Between the Motos:  Randy Hawkins

Between the Motos Randy Hawkins

June 22, 2011 9:40am
As manager of AmPro Yamaha Racing, one of GNCC Racing’s top motorcycle teams, Randy Hawkins is still very much involved in the sport that has offered him 6 National Championships over the years.  One way that Hawkins shows his appreciation toward the off-road community is in the form of GNCC University.  Led by Yamaha Racing, Hawkins heads the motorcycle division of arguably one of the most unique riding schools out there, in any discipline.  GNCC University, held at the beautiful Snowshoe Mountain Resort in Snowshoe, W. Va., offers students the total package as they spend a majority of the week in Snowshoe’s on-site lodging, waking up to breakfast with Yamaha Racing’s most prestigious champions before hitting the trails to learn from the best in the business.  Capping off the days with dinner and Q & A sessions, the students get to know their racing heroes on a personal level that most riding schools just can’t offer.  In light of this weekend’s GNCC University, we caught up with the Dean of Motorcycles to preview what he has in store for the students learning on two wheels.

Racer X: Hey Randy! So we have GNCC University right around the corner, are you getting excited?
Randy: Oh yeah, I’m looking forward to GNCC U –everything is set to go and we’re ready for a fun and exciting week.  We’ve always had a great time every year that we’ve been there and the students really enjoy it.  I’ve got a couple ideas for this year, a couple plans that I’m not going to tell you just yet because you may leak it out, (laughs) but I’ve got a little something to test some of the bike guys’ skills in the evenings at dinner.

Like a contest or a little challenge of some sort?
Yeah it’s going to be like a challenge in the evening around dinner. I can’t tell you anymore details until we get there (laughs).

Coming off the Rock Run win, Paul Whibley might have a tip or two on the rocky PA terrain.
Photo: Shan Moore

Oh, wow. I’m excited to see what this is all about! Tell us a little bit about this year’s instructors.
On the bike side of it, we have Jason [Raines], Paul [Whibley] and myself as the main instructors and then we’ll take Thad DuVall, Jordan Ashburn and Jordon Milbaur and they’re going to be like our assistants. Each of the main instructors will have about 10 students each and then we’ll do a rotation with the groups throughout the day.  We’re going to have the assistant instructors help us with each group and they’ll kind of show the students how to do things and how not to do things, which will make things go much smoother.  For example, if there’s a student struggling in a certain area, I can have Thad take that student aside and work with them one-on-one while I take the other nine riders and continue on.  That way, we can really give that student a much more personal touch instead of just sticking them in a group with one guy trying to go at ten students.

Sounds like a solid panel. Do you have a specific focus for instructors according to their riding strengths?
It’s hard to set that right out of the gate without seeing the type of terrain Snowshoe is going to open up to us this year.  I know the strongest point of each of my riders, so basically when we get there Tuesday we’ll go out and look at the course and we’ll make a decision based on the terrain we’ve got to work with.

What does a typical day at GNCC U look like?
A typical day basically goes like this: we’ll get up in the morning and get some breakfast, get things organized and then head out to the area we’re going to be riding in.  At that point, we’ll separate into the three different groups – get with an instructor and then we’ll do a rotation of the students throughout the day.  From that point, we’ll come in and grab some lunch and finish up in the afternoon.  We’ll come in at night from riding and everybody will get the chance to get cleaned up and meet back in the studio facility for dinner.  At that point we’ll talk over highlights and we’ll actually have some other venues at night such as mental strength questions, physical strength questions and we’ll do any question and answer sessions that evening.  After that, we just make sure everybody is ready to go for the next day and we’ll just repeat that again with the rotations.  There is very little downtime and usually when Friday comes, most everybody at that point is ready to take a little bit of a break.  We’re not sitting around talking a lot during the day like a classroom; most of the talking we do is at night after the riding is finished.  So when you come to our school, you need to make sure to have your boots strapped on tight, especially for two and a half days, you’re going to be riding your motorcycle!

Thad DuVall will be on hand at GNCC U to demonstrate and assist the students in learning.
Photo: Andrew Fredrickson

Is there a chance for the riders to get to know the instructors off the track?
Yeah there’s definitely a chance for that. Sometimes during the class that’s a little bit tougher because we’re trying to get things going through the classes but what we like to try to do in the afternoon - if the time allows -is do a little trail ride at the end of the day on the way back to Snowshoe’s headquarters as a fun little cool down.  And then that evening over dinner, that’s when we really get the chance to hang with the students and find out what’s going on with them. All the guys [and gal] are really easy to talk to and open to questions- so if a rider wants to know what New Zealand is like in the winter I know Paul would be happy to chat about it.  Nobody is in a hurry to go anywhere; it’s really all about the students at that point.

Yamaha has been the driving force behind GNCC U each year, will you guys have any demo Yamaha motorcycles available for students to try out?
Yeah, actually Jason Raines is going to be there with a Yamaha demo program throughout the week.  Jason has a great program that he’s put together for the GNCC’s and he is very knowledgeable of the bikes.  He’s got much more information as far as the demos go, but we’re definitely going to have some Yamaha bikes available for the students to ride out there.

Do you know which models will be available?

I think we have one of each: a 250 2-Stroke, a 450 4-Stroke, 250 4-Stroke, a 125 2-Stroke and an 85.  I’m pretty sure Jason has a full line of motorcycles out there for students to take a look at.

What types of riders would benefit from GNCC University?
We have something for riders of all skill levels and experiences.  First of all, we’re going to break the students into riding skill levels right away so that we don’t have a beginner rider in the “A” class group. And then we’ll spend time with bike control, clutch, throttle, braking, proper core methods, downhill braking, going uphill and even stuff like if you crash on an uphill what the best way is to get your bike turned around safely without cartwheeling.  We really spend time with the students to make them comfortable with woods racing.  We go all the way from the beginner to the Pro level here at GNCC U.  If you’re a beginner that wants to learn how to ride in the woods, we can definitely help you.

Jason Raines will also be on hand to instruct the students.
Photo: Shan Moore

Wow, that sounds like all the things I need to work on in order to race a GNCC! (laughs). I think I may have to sign up…
Well, my understand is that we’ve already got a special place for you here. So if you just come and hang out with us, we’ll have you ready to race that GNCC for sure!

I’m looking forward to it! So in this industry, there are a lot of riding schools out there, what makes GNCC U at Snowshoe different than some of the others?
The one thing that’s unique here is the low number of students per instructor, giving much more one-on-one interaction.  And then you have the dinners and all the other extra activities on top of the riding instruction that makes for a more well rounded curriculum.  Students will have the chance to do all these obstacles with each one of these instructors but the difference is that there’s only ten students in a group and those ten students will stick together throughout the rotations of the day. To me, you really make camaraderie with your teammates throughout the 2-½ days you’re there.  I think in our schools, you really create a friendship that you get to know these other riders and it carries over throughout the year when you see each other at the races.  Once the riding part is done in the afternoon, we have the chance to talk about a variety of things and we really have more of a chance to interact without trying to make it a hustle-rustle kind of thing.  I think that’s what makes GNCC University the standard of trying to have any kind of school.

Thanks for talking with us, Randy.  Now I hear that there are still spots open for the bikes, where can you go to sign up?
That’s right.  There aren’t many spots left, so be sure to reserve yours now by calling Snowshoe at 877-441-4386. Those guys over there will hook you up with lodging reservations as well as everything needed to participate in GNCC University. See you there!