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5 Minutes With... Wil Hahn

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TLD/Lucas Oil Honda’s Wil Hahn has had a turbulent career so far, with a new team and on a new bike every year since the start. However, he has found happiness in the TLD squad, and it shows. Last weekend, after posting a fifth and a fourth the previous two races, Hahn grabbed a second place at Anaheim II. We caught him on the phone last night.

Racer X: You made the podium this past weekend. You’ve done it before, I think in Jacksonville last year, right?
Wil Hahn: Yeah, in Jacksonville, and I’m stoked to be back up there.

Wasn’t it third place in Jacksonville, though?
No, it was second there, too.

Are you sure?
Yeah. I mean, I’ve got the trophy, and it says “second place” on it. So I guess it’s possible that I didn’t get second, but either way, I’ve got the trophy and my bonus was for second place, so I’m not going to bitch about it (laughs).

(Laughs) Sorry, that was kind of dumb to ask if you were sure or not... But the race was similar there, where you got a good start and just stayed at the front, except I think you led at Jacksonville for a bit...
It was kind of the same, yeah, although at Jacksonville, I got the holeshot and got out front and rode strong, but wasn’t fully ready to be out front. This weekend, I was ready to be there. That’s where I belong. I felt like that was the difference. In Jacksonville, I put myself in a good position and rode it out. This year, I feel a little more prepared, and I think I belong up there.

At the first two races, you didn’t have horrible starts, but they weren’t great, and both times you ended up stuck behind Blake Wharton. Were you happy not to see that curly hair hanging out of the helmet in front of you this week?
Yeah, I am. He’s a tough guy to pass, and he’s a solid rider. I think we’re all pretty darned close, and when we’re all in a train like that – we weren’t separated by very much in Phoenix – and it’s such a tough track to pass on, it’s difficult. At the same time, I was rushing my passes, and if I would’ve used my brain a little more, I would’ve made the pass. It’s just a shoulda, coulda, woulda deal, and I’m happy to come out of the first three rounds with a top five at every round. I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouse. My goal coming in was to be in the top five, and I made it there, and my other goal was to get better, and the second race I got fourth, and then this weekend I got second, so I’m meeting that goal, too. It’s the same goal every weekend.

Right, which means that if you want to improve this weekend, you’re going to have to win. You’ve got to be hoping to win one of these at some point.
Exactly.

Once you got into second, you had some laps that were faster than Jake Weimer’s, but you were both very close from then on most of the time, so with a better start, do you think you could’ve challenged him?
I’m happy the way my start was because I took a gamble with the start – my mechanic and I talked about it and decided to go toward the outside – and it seemed to work in my favor. I made some really good passes the first lap. I came out in fourth, made a pass into third right away, and then on the third lap, I made my way around Hanny [Josh Hansen], and Weimer had already kind of checked out.

He had just enough of a cushion at that point that he didn’t need to protect his lines or anything, right?
Yeah, and he’s on point right now. He’s the guy to beat, and he’s strong. I believe that I can give him a good run, but my goals aren’t changing, which are to be up front. I really believe in my bike and my starts right now, especially on the weekend, because we made good improvements this week and have been doing our homework. I’m ready to get up there and challenge for the win, because I really want to win, and so does the Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil Honda team; the whole team, not just one person on it, and it’s nice to have that behind you.

You’ve always had speed, but you haven’t had consistency in the past. But so far this year, you have a fifth, fourth and second. That’s consistency that you’ve not had before. What changed for you to put this together?
Honestly, I think I’ve matured a little bit, and my goals are a little bit different. Also, I’m not really working harder, but I’m working smarter than I ever have. I’ve always had pride in being a very hard worker on and off the bike, but I feel like I have a new focus, and like I said on the podium, I feel like I’m a new guy. I know people say that all the time, but I truly do feel like a new person. I’m twice as happy as I’ve ever been in my life, and I’m comfortable with my bike, my team, my mechanic, and myself. That’s the biggest difference.

Why are you happier?
I don’t know! I feel like I’m in a good place, so there’s no reason not to be happy. I’m riding a dirt bike for a living, so I’m able to smile and just do something I love and am passionate about. I believe I can win, and it’s been a while since I’ve felt like my team was a home, but that’s how it feels now. I feel like I’m in a really good place.

