Josh Hill’s rookie season in the Supercross class is the kind that plenty of racers would hope for – a factory ride, a handful of podium finishes and even a race win. The factory Yamaha rider looked full of promise in 2008, but the following season didn’t exactly go his way. Plagued by nagging injuries last year and unable to produce results that he knew he was capable of, many started to write off the young racer.
Ultimately, Hill wasn’t able to finish out his Supercross season last year and then struggled through the outdoor series unable to post any decent results. On top of that, Yamaha did away with its factory effort, leaving Hill with no ride. But in the off-season, Hill was able to put the pieces together and not only get himself back into fighting shape, but also land a ride on the prestigious L&M San Manuel Yamaha team alongside Supercross Champion James Stewart.
Three rounds into the Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, it’s become quite clear that Hill will be a force to be reckoned with this year. We talked to the Yamaha racer about rebounding from a disappointing season, getting in shape, and how he found his way onto the San Manuel team for 2010.
Look like you’ve slimmed down.
Yeah, I’m healthy now so I’m able to really work out and do what I want to be doing. Also, I’ve learned a lot more and I’ve gotten on a better nutrition program and a better riding program. All the pieces of the puzzle, I’d say, are in place now.
You were winning races two years ago, but then last year was just not up to par. Was that due to health issues?
Yeah, for sure. I tore my labrum really bad right after the U.S. Open and it’s pretty much a three-month injury to fix. I came into Anaheim (in 2009) and I actually felt okay when I got back on the bike which was like end of December, but then I crashed and hit my head pretty hard. I really wasn’t in any shape to be racing. I hadn’t been riding and couldn’t really do much. I started to get better and started to get healthy and started doing okay – got a podium, won a heat race. Then I just went running and stepped on a rock and twisted my ankle and tore a bunch of ligaments in my ankle and then I had all the herniated discs in my back... I really couldn’t do anything. I tried but I couldn’t practice during the week. I’d just try to go race. I was the only factory Yamaha rider and I’d try to go race, but it really wasn’t very good.
From the outside, really no one saw much of that. It just looked to everyone like you were falling off the pace.
Yeah, I think everybody wanted to be quick to say that I wasn’t trying and I didn’t like being there but that wasn’t the case. I wanted more than anything to be there. I tried to be there, but it hurt me. I just couldn’t even ride. I was horrible; my style was horrible, everything. [laughs] I didn’t even like to see pictures or video of myself. I was kind of embarrassed of how I was riding. After Millville I kinda decided I just couldn’t ride anymore. I took some time off and got healthy and started working with some good people. Larry Brooks came along and having him working with me has been the biggest thing. The whole team is awesome. Larry, my mechanic, Chris, every person on that team has a good spot and it’s awesome.
It must be really great to have a team like that behind you despite coming off such a disappointing year.
Yeah. I couldn’t be more thankful. Nobody really wanted to help me. There were a few people, but nothing really great that was going on. I went in and talked to Larry quite a few times and I’d really never knew I was going to have the ride until like five days before Bercy Supercross. I just rode this ’09 [YZ450F] they threw together for me and started practicing and went to Bercy.
Once you were out of factory Yamaha deal, were you losing hope?
I wasn’t losing hope. I just knew that if I could get myself on a good program and start riding – whether I had to buy my own bikes or whatever the case was – I was going to do a lot better than I did the year before. As long as I was healthy, I knew it was going to be a better year than ’09 no matter what the circumstances.
So you were still plenty determined to come out swinging this year.
Yeah. I wasn’t near ready to throw in the towel. I’ve really only had two successful seasons and that was my rookie season in Lites and my rookie season in Supercross. And they were semi-successful. I don’t think anywhere near my capabilities.
Are you glad to stay on Yamaha?
Yeah. I’ve been on Yamahas pretty much since I was 10 years old. They’re awesome to work with – Keith and Mike – everyone over there is awesome. Now Larry Brooks is who I work with more in the day-to-day. I don’t know why he’s got such a bad rap. I’ve never worked with anybody better. I don’t think there’s anybody better out there – for me anyways.
Do you feel like it’s going to be a challenge to share a spotlight with someone like James Stewart?
Uh... I don’t know if I have any spotlight right now! [laughs] So I don’t think we’re really going to be sharing. I think James is the champion and I got tenth in the series [last year], so I hope to start getting on the podium and sharing some, but I don’t think it’s really going to be a problem. I think he’s going to have the majority! [laughs]