MXA INTERVEIW: WIL HAHN TALKS HIS NEW ROLE AT STAR RACING
Always well liked by both the fans and his fellow competitors, Wil Hahn retired from racing at the end of 2016. During his nine years as a pro, Wil was able to win races, and the 2013 AMA East Coast 250 Supercross Championship. While injuries may have derailed his 450 successes, Hahn still had what it took, as the powerful Monster Energy Kawasaki squad signed him on, before finishing up his racing days in Australia. Now, after beginning his pro career with Star Racing Yamaha, Hahn is back as “Assistant Team Manager – before moving to team manager. We caught up with Wil to get his thoughts on the team’s 2018 season to date.
By JIM KIMBALL
WIL, CAN YOU TOUCH ON YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES WITH THE YAMALUBE STAR RACING TEAM? I am still Assistant Team Manager to Brad Hoffman throughout this year; I am getting more and more responsibilities, and learning the job title better. I do not officially become Team Manager until next year, which is probably a good thing because there is a lot of trial and error with it. I make mistakes learning the job, but they are patient with me, and teaching me the ways. I am getting more responsibilities, and it has been a really good experience.
I WOULD HAVE TO IMAGINE THAT YOU ARE REALLY BENEFICIAL WHEN IT COMES TO TESTING. Yes I feel that the knowledge I have with being a pretty recent professional, and being on multiple teams helps a lot. You are able to offer your opinion on past situations with how you handled them, or just the experience along the way. Brad has been doing this a really long time, so I am learning a lot. This is different from simply being a past rider for sure, and there is so much to it. Bike set-up and stuff like that is easy for me, but Brad knows quite a bit without even riding a bike. Just being around his knowledge, and everything that he does has been invaluable.
Yes, I feel that the knowledge I have with being a pretty recent professional, and being on multiple teams helps a lot.
I BET THAT YOU ARE BASICALLY WORKING NON-STOP. Oh, it is definitely that way. The funny thing is, there are really no days off. Even if I am at home on Sunday, my phone is on and there is still stuff that needs to get done for Monday, when we are normally right back at it, and at the track. It is pretty much around the clock, but that is great. It has been keeping me busy, and giving me a lot of happiness, especially when you see it all pay off, and seeing the riders happy. So much gratification comes out of that.
YOU STILL DO A DECENT AMOUNT OF RIDING DON’T YOU? Yes, I still ride a fair bit. I do some testing, especially if we do not want to interrupt the rider’s program. We can go through it first, and then get a better platform to hand off to them without having as many options. Maybe we can wean out a couple of things that are not relevant, did not work, or whatever. I don’t have to be doing lap after lap, or anything like that. If we can nail a couple of things down first, it makes the day go smoother for the riders.
DO YOU HAVE ANY DESIRE TO GO OUT AND RACE AN EVENT? It is always there in my mind a little bit; I would be lying if I said it wasn’t. There are certain days where I ride often, and there is a part of me that would love to get out there at a race. I know how good our bike is, from riding 250’s over the years. This is the best bike that I have ridden, so sure, there is a part of me that wants to do that. But also there is a big part of me that gets the same satisfaction out of seeing these guys win, or getting on the podium that I got from racing. I don’t have a void there that I need to fill anymore. I am totally happy with getting the results from the guys, and it gives me the same satisfaction.
THE 2018 SEASON TO DATE MUST BE BOTH DISSAPOINTING, AND GRATIFYING. JUSTIN COOPER GOT INJURED EARLY, BUT ON THE FLIPSIDE, AARON PLESSINGER IS A CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDER. Honestly it sucks for Justin, and we did not want that to happen. But it is a side of our sport that it is reality, although it does not make it any less painful at the time. Justin was riding very well and we were happy with his progress. We know that he has a strong mind, so he will come back just as good as he was if not better. Obviously, we have been doing really well with Aaron. Mitchell (Oldenburg) has been riding great, although at times he has just not shown it. Still he has been riding better and better every week, so it is definitely something that we are happy with. Aaron has really stepped up to the plate this year, and it’s been great to see him as one of “the guys”. He has really handled that role well. He met it head on, and he only wants to win.
