MXA INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: GEICO HONDA’S RJ HAMPSHIRE
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Back is 2014 Florida native RJ Hampshire won every Pro class at Loretta Lynn’s that he entered. Giving up on an aspiring College Baseball career, RJ refocused on motocross. As a member of the Geico Honda team, Hampshire even scored a few podiums in his rookie Pro debut in 2015. But then a late season crash at the 2015 Red Bull Straight Rhythm caused a very severe concussion that affected him significantly. Still, 2016 had some highlights. Now in 2017, RJ is back for redemption!
By Jim Kimball
RJ, LET’S HEAR ABOUT SUPERCROSS, IT HAS BEEN QUITE SOME TIME SINCE YOU RACED. Yes it has been a long time since I truly lined up for a race. In my off-season, I felt that I put in the work. I had my shoulder repaired right after outdoors, but I ended up having another crash, which set me behind. But as I said, I felt I had my work put in, and just settled in on getting things together. I knew coming into 2017 that I was ready for the 250 East Coast series. My goal was to battle for the podium, and then at the opener in Minneapolis we were in that position. We did not get a podium, but we were close. Unfortunately, I made a couple small mistakes in Atlanta, and finished farther back. I am just looking forward to building throughout the year. You know, my last couple years have been decent, but this year, I feel like it is my year to be on the box. So I just want to keep building every weekend, and that is what I am looking forward to.
I HAVE TO ASK YOU THIS, BECAUSE IT WAS SO SEVERE; ANY REPERCUSSIONS FROM THAT BAD CONCUSSION THAT YOU HAD A COUPLE YEARS AGO? Yes, it is tough to talk about, and it is a tough pill to swallow. I still struggle with my memory pretty bad, and sometimes, everything seems foggy to me. For a while I also started believing people that I was not going to come back from it. But yes, I feel good now. We did our homework in the off season. My head does not bother me while I am riding, and I do not have trouble with remembering the track or anything crazy like that – but its very tough. Injuries are going to happen in this sport, so I just try to get over them and then keep building. It is a good spot tonight to build off of, so I am happy about that.
THE GEICO HONDA TEAM IS BASED IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, IS THAT WHERE YOU HAVE BEEN FROM THE END OF LAST SEASON COMING INTO THIS SEASON? Honestly, my whole training program has kind of changed a little bit. I am down in Florida, now at Ryan Villopoto’s old place. I have been riding with some new guys. So it has been guys like Adam Cianciarulo, Chase Exton, Christian Craig, Jeremy Martin and myself. We have a good group. I also had this opportunity with Cross Fit Headquarters, and they have been a big part of my program, along with Reebok. It and has been a fun process and hopefully we can put it on the box for all of them. I am enjoying it down there.
YES, IT IS TOUGH TO TALK ABOUT, AND IT IS A TOUGH PILL TO SWALLOW. I STILL STRUGGLE WITH MY MEMORY PRETTY BAD, AND SOMETIMES, EVERYTHING SEEMS FOGGY TO ME. FOR A WHILE I ALSO STARTED BELIEVING PEOPLE THAT I WAS NOT GOING TO COME BACK FROM IT.
YOU HAVE BEEN WITH GEICO HONDA NOW FOR A COUPLE OF YEARS. HAS MUCH CHANGED WITH THE TEAM DYNAMICS? I feel like we have the hardest working team in the pits. Some nights we might struggle, and we may be struggling now. But they are doing everything possible to get us out of this. Our bikes are good, I feel like things are clicking, and it is just on us riders. We do not really know how to set the equipment up right now, and we just keep building. We have a whole new bike coming next year, so we will make the best out of it this year, and try to get on the box. Hopefully we bring the team a couple of wins, that is the goal. You know, they work their butt’s off for us, so we need to put in some results.
YOUR TEAMMATE, CHRISTIAN CRAIG, DID AWESOME LAST YEAR IN SUPERCROSS, AND COMING INTO 2017 MUCH OF THE TEAM HYPE HAS BEEN AROUND HIM, AND NOT YOURSELF. IS THAT GOOD OR BAD? I am just here to do my job. During the weeks, you don’t see me posting ridiculous stuff or bragging about anything, or really saying anything at all. I am here to race, and that is what we do. We show up and try to do the best we can. If the best we can achieve is 10th that night, then that is all I had. If it is on the box, great, but it is this way every week. It is not a long series, but we have nine races to get there. Like I said, I have not really gotten any press, so it is pretty much under the radar for me. We struggled a little bit, so it is going to take a little bit to get back on top, but I am looking forward to the process.
RJ, YOU BEGAN THE SERIES WITH A GREAT FINISH, ARE FEELING GOOD ABOUT THE REST OF THE SERIES? Yeah, for sure, I feel good. We all go through our own struggles, all of us riders do, and I have been struggling pretty badly since that concussion. It is good to get out of here in round one with a fourth, and I look forward to next weekend. Then Toronto and then, Daytona. Daytona is my favorite and I cannot wait to get the season going.