Obviously, your team manager David Pingree still works with Racer X, so obviously we like him here, but what’s he like as a team manager? Sometimes, riders have a tough time taking advice from their team managers and people like that...
He’s good. He doesn’t chime in that much, but what advice he gives is good. But the truth is, advice coming from anybody, I listen, whether it’s Ivan [Tedesco] saying to do this, or Davi [Millsaps], or Josh Grant, or anybody. They’ve all won races, and I listen. Ping has won main events in supercross. He’s been there and won races, and I listen. But I listen to everybody, from mechanics like Josh Grant’s mechanic [Alex Ewing], to Ivan’s mechanic Frankie [Latham]... They all try and send me in the right direction. I feel like I have a lot of good people in my corner, including my trainer Sandy [Egger] and my brother [Tommy], too. Ping knows what it takes to win, because you don’t win on accident. Sure, sometimes the advice you get from other people, you don’t always want to hear, but you’ve got to hear everybody out and take it in. You’ve at least got to try it.

It could be that is a big part of what’s changed with you, because it’s not easy to listen to everyone when you’re a teenager...
Yeah, you think you already have it figured out when you’re younger, but I feel like I’ve always tried to listen to everybody’s advice growing up. But at the same time, it’s hard to process it all when you’re younger, and understand it.

And know which is BS and which isn’t...
Yeah, you have to separate what’s right and what’s wrong. The biggest difference is that I’ve matured quite a bit, and I have a lot of good people on my side. I’ve heard Ricky [Carmichae] say it, and Chad [Reed] say it, but you’ve got to have good people in your corner, and I really believe that.

  • Tommy meets Wil after the finish, before his own race.
I have always given your brother Tommy Hahn crap about this, and that’s the main reason why I always pester him about it, but historically speaking, the younger brother usually ends up the fastest of the two. I know he doesn’t like that. But you’re going pretty fast right now, and if you keep on going this way, you could make that a reality. Does that mean anything to you?
I always want to be faster than Tom, but that’s part of racing. He knows that. He was the first one to congratulate me at the finish last weekend, and that means a lot to me, but obviously we aren’t racing each other, either, so until I’m in the 450 class, it doesn’t even matter. If I’m faster on a Lites bike, it doesn’t matter until the day comes when we race again. We’re just trying to help each other at this point, you know?

Yeah, I know, but that’s probably part of what has made you guys so good, the fact that you’ve always had each other to compete with. If you grow up with an older, faster brother, it should make you faster, too, because you have someone built-in to chase.
Yeah, that’s 100 percent. When we’re on the same practice track, especially during outdoors, we do push each other. Sometimes, we have to back it down, because it’s not always for the better. It can get too competitive sometimes.

We talked about Weimer a bit, and right now, he has the whole package – speed, fitness, confidence, starts, bikes, etc. – which is why he’s doing so well right now. Knowing that, what’s left that you have to put in there in order to start winning these things instead of running for podiums?
Straight up, it’s just going to be getting the holeshot and riding my race like we’re at the test track, you know? If I can get a holeshot and do my laps just like we’re at the test track pounding out motos, then I can be up there and win one. That’s not too far out of the cards for me. It’s just going to take some smart decisions and putting myself in the best position possible every weekend. That’s all I can do. I just have to be smart and not over-think the race and put pressure on myself. I have to let it come to me. But I feel great on the team, and working with Mitch [Payton] and Bones [Bacon] from the Pro Circuit team, I really believe in our bike and the whole team that Troy [Lee] has going. It’s really good.

Well, it’s nice to see a guy like you starting to do really well, because our sport definitely needs personality, and you’ve got a lot of it...
I like that, too, and I feel like my mechanic and I have a great relationship where we know how to keep it light at the race, but we’re still very, very passionate about winning races and being there on the weekend. He’s one of the most passionate guys I’ve worked with in my whole life, and I like to keep it light, too. I feel like I have a good personality and a good relationship with everybody, and I’m not the type of guy to be really dry. I’ll talk about anything, you know?

I do. Thanks, Wil. If things go well, someday soon, we can do one of these conversations after you win one of these races...
Sounds good to me. I’d really enjoy that phone call. I’ll be looking forward to it.
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