Photos by Brian Robinette
Additional photos by Pete Peterson
San Manuel Yamaha’s Josh Hill looks poised to have a breakthrough season in 2010. He’s visibly leaner this year, looked smooth and fast at the first two supercross races, and has a 2010 podium already with a third place at Phoenix last week.With the rain pouring down on the tarped-over Anaheim 2 Supercross track behind him, Josh gave us a few minutes to talk about his new YZ450, his new diet, his outlook, his approach, his strengths, his take on rivalries… Well, the kid just talked and talked, and had some really sincere and thought-out answers.Pete Peterson: You just look different physically this year. Tell me what you changed in your training program from 2009.Josh Hill: My physical training’s not that much different. I just got onto a really good nutrition program. I found out the things I was allergic to. It turned my nutrition and my metabolism around. As hard as I’ve tried I’ve always been a little bit of a chubby kid. I always had a few extra pounds I could lose.PP: You call yourself chubby, but you were training hard even then?JH: I probably trained as hard as anybody, but it just didn’t show. I had such slow metabolism, I was eating things that weren’t working with my body. It was slowing everything down. Once I found out what those were and went to a nutritionist… I’ll have weeks where I feel like I didn’t do enough and I’ll step on the scale and I’ll be lighter than I’ve ever been. I feel better every time I get on the bike. Right now I just have to make sure I’m rested. I’m probably resting more than I ever have, too.PP: How are you getting along with the new fuel injected bike?
JH: I love it. The bike is so agile and always runs good. I just feel so comfortable ever since I’ve been on it.PP: Can you tell me something you’ve had to change in your riding style with the new bike?JH: The one thing is the bike has a lot of engine braking. At first I didn’t like that, but you can use that to your advantage. What I would do before was a lot of coasting. I would try to ride the bike like a bicycle. Come into corners fast, coast through, and then come out fast. But this thing, you have to keep a little more of a steady throttle. And when you do that it actually seems easier to ride.PP: You and James were both on Yamahas last year, but now you’re on his actual team. Has it changed the amount of time you ride with Stewart, and what kind of influence has he been on you?JH: I stayed at his house for almost two weeks. We were out there training, but I haven’t really ridden with him too much more than before. But I’d say just being around him and being on his team and being involved with all the San Manuel people and Larry Brooks has definitely changed me a lot. I think it’s made me a better person and I’ve kind of come to realize what I need to be doing with my career and life and have that all working as one.PP: We’re sitting here before Anaheim 2, round 3. Your teammate James Stewart has a setback last week [bad crash, injury, 15th place finish seemingly riding in great pain], does that put more pressure on you? You upheld the team last week with a podium, but do James’ problems transfer pressure to you?
JH: No, it doesn’t really at all. The team expects the same things out of me. I’ve done the work and I can’t expect more out of myself that what I’m capable of. I think I’m capable of doing good, especially because of all the people who are hurt right now. I want to try to take advantage of it as best I can. I don’t really know James’ condition, I don’t think anybody really knows other than him. He might come out and not even skip a beat and just kill everybody again.PP: You got into a little trouble a few years back [off-track trouble with the AMA and the law]. Have you made any changes to your approach to your career of changes in your life that maybe show a new Josh?JH: I just wasn’t focused enough in ’08. I was goofing off and just kind of being a kid, not taking my job as seriously as I should have been. The biggest thing with me is I’ve changed my whole mentality on it. This is my job, this is what I want to do with my life. You have to have the fun when it’s time to have fun, not during the season. I’ve become a lot more focused to where I don’t even want to goof off because I feel like it will hurt my career.PP: In the very first practice of the season you looked like you were riding great. You were really charging and it wasn’t even a timed qualifying practice. Were you just feeling it or what was going through your mind for that first practice of the year?JH: I love my bike and every time I get on it I just want to get better. Every time I’m out on the track I’m trying to improve. When I’m doing that it’s fun every time, it’s a new challenge every day and there’s something new I can learn. I try to use that at the races, too. The way I look at the races is you’re on a perfectly prepped track that’s brand new. You never get to practice on something like that, so it’s fun to take advantage of it the most you can and have fun with it. Then you go out and race your race and you’re just going to have a better day.PP: As a supercross racer, what’s your greatest strength?JH: I feel like right now my corner speed is awesome, which I’ve never been able to really say. But I don’t think anyone really has anything on me in corner speed. The only thing I need to work on is being more consistent with it. I need to hone it to where I do the same thing and hit the same spot every single lap. Also the way I can get through the rhythm sections right now is pretty good.PP: Is there anything you want to tell us, and your competitors, about what your supercross weakness are?
JH: Starts. But I’ve been working really hard on those. We’re only two races in. I had a problem in the heat race at Anaheim I and had to go to the LCQ, but ever since then my starts have been pretty good.PP: What’s the goal for the season?JH: Top three. I want to be top three in the season. With all the injuries and problems people are having I think it’s a realistic goal.PP: Are you riding outdoors this year?JH: I don’t think so, but I don’t know.PP: Do you want to ride outdoors this year?JH: I don’t know. Right now I’m focused on the 17 round season we have. If in May Larry [Brooks] wants us to ride outdoors, then we’ll worry about that then, but I’m just worried about this now.PP: There is a lot of drama and some personal rivalries out on the track right now. Do you have any rivalries with any of your competitors?JH: No. I think of everybody the same. There are certain people that you get along with better after the race is over, but it’s just… You’re racing a dirt bike, you can’t let it get too personal. You just have to race and if somebody does something shady on the track you just have to remember that and be careful of it the next time. But if you carry grudges and make grudges, all it’s going to do is hurt you. I try not to make any enemies on the track because you never want to be racing a race looking over your shoulder.PP: It looks like it’s going to be a mud race at Anaheim 2. How do you feel about racing supercross in the mud?JH: I don’t like it. I would way rather it be dry but everybody has to race it. I grew up racing in mud in Washington and Oregon, so I’m not dreading it and I’m not stressing it. We’ll just deal with it when it gets here. If I wake up Saturday and it’s raining, then I’ll worry about it then.PP: As a fan, we look at the track and think, ‘how muddy does it have to be before these guys stop jumping the triples?’ How do you make that call?JH: It just depends. There are some days riding in the mud where it’s so fun and you want to jump stuff and you’re confident. And then there are some days where you’re riding with your feet down and you just don’t even want to be on the track. You just have to be loose and stay within your comfort zone. If someone starts jumping the triple before me then I’ll have to start to seriously consider it, or if I just feel like I can make it, I’ll just do it. Mud’s a weird thing, you never know in the mud. It’s so unpredictable. We’ll see.