The last time Justin Hill of Yoncalla, Oregon, lined up inside a football stadium for a round of Monster Energy AMA Supercross was on June 21, 2020. Aboard a Honda CRF450R, Hill placed a solid ninth on the evening, the result slotting him in at 10th in the final series point standings. An excellent result and an excellent season, Hill left the sport to pursue a career in law enforcement. Well, and long story short, Hill desperately missed the sport and is now back and breathing fire as a member of Team Tedder/Monster Energy/Mountain Motorsports/KTM Racing and poised to be behind the starting gate with brother Josh come the opening round of the 2023 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship at Angel Stadium. Currently based in Southern California and hard at work dialing-in the KTM race equipment he and his brother will go to war on in ’23, Hill got us up to speed on the immediate reality of his new surroundings.
Racer X: Justin, we’re less than a month away from the starting gate clanking into Angel Stadium dirt and launching the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross season into the new year. As you well know as being a former champion, stuff starts moving astonishingly quick as we approach the first event set on January 7, 2023. Having said all that, how are you and what’s happening?
Justin Hill: So I went back to Oregon for a week just to get a little Thanksgiving and holiday time in with the folks. I wanted to try and get that out of the way early. I know we are going to be grinding up to the last second because you know how it gets when it gets close to Christmas time. It just gets super-hectic when you’re doing the family stuff while you’re trying to prepare last minute things for the supercross series. Yeah, we just did that little trip and we got back, and I just got back into the testing phase. Josh also got back here from racing in Australia. Me and him have just been working on this bike and trying to get the suspension right and trying to get everything up to where we are doing the final tweaks on everything. Yeah, it’s been cool, man. I always have sort of an idea of when I think something right, and then Josh will come up and he’s got such a wealth of knowledge and so many years in this whole sport and developing bikes and it just helps out so much. It is really neat for me. I am really excited to have him with me because, man, I think I’d kind of be lost at the moment with the bike without him. It’s just a little bit trickier to develop the KTM, I think. I’m quite a while removed from this whole thing, right? My perspective on a bike setup for 2023 is not as fresh. I kind of almost dug us a little hole with bike setup on my own and Josh is kind of pulling us out of it. It is definitely less on me to get a good product moving forward. I’m kind of able to let Josh work on it all. When Josh gets comfortable, we’ll be pretty happy because I think he is on to something as far as what we should be on with the motorcycle. It’s a pretty neat opportunity for me. I’ve never had this before. I’ve always been my own pioneer on my own stuff. Me and Josh have always expressed ideas through each other and gone through things in conversation and in theory, but we never had the opportunity to ride the same bike and actually gather real data at the test track and use it. It’s all been really, really interesting and I’m digging it and I’m glad that it’s finally happening.
Where have you and Josh and Team Tedder been riding, testing, and training?
So we’ve kind of been all over the place. Tedder doesn’t have the test track out at Elsinore anymore. They relinquished that. It’s been really tough to find tracks. That was one of our hopes that the team would pick something else up, but it has proven really difficult for them to find something that doesn’t cost us $50,000 to put a track somewhere and be something that we actually think will be good. it’s been tricky. We have been riding primarily around Pala and Lake Elsinore. Lake Elsinore still has a supercross track that was Dakota’s [Tedder], so we could still ride there. Other than that, man, it has been scarce. In fact, it has been hard to find places to do development particularly. We’ve been able to ride, but finding a place to develop the bike has proven really difficult.
How do you and Josh feel about your Team Tedder KTM equipment? Can you be competitive on the KTM in 2023?
