AURORA, Ill. – While many of the biggest names in AMSOIL Arenacross, featuring Ricky Carmichael’s Road to Supercross, will be focusing on securing their spot in the Race to the Championship this weekend in Reno, Nev., a new face will join with intentions of shaking things up. R.J. Hampshire will make his professional debut at the eighth round of the championship as part of the Ricky Carmichael Road to Supercross, and he’s coming into Reno with high hopes.
Hampshire rose to prominence by taking the biggest win of his career at the Monster Energy Cup this past October, outlasting many of the favorites in the Amateur All-Stars and claiming the overall victory. As a result of his breakout performance, Hampshire drew the attention of GEICO Honda who signed the Florida native mere days later. Now the 17-year-old is gearing up for the next big step in his career, preparing to embark on his professional journey this weekend alongside the most competitive AMSOIL Arenacross field in many years.
While his immediate future remains up in the air, Hampshire is confident he has the speed and ability to compete with the likes of Zach Ames, Tyler Bowers, Jacob Hayes, and more almost immediately and is looking to challenge for a win in Reno. AMSOIL Arenacross caught up with Hampshire during his final days of preparation for his big weekend.
As one of the newest faces in the Road to Supercross, what are your thoughts on making your professional debut this weekend in Reno?
Yeah, I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve always dreamed of racing in supercross so I’m kind of pumped to get that journey started. I know arenacross has gotten a lot more attention recently so I’m pumped to get out there with them. I don’t have a lot of experience racing arenacross so it will be a little different for me, but hopefully I have a good showing my first time out.
With such an intimate space, AMSOIL Arenacross is likely more technical and possibly even more aggressive than what you’re used to competing in. With that being said, what are you looking to go out there and do this weekend?
I’ve been riding supercross tracks a lot lately, and while I know supercross and arenacross tracks have a big difference, I feel comfortable with the rhythms and I feel like I’ve got my timing down good. So I’m just looking forward to that and hopefully there’s a good set of whoops. I’ve been hitting the whoops pretty good.
What does it mean to have a platform like the Road to Supercross to help you develop your abilities on these types of tracks and help prepare you for one day competing in Monster Energy Supercross?
It helps us gain a lot of experience, for sure. Going up against the fastest guys in arenacross gives you a chance to work out those rookie mistakes you might make in supercross. You get a chance to learn what it takes to be competitive by how fast the pace is and how aggressive you need to be, so by the time you go to supercross you have some good experience under your belt and can make that move that much easier.
What does having the support from GEICO Honda mean to you at this point in your career and how will that help in your transition into the pro ranks?
Ever since I signed with the team it’s kind of been like a dream come true. I never thought I would have made it this far, especially with the best team there is. All the support they give me I’m thankful for it. The team is awesome and they treat me really good, so coming into arenacross with them behind me makes me a lot more confident. I feel like I have the best bike out there so I know I can go out and win [races]. Everyone is behind me and that support means a lot to me.
What are your expectations for this weekend in Reno?
Honestly, I want to go out there and win my Heat Race and try to win the Main Event. I do think my speed is there and I’ve been feeling really good on the track, so I’m confident I can go out there and challenge for the win. I don’t know a lot about my competition, although I know that Tyler Bowers is really fast. I’m definitely going to be learning while I’m out there with them, but I have no reason to think I can’t go out there and win.
What are your plans in the immediate future? Do you think you might give Monster Energy Supercross, an FIM World Championship, a try if you complete the Road to Supercross, or would you wait and focus on a full season in 2015?
It will honestly depend how my time in arenacross goes. That will sort of dictate what I do. For now, we’re just trying to take it race-by-race. Maybe I’ll turn pro this summer and look to supercross next year, or maybe we’ll just put an all out effort into supercross next season. It’s just going to depend on how things go and how the team feels. I’m just excited about the opportunity and I’m trying to take it step-by-step right now.
Hampshire will join the biggest names in AMSOIL Arenacross starting tonight inside Reno’s Livestock Events Center. Action kicks off at 10 p.m. ET and continues with a second night on Saturday, beginning at 10 p.m. ET.
The entire AMSOIL Arenacross season will air on FOX Sports 1, including re-airs on FOX Sports 2. The first broadcast is scheduled for this Sunday, February 16, at 11 a.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.
Live timing and scoring from each round of the AMSOIL Arenacross season returns for the 2014 season! To follow the intense racing action live, log onto www.Arenacross.com.