THE 250 WEST COAST CHAMPIONSHIP LOOKS TO GO DOWN TO THE LAST RACE. I think it definitely will. Joey (Savatgy) has gotten second in the title the last two years by a very small margin. Joey wants to win it this time. Obviously, Shane (McElrath) won a lot of races last year, and has been looking strong. Then you have Christian Craig that has won a race. Adam (Cianciarulo) has won a bunch of races. Then you have Justin Hill who is the past champion. So you have got a handful of riders that could win it at any minute. I am sure I am leaving people out, but there are so many guys in the class right now that can do it. I think that minimizing your bad nights will be critical, and doing that is going to be the name of the game. Some nights if you have to take a third, you have to take a third, which is just going to be the way it is. Obviously, you want to win every time, but it is just about being smarter in the long run.
AS YOU MENTIONED, AARON HAS REALLY EMEREGED AS A CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDER. I think that he just matured a lot this off-season, and has been really productive with good testing, and good training. He developed a good base in the off-season. But I think the biggest thing is that he truly accepted the fact that he wants to win, and he is there to win. He has a goal, he believes it, and that is the bottom line that I see in him right now. It is that pure confidence day in, and day out that he wants to be the best.
WHAT DO YOU TELL HIM NOW WITH HAVING THE RED PLATE? I have told him over and over again that he is the type of guy that if he goes out there happy, he is going to ride good. You can see it in his face, and how he acts. You know he is going to ride good before he hits the track, and that is just an attitude and confidence that he brings. I told him that with the red plate, you have to race it. It is a privilege, and something that you have earned. It is not a fluke that you have it. You deserve it, and that is due to all those days in the off-season where it is hard, long days, and you are tired. That is why those days were there. You look back on that, and accept the fact that you have been working harder than the other guys. You deserve this thing (red plate) on your bike. It is not like you say, “oh I got it and hopefully I keep it.” Aaron has had that opportunity the last couple of years, but maybe a couple of pieces were missing. Now you can tell that he does everything right. He is eating right. He is training, and believing in it – that is the bottom line.
You can see it in his face, and how he acts. You know he is going to ride good before he hits the track, and that is just an attitude and confidence that he brings.
YOUR EAST COAST TEAM OF DYLANN FERRANDIS, AND COLT NICHOLS IS ALSO VERY STRONG. I have no doubt in Dylan and Colt, and they both had a great off-season. Obviously with Colt being injured it is not ideal, but he has done it before, and knows how to do this. He can apply himself, and do the right things off the bike to get him healed up as quickly as he can, which he has done. He is back riding now, looks comfortable, and he is happy. Dylan looks really good right now. He has made some changes to his program, and he is definitely is looking very strong right now; there is no doubt about that. I have no doubt about him going to the first race, and being one of the contenders along with Colt. They have so much self-belief in themselves, and I think that they are going to come out, and have a really good year.
I WAS VERY IMPRESSED WITH DYLAN AND HOW WELL HE DID IN HIS FIRST SEASON OF RACING IN AMERICA. Absolutely, and I think that is something that is often discounted, and looked over by even ourselves at times. Just thinking about how hard of a transition that would have to be. I went to Australia, and lived there for three months. Even with speaking the same language it was hard, so the fact that he is able to do that here with an entirely different language is huge. The food here is drastically different than he is used to. Now with figuring that out, and having another year under your belt that will make it easier, but I cannot imagine doing that. You are basically leaving your home (France), and it is definitely a different situation over here.
AFTER A COUPLE YEARS OF SOME INNER TEAM TURMOIL, IT APPEARS THAT ALL YOUR RIDERS GET ALONG WELL. I wasn’t around the team back then, so I cannot really say. But now there is never really a problem. Honestly, these guys all work together so well day in and day out that there has never been an issues with anyone not getting along.
LOOKING AT 2018 RIGHT NOW, IT SEEMS THAT THE YEAR COULD BE VERY GOOD FOR THE TEAM BOTH INDOORS, AND OUTDOORS. I think so too. It sure seems that way right now, and I think this could be very much a breakout year for all our riders. We have seen it so far for with Aaron, and I believe both Colt and Dylan have that opportunity too. Mitchell is going to be better and better, even more when he gets to know us, and spend more time here. We have Justin coming back riding Supercross, and then Outdoors. He is going to start and see more and more improvement, and we are going to get a lot out of that kid. I am really happy with the group of guys that we have right now.
AND JUST THINK WIL, YOU BEGAN YOUR PRO CAREER RACING FOR STAR YAMAHA! That this is something that is gratifying for me; that this was the first team that I ever rode for. It is exciting to come back here, and be with them again. It has been cool to see what they have done over the years, what they came from, and what they turned this team into – something that is really huge.