PHOTOS | Octopi Media & Antonovich
VIDEO | Curtis
Sometimes racers experience a difficult transition to a new path after their final checkered flag. Some will land positions with companies that sponsored them for years while others aim to stay at the race track in a management position with a team. Wil Hahn went with the latter option in his post-race life, as he first landed an amateur scouting-mentoring gig with GEICO Honda in 2016 and then transitioned to the role of Assitant Team Manager at Star Racing midway through 2017. For Hahn, the move to Star Racing was a return to the very first team that supported him in the professional ranks and will soon see him take the reigns in 2019. During a recent day at Pala Raceway, we spent a few minutes with Hahn after he put in a moto testing for the team ahead of the coming 2018 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. Always open in his replies and lighthearted, Hahn spoke of the team’s success in 2018 and the status of their current roster.
This is your second race season with Star Racing…
I just hit the one-year mark, but yeah, the second year of racing.
What have you learned in the last twelve months?
I think more than anything it's been managing the role, but I'll keep learning over the next five years and past that. I think this is a job that you never stop learning in and I'll figure out different ways to do things. Luckily with Brad Hoffman, Bobby Regan, Gareth Swanepoel, and Jeremy Coker, they've all been there for a while and they help me understand how things work and how to understand certain situations.
A big thing is that you can ride at "race speed" and could make a Main Event, but you have focused that on testing, kind of the way that Mike LaRocco did at GEICO Honda, but at a much younger level.
I think that being around Mike for a good part of my career and a little bit after helped me a lot for these types of scenarios. Being around him I learned how to understand things but I'm still learning more and more from Brad every day on the technical side. My side is strictly racing, so if you come over here and ask me why we run a certain bolt or part, I don't know that. I'm learning a little bit of that side and it's been exciting for me, seeing Brad run the dyno and then asking questions because I'm ignorant of it. I see the changes and want to ask why we want these things. It's cool to see that and I'm slowly starting to understand it.
From a guy that raced on factory bikes for the full duration of your career, has there been any sort of input you were able to bring to this team in terms of testing?
There are a couple of things that you always learn from testing over the years that you can apply, but it's not like it's something these guys haven't already tried before or been around. We work really closely with Yamaha and Brad has been in this a long time, so he understands the technical side very well.
On Thursday you were at Glen Helen riding and today you're here at Pala, so you're still riding a lot. I see where the question still gets floated around the chance of you lining up for the team, but this is strictly testing, right?
Yeah, strictly testing. Someone commented on my Instagram about that last night and for me, I enjoy doing what I'm doing and there's enough work going on. I bounced around the idea of racing Loretta's and stuff like that but as far as the pro level, I'm not a believer in once you're done that you should go back into it. I'm for sure done.
Aaron is doing great and Dylan was doing well before the injury, but there have been some setbacks with Mitchell, Colt, and Justin. How do you manage the ups and downs that come with racing?
I think the one thing that you can do is just accept the fact that racing is dangerous and it's the ugly part of the sport. Me understanding that and going through it a lot, sometimes I think it can be prevented and sometimes it can't. Either way, it's nothing to be upset over, we just have to work towards the future and help these guys get back to full health quicker. We want them to be at one hundred percent so that we can get the best results possible.
One thing that maybe a lot of people don't remember is that you started your professional career at Star Racing. How much as it changed in the ten years since?
Dramatically, because we're a full factory team now but back then they were just starting to get support. It's still Bobby and Brad and those are the guys I worked with when I was here, so honestly, it's a bittersweet thing to say I started and ended my career here. If you had asked me when I was riding for these guys in 2008 if this would happen, I'd have said there was no chance. But I'm thankful for the opportunity and Bobby has been great.
They figured out something recently and that's to have a designated job for each person, so it's everyone working as a team instead of doing their own thing.
The guys now have Swanny to lean on, me to lean on, and Brad, Jeremy, and Bobby. I think we all know our role and stick to it. If someone needs help, of course, we'll go out of our way to help, but at the same time we know our role and do our best to be organized.
Your actual job is not yet full Team Manager, right? That still belongs to Brad?
Yeah, but in 2019 I'll be the Team Manager.
So what is a typical workweek for you?
I handle booking the flights, ordering parts and supplies around the shop, all of the logistics for the most part. Brad is always going to be the technical side of things and I think that should never change because he is so good at it. There is all kinds of other stuff, like when we are testing during the week or watering the Supercross track at night so that it's good for the guys. It's never-ending.
For Aaron to be in the position he is currently in is great. As a past champion, have you shared any advice for him as he prepares for the last few races?
I think this whole year Aaron's mindset has been different. As long as he keeps the mindset he has now and keeps going, I don't have any doubt. We haven't had a bad day at the track and I know that no one is going to believe that, but I'm serious. The cool thing about him is that he comes in and does the work. He figured something out this year and has matured, which is something I think we'll see in the next few rounds.
Justin was doing very well at the start but then had some injuries. He's back on the bike now, so how did his recovery go and how has his prep been leading into the outdoors?
He was off of the bike for a decent bit because of the ribs and some other good injuries, but he has quite a bit of time in and I think come Hangtown we will see the guy on the podium.
Mitchell, it seemed like that was one injury that wasn't healing but he'll be back on the line in Seattle?
Yeah, that's what the plan is right now. He's ready for Seattle and last week he had a really good week on the Supercross track, so we're trying to find the balance of outdoors and Supercross. Once he goes to Seattle, we know that we won't have much outdoor time, so we're trying to make the most of it. His shoulder was bothering him for a while and it might have been getting worse, but we got that figured out over the break. Unfortunately, he missed Indianapolis but he'll be back in Seattle.
How is Colt's injury coming along?
He's just doing the rehab and the biggest thing for him right now that we need to focus on his not rushing anything and that the bone is fully healed up. There's no rush and he can be back when he is ready.
There's nothing going on like he has to be on the starting line at Hangtown.
I don't think so. If he was, we'd be happy, but there's no one saying that he has to be there. We have our guys right now that will be healthy and there's a possibility that Dylan will be healthy for Hangtown, but the same goes for both of those guys. We're not going to rush anyone back to soon. The most important thing is to come back and be able to contend.
With Dylan, he has his own unique deal. He's under Swanepoel's guidance, but he flew back to France to see the doctors that he knows when he's injured. How was it to figure out all of these things and to communicate everything from all ends?
He was easy on all of that stuff. He wanted to go to the doctor that did all of his original surgeries on his arm and I understand that because they know what is in there and don't need to do a bunch of new X-rays to figure it out. He would text me while he was over there and say when he had the surgery and how it went. He's already back in the gym.
This is an important time for Star because in the next year Aaron will advance out of the class, you've re-signed Colt, Dylan is in the middle of a multi-year deal, and then there's the talk of the new bike coming out. With all of these things, is there anything that must be done to maintain focus or is it part of a big vision?
You have these big plans and you try to work them out, but Aaron has another year of eligibility and I don't know what we're going to do yet. We want to see him stick around and not leave. At this point in time we try to lay plans out and be strategic, but things change. Sometimes guys point out quicker than you want. Colt could have already pointed out by now, but he's had some injuries and we've dealt with that because it's a similar path to the one that I went down. I think he is capable of coming back and winning, I have no doubts of that. We're trying to figure that out and at this point, we never get bummed on the success. We're continuing to have success, even though there have been some injuries here and there, but we'll make it happen.