American racer Josh Hill talks about the prospect of taking home the FIM Oceania Championship, along with his desire to return to racing following a lengthy hiatus from competition. He also talks about the relationship with Chad Reed.
The veteran will race next week’s Aus X Open in Melbourne, Australia. It won’t be easy, but he is taking it as an experience and a chance to see where he is at.
You’re back behind the gates for the next three weekends; I had to check the date and make sure it truly was ’19, not ’08!
Yeah, me too! (Laughs) I really feel like I’m riding pretty good at the moment. The bikes have gotten way better since then, and I never really stopped riding, I just rode a bunch of different things. Freeriding, electric bikes, and I have always just loved riding – probably more than anybody. With racing I was a little burnt out for a while there, but now, I don’t know, something changed and I wanted to get myself back into shape. I enjoy training – I don’t know, must come with age (laughs).
What ended up happening with the whole racing deal – I remember before you called it time you were getting podiums and getting heat race wins?
Yeah well at that time the RCH guys let me go, and ended up hiring Ken Roczen back then. I also ended up having a pretty serious crash at Daytona where I collapsed both of my lungs, tore my plate off my collarbone and basically broke an entire side of my ribcage – every single one of them – and it just wasn’t a fun deal; I wasn’t making a ton of money and it seemed like my best days were behind me. I just wasn’t enjoying it anymore, I didn’t have the want to go out there and push that hard – sometimes you just get burnt out. I also had a good job offer at Monster and I think when I went and worked a day job, my love for riding just came back more than ever.
Around the time you left, your brother really stepped up and started winning, so I suppose the involvement was still strong in that sense?
Well yeah, when I stepped away from racing I was still heavily involved in it; I was the team manager guy at Monster. Then yeah my brother was doing really well, and I was still working on projects – we were working on all of those Doonies movies and I was doing a lot with Axel (Hodges) when I was first at Monster, then I started developing that Alta bike and Monster ended up giving me a cool opportunity to get back to doing what I loved – they could see that I loved it, and gave me an awesome opportunity. So now I get to kinda freeride, race and do different bits and pieces – but while I’m here I want to be as competitive as possible, I’ve got a great bike; the CDR guys hooked me up with a ride and being on this team, there’s no sense in going out there and doing it halfway.
In ’08 yourself and Chad were pretty close being both apart of the Yamaha program, what was it like being close to Chad and what sort of influence did he have on you?
Well I mean, 2008 was a different era, you know? I mean the guys winning were Chad, Jason Lawrence, Grant Langston, and everyone had a good time for sure. But yeah I learnt a lot from Chad in a ton of areas, especially technique on a bike. He was riding for San Manuel at the time and I was Factory Yamaha, so I spent a ton of time around him at the test tracks and always chasing him around, and my first year we had a lot of 1, 2’s – he’d win and I’d get second. For me being 18-years-old in the 450cc class racing against him, I learned a lot from him for sure – he was almost a mentor to me in a way.
Was it his approach, the way he went about things or just more about what he could do on a motorcycle?
I would say a bit of both – I think Chad’s mentality really works for Chad. But being around those guys in that era, I don’t think that we trained as hard as guys do now, it was more of a mind over matter type thing; we’d show up, do our work during the week, and knew that we could do 20 minutes. We might have been dead tired at the end of that 20 minutes, but we’d still get the job done and leave it all on the line out there. So we enjoyed it, had a lot of fun, but it certainly seems that they aren’t having as much fun as the Yamaha boys back in ’07, ’08 (laughs).
There seemed to be a crew at that time who were considered ‘bad boys’, you know, (Jason) Lawrence, (Josh) Hansen, JG (Josh Grant) and probably yourself too – was that a thing or more of a media-hyped type deal?
(Laughs) I mean, yeah, we were all buddies! We were just different and would have fun. So I mean if Halloween or New Years were happening, dudes would throw parties and have a good time and invite all the racers over. Now it’s different – I’m sure kids are still having a good time – but nowadays you need to be a lot more careful with everything on social media because it’s just a bad look. You have a few drinks with all your racer buddies and all of a sudden you’re branded as a ‘bad boy’ or something just because you want to blow off some steam. So it’s changed a bit, but I’m sure the kids still have a good time.
What’s your goal for not only Wollongong but also the remaining rounds, as the FIM Oceania Championship begins in New Zealand too, so you’ll be in contention for that…
Yeah, I’m pumped for that, I definitely think that if I can be consistent and throw it in there, it’s a sick opportunity to have a championship on the line of that stature; especially with all the big boys coming in, it’s going to be cool.