Thanks in part to the participation of a number of American riders in 2014, the Rockstar Energy Drink Canadian Motocross National Series has seen an increase in attention from fans and media alike. Josh Hill and Austin Politelli have made their presence known north of the border while riding for Monster Energy/Leading Edge/Thor/Kawasaki and despite racing in Canada, both have kept their California as home base. After an extended break from the series, we spotted Hill and Politelli putting in a practice moto at Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park on Monday before their eventual trip across the continent for the next stop of the tour at Gopher Dunes.
Josh Hill | Canada Connection
Josh Hill’s deal to race north of the border was the results of numerous events occurring at once. First came his release from the RCH/Soaring Eagle/Suzuki team late in the Supercross season, then the announcement of Ryan Villopoto’s year ending knee injury, and finally defending Canadian MX1 champion Brett Metcalfe’s call to compete aboard the vacant Monster Energy Kawasaki in America. Metcalfe’s change in plans left his own Monster Energy/Thor/Leading Edge Kawasaki open, and the spot was quickly filled by Hill at the end of the Supercross season. His first lap on the Kawasaki came just hours after he’d done his last lap aboard the Suzuki, but Hill has adapted well to the mostly production bike. Easy going and carefree, Hill fits in among the likeminded Canucks and he has shown the speed to run at the front of the pack during the first rounds of the year. Unfortunately, a back and elbow injury combined with the mud at Kamloops had Hill sitting out the fourth round of the summer.
How quickly the agreement to race in Canada for Monster Energy/Thor/Leading Edge Kawasaki came about…
I didn't get my deal done until after the Las Vegas Supercross. I got on the bike and had a week and a half to prepare for the first Canadian race. We came to terms that we both agreed on and it was a pretty good deal to go up there and it has been fun.
Differences between racing in the US and in Canada…
There is more competition and fast guys down here (in America) than up there. They have fast riders there too, but the depth of field isn't as deep. With the equipment up there the majority of people are kind of on production stuff, more or less. Where there are factory bikes and privateers, that gap is probably a lot closer in Canada.
It's really fun up there, I enjoy it and the people are really cool. The riders all get along and it is more relaxed because there is less of a crowd, so the riders get to hangout with the fans.
It's all in one day, like the US Nationals. You wake up, practice, then race. The qualifying happens during practice.
Every one of the tracks have been completely different. The first race was really hard packed and rocky, but it was still a really good track and reminded me of Unadilla in some sections. The next weekend was a Millville style track and extremely rough, probably one of the roughest tracks I've ever raced.
I talked about going up there before I turned pro, but never went. So this is my first time up there other than racing the Toronto Supercross. I've always liked Canada, and whenever we went for Toronto was always cool. The people seem like they are cool and easy to get along with, so I had a good attitude. It's not like I was dreading going up there.
We're back at it this weekend in Gopher Dunes, which is a full blown sand track. It's been a while since I've raced in the sand, but I always liked it in the past so I'm pumped on it.
Differences in his factory Kawasaki in Canada and the factory bikes raced in the US…
I wouldn't think my bike and theirs (Monster Energy Kawasaki) are anything alike. It's a great bike for what it is, basically a production based bike with money put into it. But it is nowhere near a full factory race bike, where their forks are probably worth more than my whole bike put together [Laughs].
Missing the round at Kamloops, BC…
It was to the point that the race was such a muddy swamp that I wasn't even sure if they were even going to race. Once they made the decision, I was already back at the hotel because I was hurting too much to go out there, considering the conditions. I had never seen mud like that, because it was a swamp. They had ripped the track day before, when it was pouring down rain and flooding in the area.
Austin Politelli | Canada Connection
Austin Politelli has earned a number of stamps on his passports since turning pro, but Canada has been a country the California native has done incredibly well in. After joining the Monster Energy/Leading Edge/Thor/Kawasaki squad last season, Politelli helped the team sweep the championships by taking the MX2 (250) title. Once the season wrapped, Politelli returned to the US and had plans to compete in the 250 West Coast Supercross series, but snapped his femur during a practice crash at Milestone MX Park. Just four months to the day of the break, Politelli was back aboard his KX250F and prepping for his title defense, which is a testament to the recovery methods riders can pursue in 2014. Small issues set him back in the point standings early in the summer, but he has rallied through recent motos and is now just 20 markers behind current leader Kaven Benoit.
Recovery from the broken femur that ended his Supercross season…
I got hurt right after Anaheim One and tried to do everything I could to heal as fast as possible. I got on the bike a month before the first round and knew that I would be a little off, but I ended up second overall so it wasn't bad. I had some bad luck at a few of the rounds, but I'm only 20 points out of the lead so I think I will be fine.
They said healing (a broken femur) used to be a lot worse and required staying in the hospital a lot longer. They say after you hurt it to start moving it right away, because everything will get tight if you don't. I did everything I could, a lot of physical therapy, but everything feels fine now. I have a rod and four screws in there.
Differences between racing in the US and in Canada…
It's not too much different, but they are smaller tracks and everything gets a lot rougher. It's different competition, but it's not a huge difference like it would be to go to Germany or something. I like the vibe there better, because there is not as much drama and everyone gets along. It is very laid back.
With the number one, I guess everyone wants it. I'm trying to stay as consistent as I can. I had second place at the first round, then at the second round went 16-2, and the next weekend I went 1-1, and at the last race we only did one moto but I finished third. It was good because (Kaven) Benoit DNF'd, and he was 40 points ahead of me but now it is only 20. With six rounds to go, there is plenty of time.
I liked having these past weeks off because there were things I needed to work on and the break helped, because I was a little sore after sitting on the couch for four months and going right into racing. I enjoyed it, but I'm ready to race again.
Riding for Monster Energy/Thor/Leading Edge Kawasaki…
They are a good team and I am always happy with everything. Luc “Frenchie” Caouette handles my motors and Graham has done my suspension since 2010, so he knows what I like.