We caught up with Red Bull KTM’s Justin Hill this morning as he was putting down a few motos at Glen Helen Raceway. There are still a few more rounds left in the West Coast championship, but due to an early season illness and an ankle injury, Hill is more than likely out of the championship running. So to put that behind him, he and the team have already begun their preparations for the outdoor nationals, which are right around the corner. We spoke with the Red Bull KTM athlete about the virus he sustained early on in the season, his goal for the last few West Coast rounds and his expectations for outdoor motocross championship.
By: Casey Davis
So you began the season with a virus of some sort. Give us a rundown of what went on with that whole thing.
Yeah, it was a virus of some kind. I really don't know what it was. Once it started to go away, though, it materialized into Bronchitis, which was almost relieving for me because I could get on antibiotics and finally get it under control. It was so frustrating since the virus was so hard to get rid of. I mean we just kept on chasing it, but I finally have it under control, now.
The illness had to have been screwing up your riding and training program, right?
Yeah, that's actually an understatement! I don't even think I was on the bike more than a couple times during the weeks of the first four or five rounds (not including the races). It was hard for me because I went from being really prepared for the first races and then I had that little head injury were I needed to take some time off then right into the whole virus thing. I was in amazing shape and went from doing almost 100 laps on practice days to not being able to do anything. That was difficult for me! When that kind of stuff happens, you lose all confidence in your fitness, so I was struggling when things began to get better because my fitness, as a whole, had diminished. As far as that goes, though, you live and learn. I obviously should have done something different, but for next time, I'll be handling something like this much different. It's kind of made me aware of my body a little more.
Most heat races, you had great finishes and flashes of brilliance, but once the main events rolled around you just seemed to have nothing left in the tank…
Yeah, that's all because of that virus. After I got over it and finally felt healthy, nothing was there, as far as my endurance. The first four, almost five rounds I had major difficulties breathing because of the Bronchitis. This sport is a game of intensity and if you're not ready for that then you won't be able to hang for 15 laps. The six lap heat races were like a test for myself to see what I had for the rest of the night, so it was a really tricky time for me. Oakland was a different story, though. That weekend was like a little break before the virus had materialized into Bronchitis, so I had like a half of a week were I didn't feel too bad. When I got onto the track at Oakland, I had the fastest lap both practice sessions and I felt really good during the heat. I had started in like tenth in the main, made my way through the pack and passed for the lead and pulled like a 7-10 second gap on second place then fell in the sand section. That was a huge disappointment because that was the first time I felt good. You know it all tied into this virus thing, but there was no lack of motivation on my part. We've got a few rounds left, so I'm looking to turn those bad results around before the season is officially over.
So health wise, how are you feeling after the Bronchitis?
I'm feeling good when it comes down to the battle with the virus and Bronchitis. However, at San Diego, I actually broke my ankle and tore a ligament, as well. I had to take a few weeks off, but it was really good for me. My body needed to rest after everything had subsided a little. I had gone from my peak before racing had even began to the absolute worst in a matter of weeks. I was actually excited to take some time off, but I wish it wasn't because of an injury. My ankle feels pretty good now; like 90%. It's good enough for us to be pounding out motos, so that's all I'm concerned about. I know I'll be healthy and I know I'll be fit when it's crunch time.
You have a few more rounds left in the 250 West Coast championship. You must be excited to get those under your belt, right?
Yeah, very excited! I had a couple wins last year in what some would say was a much different field of riders. A few of the top guys from last year moved around for this year and when I raced with them last year I had some great finishes and even a few wins. So to not have any this year is absolutely devastating for me. I just need to go out there these last few races and prove myself again. The championship is nearly out of reach for me being that Cooper (Webb) has a big lead. He's done great this year! I just want to try to salvage some wins since they mean a lot and a few wins would transfer me into a good outdoor season with some momentum. There's nowhere for me to go, but up!
You're out here at Glen Helen doing some motos. How long have you and the team been hitting outdoor tracks, now?
This is probably our second full week of outdoor riding and we've gotten some good riding/testing sessions under our belt. Already in these short weeks, we've come leaps and bounds from what we started with as far as the bike goes. It's already so good; we're just fine tuning it now. I'm really excited about this bike. It's got a ton of power, it's crazy fast and I think we've got the best handling bike out right now. I've said this before and excuse my language, but this bike is the shit! I just need to put it down and put this bike where it belongs. Marvin (Musquin) has been winning and making the bike look good, so it's my turn to do the same thing!
When you and the team begin outdoor testing during the Supercross season how do you go about riding during the week? Do you do one day of outdoor riding and then two days of Supercross, or maybe the other way around?
Well, as of late, we've been doing just strictly outdoor riding. Like I said, in order for me to win the championship something pretty wild would have to happen, so for us, we're shifting gears and preparing for the nationals. I want to be as ready as I can to win these last few Supercross races, but the outdoor championship is my main goal, right now. We've really been focusing on that; trying to be as prepared as possible. I'll probably jump back on a Supercross track next week just to get the feel for it again before the last few rounds.
Since Supercross was a forgettable memory for you, are you excited for the nationals to roll around. It'll be a clean slate of sorts, as everyone will be back down to zero.
Yeah, absolutely. I'm looking for redemption in that series since Supercross got away from me. I'm looking to be on the top step for outdoors. Last year, I suffered from injuries, but before that I was knocking on the door for podiums. So there's no question in my mind that I can win outdoors. Like you said, everyone will be starting from zero and that’s like a breath of fresh air. I know I'm going to be healthy and fit and really that's all I'm thinking about. Ever since we were all kids, outdoor racing was all we really had and you obviously had to be good at that to get to here. I've always been a Supercross type of guy, but with this new bike, which I haven't yet proved what it's capable of yet, I look forward to the nationals. And if I don't show everyone what this bike can do, then I guess Marvin will (laughs). It'd be great if he and I battled it out!