BUCHANAN, Mich. (June 29) — Wil Hahn made it through one practice session in the first race of the 2011 season before wrecking his GEICO Honda CRF250R hard enough to break his back. It wasn’t exactly the debut he was hoping for with one of the top teams in the sport.
Half a year later, Hahn has returned, and he’s ready to show his team owners, sponsors, and fellow riders that he hasn’t lost his desire to win and dominate in professional motocross competition. He’ll take to the track for the first time this Saturday at the RedBud National, alongside teammates Kevin Windham, Eli Tomac, Justin Barcia, and Lance Vincent.
“It’s been a long six months,” Hahn said. “It’s tough to just sit there and watch everyone else have all the fun, but there wasn’t much I could do. You have to recover and heal, listen to what the doctors tell you, and just wait for your turn. Now it’s my turn.”
Despite the long layoff, Hahn, a runner-up in the 2010 Supercross Lites West standings, said he’s ready to contend for race titles beginning in RedBud.
“I feel as though I’m completely prepared,” he said. “Physically, I’m 100 percent healthy. I’ve been riding a lot and I feel good on the bike. My conditioning is good.
“I want to go after the win. In my mind I’ll be a contender the moment the gate drops. Besides, I’m pretty anxious to show these guys they made the right choice in hiring me.”
Coming off a season-best, third-place overall result at the last tour stop in his home state of Colorado, Tomac is anxious for another big weekend on his GEICO Honda CRF250R that will lift him higher than his current fourth-place ranking in the Lucas Oil AMA Motocross Championship Series.
“RedBud is actually my favorite track,” Tomac said. “Everyone thinks because I’m from Colorado that Thunder Valley would be my favorite place, and I definitely like it there because I’m in very familiar surroundings, but to me nothing beats RedBud. I love the fans there and the track is just awesome.
“I feel like I’m riding well right now but I have room to improve. I was a solid third in both motos in Denver and had to ride through some traffic to get up there, but (Dean) Wilson and (Blake) Baggett were just on it. I’ve got my work cut out for me to catch those two guys, but I can definitely improve.”
Also fourth in the points, 450cc pro Windham had so much fun in Denver that he immediately decided to race this weekend in Michigan. Windham is filling in for injured rider Trey Canard on the American Honda Racing team, a sister operation to the GEICO Honda group.
“It’s tough on the sponsors and the teams when you’re indecisive on whether you’re going to ride or not so I told everyone last weekend that I’d ride RedBud,” Windham said. “I’ve had good results at the last two races and I feel really strong and in shape. I’ve able to hold my own and not get tired so hopefully we can get a podium finish soon.
“I need to work on speed now but I’m mostly happy to be racing for all the fans out there. It gets harder to race every year at my age (33), but its also hard to stay away and miss out on this and the fans. Every time the gate drops and you’re not apart of it, it feels like you are missing a piece of yourself.”
Barcia has been steaming mad since his accident-plagued outing in the Mile High City and he’s anxious to put that memory behind him with a big weekend in Michigan on his 250cc Honda.
“I’ve been riding hard this week,” Barcia said. “I wasn’t happy with anything that happened last weekend. All I can do at this point is direct my energy to RedBud and fight for a podium finish. That’s really the only thing that’s going to make me feel better.”
Rookie Lance Vincent also will compete in RedBud, giving the team four 250cc riders.
“I rode up there with the top guys for a long time in Denver until my bike stopped working,” Vincent said. “It showed me I have the speed to run with anyone. My confidence is growing each race.”