Well, can we be competitive? Yeah, for sure. With what we have right this second can we be at the very best of our ability? That’s a tougher question. Here’s why: It’s all been really tricky. We are really behind the eight ball on actually getting the rest of the bike dialed-in. We have all of our practice bikes from the previous year that we’ve been doing our development work on just as a basic platform that we feel will be very similar. We’ve really run into a speed bump as far as finding the era of KTM 450 that we have been developing and plan to race. It has been difficult to find platforms to start with even with the old bike. It is definitely one of those things where we are kind of in this spot right now where we are saying, “It’s all good. We really should just get everything that we need as far as parts and all the little things we are going to sue throughout the year.” We are a little bit behind on engine testing, but I haven’t really been super-aggressive about doing engine testing because the bike makes a lot of power stock. All of the new bikes are so good out of the box that it is hard for me to tremendously reinvent the wheel. I think that we could be really good off of a couple of things here and there. We are really, really close to stock. To answer your question, yes, we can totally be competitive, but we need to find more platforms to build on. That’s really an issue that nobody really foresaw. That being said, we still have a lot. We are there and we are already on the suspension that we are going to be on in 2023. All that development and everything that we are doing will go directly on the fresher version of what we have. We are in a pretty decent spit, but a couple of things have taken longer than we thought they would have. We are all kind of coming together and trying to solve the puzzle as a unit. Yeah, it is crunch time. We are nitpicking at this point. We’ve just got to get a few things and we’ll be ready to go racing. Either way, it is really exciting stuff.
How do you feel about racing in 2023? You’ve basically been off the bike and out of racing for two solid years. You’re also a former champion and you finished up in a super-solid 10th overall in 2020 Monster Energy Supercross. I mean down deep, you know what it takes to perform and be competitive at the very highest level of the sport.
Man, I don’t feel like I’m super-frantic about it. I feel really at home. I feel like I’ve come back to what is comfortable. I’m enjoying it and I feel super-blessed. Like you said, I know my potential. I know that I can win races, so this is a really big deal for myself. They’re [Team Tedder] giving me the whole program again and giving me a great shot. I did attempt to come back last year and I ended up getting hurt before the season. Even that being said, I was in great shape and everything was good, but I don’t think it would have been the proper opportunity to do really good and to reach my potential. This all needed to happen. Every bit of this need to happen to be here. The fun part is that I’m in just such a better headspace, especially now with this being more of a family thing for me now. I get to bring my kids to the races. There is just a lot more added to the situation. I’m just in a better headspace and it is going to be neat to see how all of this unfolds and translates into racing. I’m jazzed because I know that I can do great. I feel awesome and with where we are at in development right now, I should feel quite a bit better in the next couple of weeks. I already feel like I have winning pace. It is an interesting place for me to be. I’m doing a lot of race day programs and race simulation days. I feel like this is like clockwork. I feel really good about it. This is recent, obviously. I’ve been working towards this, right? Barring anything really weird, leading into all of this and 2023 has been awesome. I just feel like I’m in a good spot. I feel great and I feel stronger than ever. I never feel ahead at this point, but I feel really ahead right now. I’m hoping that translates to good finishes. The first couple of races are always different because you have so much in the nerves category. You can be in the most tremendous shape in the world and two years without doing the Anaheim opener might make me a little nervous. Let’s reach the goal. And to me the goal is to be a rock-solid, top-five guy by mid-season. That’s the goal. If I’m a rock-solid, top-five guy by mid-season, I’m pumped. We achieved it. We achieved what we wanted. If you’re there, then you are knocking on the door for podiums all of the time. If that’s where we are by the middle of this thing, I’m super-pumped. That’s where my head is at and I think we can totally do it, especially if we get the bike where we want it. I always thought there was a lot of value in the Hill brothers. Part of me is really, really focused on myself and just kind of getting back to where I need to be because I don’t really have to worry about Josh with that because he is so active. He is always doing this and he’s going to fund his way pretty quick, whereas I’m like, “Man, I’m a little nervous. I’ve got to try and get this all going so that I feel like I used to as quickly as possible!” I really feel like I’ve found a new sense of team that I’ve never felt before just with me and Josh. This is the first time in my career that I think of something that we are doing, and I consider somebody else in that decision. Most of the time you’re only worried about you. That’s just the nature of the sport that we do. I really feel like me and Josh and really putting our heads together. We are really working in unison on this thing. We work really well together, especially now that we are older. I think we can be a great asset to each other, for sure.
Hey, and you guys got your ace mechanic Shawn Bell back, huh?!
And we got Longhorn back! That’s my guy and I’m so excited. Honestly, this whole and where we are, we’d be lost without that guy. Anybody that doesn’t have that guy is lost and just doesn’t know it. I’m excited about him, for sure. I know Josh is, as well. We consider him to be a very good family friend. He’s like our big brother and kind of like the third Hill brother.
Images courtesy of Team Tedder