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5 Minutes With... Josh Hill

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With 16-8-12 finishes and sitting twelfth in points, Josh Hill has had a disappointing start to the 2009 Monster Energy AMA Supercross series. Hill was one of only a handful of riders to win an AMA Supercross main event last year, but he injured his shoulder during the off-season and had to undergo surgery. Then, a week prior to the Anaheim opener, with only a few days of riding under his belt, Hill crashed hard again. He sucked it up and went to Angel Stadium to salvage some points but still took a beating from the online critics. We gave Josh a call today to get his side of the story.

Racer X: Josh, a lot of people probably don’t realize it, but you came into Anaheim 1 probably not as prepared as you would’ve liked due to a crash.
Josh Hill: I just didn’t really want to come into it with an excuse. I told myself that I was better off than I was. I thought I was going to be a lot further forward than I was. I only had five days on the bike before Anaheim 1, but, like, the fifth time back on, I was doing this big triple on to a tabletop and step-off. I was the only one doing it at Adam Chatfield’s track in Beaumont, and one lap I jumped on and my chain snapped right as I was stepping off and I just endoed and knocked myself pretty silly. It was weird - I just wasn’t even there that whole next week. I tried to brush it off, and I didn’t even tell my team that it was bad. I told them I crashed and was sore, but I tried to play it off like it wasn’t that bad.

When did that happen?
That happened the Sunday or Monday before Anaheim 1. At Anaheim, I struggled a lot, but at Phoenix, I felt pretty good. I was fifth-fastest in practice and came from like fourteenth to eighth in the main, which was pretty good. Last weekend I just got a horrible start and couldn’t work through.

Your first setback came back in October. What happened?
We just got back from the U.S. Open and we had a new motor to break in. They couldn’t get any test riders to come out, so all we needed to do was put some time on the engine, just to break it in before we rode it in supercross. All we had to do was put three hours on the bike. My first 30-minute moto, I was out there and wasn’t even trying hard—I was just riding around—and someone kicked a huge rock up in front of me going through this sand whoop section and the bike just flipped out from underneath me. I crashed on to the water truck lane and I tore my whole labrum. So I had to get surgery on that.

You came back after the surgery and had a few days on the bike. How were you feeling?
I felt good. I rode one time outdoors and, like, five times on the supercross track, but right when I started riding again we had those huge storms in California, so that put me back another week. But I was feeling good riding with Andrew Short and those guys out at Chatfield’s track.

Then your chain snapped. That’s not too common.
I know! What’s crazy, I had a chain snap on me last year on a similar triple step-off, but this one was a little smaller and I actually bunny hopped the step-off without a chain. I just think that in the winter if you ride a lot, you need to pay closer attention to that stuff. I just had the same chain on too long. It was a pretty big jump, and it puts a lot of stress on the chain. It’s kind of scary to think about, but it happened to me a few times.

After your lackluster sixteenth at Anaheim 1, you took a lot of flack on the message boards. Did you pay attention to any of that?
I looked at it but it really doesn’t bother me. They’re going to say what they want to say, but they don’t know the whole story. Everyone goes on there and jumps the gun saying this guy needs to be fired, etc., but if that was the case, Keith McCarty and Mike Guerra would be making the call, not the guys on the internet.

In hindsight, do you think you should’ve maybe sat out Anaheim 1 to rest?
Well, I didn’t get hurt, so I’d have to say it was good riding Anaheim 1 to get those points. I’ve just been doing what I can. I really have no regrets right now; the only regret I got is I wish I would’ve gotten better starts these last few races. That’s just something that’s going to come down the road.

I knew it was going to be rough coming in, but I’m not going to let these last few races get me own, because I know during the week right now, I have my riding speed back and I feel as good as ever practicing, but I just haven’t got that racing flow back—being aggressive and getting going right from the get-go.

Are you 100 percent right now?
No, I wouldn’t say 100 percent, but I’m getting there. I’m not that far off from where I was last year. Last year I got sixteenth at the first round, eleventh at the second round, and then I got second at Anaheim 2. So I’m not really that far off. I just think right now, if I could get some starts, I’ll be up there - I’ll be battling for top-five. My speed is there, but I just don’t have the racing back in me right now. If I could start up there I’ll be in the mix. The races I got good starts last year were A2, Indy, Minneapolis, and Houston, and I was on the podium at all of them!

{LINKS}Although Team Yamaha proper isn’t off to the greatest start, the YZ450F is three-for-three.
Yeah, I didn’t even think of that. But yeah, the bike is good - it’s awesome. I don’t think you could be on a more reliable bike, that’s for sure. I had a few weird problems last year, but other than those things are indestructible.

I haven’t done any testing. I’ve done pretty much zero testing, so I’m just riding basically my setup from last year and a couple tweaks on the engine that Hepler tested in the off-season. Other than that, we got new bars and graphics.

Well, go practice some starts!
I will! Thanks, Billy.
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