do a lot of cycling, running, and working out and stuff. Yeah, sometimes I have to miss days for trips, but sometimes they’ll give me my work ahead of time or they’ll give it to me when I get back which isn’t a big deal. I’ve got like all As and maybe one B or something like that. All of my teachers think it’s cool what I do and they don’t really care about it, so...
Now the focus has shifted to Loretta’s qualifiers and those started off great for you. You ended up with three overall wins at High Point. How’d the racing go there?
Umm, High Point was pretty sweet ‘cause they’ve got the new layout which was awesome. The track was actually really good; it was really rough and rutty. On Saturday during Mini Sr. 1 and Supermini 1, I was battling with Dakota Aldredge and we had a pretty good battle the first moto. I ended up with a first in that class and I got first in Supermini. On Sunday, I won Mini Sr. 2 and then in the 85cc (9-12) I was like two seconds off of Romano at the finish. In the second moto of that class I got the start and fell in the second turn, I got up and got back to second. Then on the last lap I went down again, so I got third and third overall, but it was still a really good weekend. I had a fun time!
What’d you think of the track changes that they made?
I surprisingly liked ‘em a lot. I remember going there on 65s and it was alright; it wasn’t the greatest. It’s actually pretty sweet now, I really dig it. They kept that big quad that they do for the pros and I think I was one of the first ones to triple it on the 85. It was pretty sketchy, but it was really sweet.
What classes are you planning on running at the Ranch and what’re your goals/expectations for yourself down there this year?
We weren’t planning on going in Supermini ‘cause it’s our first year, but at regionals we’re gonna try for Mini Sr. 1, Mini Sr. 2, and (9-12). If I do make it in all three, then we’ll probably go in (9-12) and Mini Sr. 1, but it all depends on what I make it in really, but those are the three I’m tryin’ for. I’m hoping to get another top ten down there this year. I got one last year with a fifth. Chris helped me a lot with that -- I thank him a lot for that -- and I’m hoping he can help me again this year to get a top ten again.
Who would you like to thank for helping you out?
Chris Whitcraft Training, PointviewCycle, NihiloConcepts, THRacing, DT1filters, MikaMetals, SRS, ShockSox, Sunstar, Braking Brakes, AnswerRacing, Gaerne Boots, BellPowersports, RazorImage, ScottMotorsports, AtlasBrace, MobiusBraces, RippedVinyl, RynoPower, RamJamSportsplex, Dunlop Tires
/ Words /Images / Lake Kilpatrick
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