Moto2: Josh Herrin - Q&A

"To be able to say I'm the only American in the series is really cool. I know I have a lot of people supporting me so I think it's more of a cool thing than something to feel pressured by" - Josh Herrin
Herrin, Moto2/3 tests, Jerez, November 2013
Herrin, Moto2/3 tests, Jerez, November 2013
© Gold and Goose

2013 proved to be quite a year for Josh Herrin.

Few predicted that he would overcome team-mate Josh Hayes, 15 years his elder, in the AMA Superbike series at the start of the year but the 23-year old secured the championship with an assured second place at the final round at Laguna Seca.

His reward was a call up to Moto2 to compete in Tony Fernandes' new Caterham project. Herrin will compete alongside Frenchman Johann Zarco on a Suter chassis for 2014 and already has two successful tests with the team under his belt. spoke with Herrin about winning his first national championship after eight years of trying, carrying American hopes on the world stage and much more...
So Josh, you're currently living in Georgia. Where did you originally grow up?

Josh Herrin:
I'm from California but my family moved to Georgia when I was 13. I enjoy it here because when we go out to the races we have fun, there's lots of stuff to do when we're on the road. We come back to Georgia when it's finished. It's a small town and everyone's really nice. There's no traffic and you can go to the movies without having to get a ticket the week before.
Your dad was a fairly handy racer, is that how you got into it?

Josh Herrin:
Yeah, he raced out in California and did a few AMA races. He was always doing it on his own. He was quick enough to be a top-15 AMA Superbike rider back when Nicky Hayden and Ben Bostrom were in the class. He was into motorcycles and he got me into it. It's always been a family thing and we'd always go out to deserts on our dirt bikes together. When we realised that I liked riding we ended up buying some minibikes for me to ride and it started from there.
You spent a lot of your childhood riding on asphalt? Were you ever a dirt tracker when you were younger?

Josh Herrin:
When I was four I got a PW50 and we took it out on the dirt a few times. Then when I turned five we went out to parking lots with cones. Here you have to be eight years old so when I was seven we lied that I was eight so we could ride on some tracks. I started racing then and I always raced on asphalt, I never raced a dirt bike or a flat track bike until I was 16.

I didn't really realise motorcycle racing was a big thing until I was twelve when we went to see my dad race in the AMA. I rode on the street because it was what my dad did and what the family did.
I have to offer some belated congratulations on your recent AMA Championship. Now that you've had two months to reflect on it has it sunk in?

Josh Herrin:
Yeah. Winning the championship was really cool but to be honest I've been wanting to race in GPs since I was 14. So to get to go over there [Europe] was more of an accomplishment for me even though I've been trying to win the championship for a few years. That's what everyone dreams of more than winning in AMA.
Your main competition came in the form of reigning champion and team-mate Josh Hayes. He won six out of seven races in the middle of the season. Do you feel there was a turning point when the momentum was finally with you?

Josh Herrin:
I'd say it was at Miller Motorsports Park. That was the first race that I won which I earned. It wasn't like he [Hayes] made a mistake. It was a battle all the way through and that was where I finally realised that I could actually win a race. I started trying a lot harder and I believed in myself more after that.
You won the Daytona 200 in 2010 when you were just 19 years old. Would you rank the AMA Superbike title alongside that achievement?

Josh Herrin:
Well the 200 is unique because it's like winning a championship, I think. It's such a long race and so many things can go wrong. That was a really huge deal for me just because in America it's something you want to win. I think that was my first year doing it and I consider myself the youngest to win it on the asphalt.
When you're fighting your team-mate for the title do you find the dynamic within the team changes at all?

Josh Herrin:
Yeah, probably because I think the R1 is the best bike and has been the bike to have for the past two years. To know that you're on a bike that's definitely capable of winning, you know Josh [Hayes] had already won on it so there were no excuses. He was definitely the first guy you wanted to beat.
After you won the championship in Laguna Seca you announced you were going to Moto2 with the new Caterham team. How did that come about?

Josh Herrin:
My manager had been trying to get me over there for a few years. I'm not sure who found who first but I got a call from my manager Bob [Moore - personal manager] at Mid Ohio when he talked to the team. I was at nervous at first because they were new and Caterham had never gone motorcycle racing before but then I saw they had good guys working on it and good backing.

When I met 'Stiggy' [Johan Stigefelt - Caterham's team manager] and all the guys that are part of the team for the first time I realised it would have been a big mistake not to take that offer. To hear whom the guys had worked for before was really neat because you know you're in the right hands and everyone has a lot of knowledge.

When you have a crew chief or a mechanic that doesn't have a lot of experience you can sometimes count yourself out because you think you don't have exactly what you need. But the team are providing us with everything we need to be competitive so I'm happy and it should be a really good year.
Had you ridden a GP bike before your first test with the Caterham in Jerez?

Josh Herrin:
No and it was a lot different than I thought it was going to be. I was expecting it to be kind of similar to an R6 but it definitely wasn't! To me it was just like a 250 with a 600 motor in it with bigger, better tyres.
Judging by the team's press release that was sent out after Almeria it seemed both you and Zarco were more than happy with how things went.

Josh Herrin:
I think the first test went really well. But for me it was the first time riding a bike like that, it was the first time working with the team. Even though I had a good relationship and felt comfortable with them it was still a big change going to a new team. They still need to learn how I work and I need to learn how they do.

It was a new experience all round and a big change for me. I'd say the first test went well; I got to learn all those things. The times weren't that great but we weren't there to post good lap times. We had a lot of eyes looking at us because it was a new thing and some people maybe expected big things from me but I took it easy, as I wanted to learn everything. The second test at Almeria was a lot better.
Scott Redding and Pol Espargaro may have graduated to MotoGP but, if anything, the quality of field has improved for '14. Did anyone impress you out on track?

Josh Herrin:
I didn't really get to ride with anybody. I believe guys like Tom Luthi are going to do good as they've already been there for a long time. He's one of the only guys I rode with along with Zarco. I rode with him for a few laps and he'll do really well. He'll be the first guy that I want to beat. I think we're capable of it but it will just take some time to learn the tracks. Some we might struggle with, some we might do well at.

I've watched every race for the past two years, as it's been something I've always wanted to do. I'm a big Scott Redding fan; I was always rooting for him. [This year] he had a lot of bad luck, which sucked.
As you said the Suter worked brilliantly at some tracks in 2013 but was clearly inferior to the Kalexes at others. Have they made many changes with the new chassis?

Josh Herrin:
I think there are a lot of positive changes to it. The bike I was riding was actually an older bike because the team didn't have all the new equipment yet. Zarco tested the '14 [chassis] because he had a lot of experience on the '13 and it was important to get his feedback but I just stuck with the one I was riding so I could get enough track time and not worry about new things. We could just focus on learning one bike first.

Hopefully we [Zarco and I] are able to share some things with each other. I wasn't helping him at the tests as I was obviously learning everything but I'm sure down the road if we're at a track and he needs help with something I'd definitely help. But it's good to gauge where I'm at against him, as I know he'll be a top five guy.
So will your expectations for the year ahead be based on how close you are to your team-mate?

Josh Herrin:
For testing the goal is to get as close to him as we can. But I'm a racer. For the past six or seven years I always find a second or more if I need to [for the race]. Last year a lot of times in practice and qualifying I'd be two seconds off Hayes and when the green flag dropped I'm right with him.

For me I choose the moments that I push. I don't go out in practice and try my hardest. There's nothing really to gain. It'll be kind of hard to see where we'll be until the first race, and even then we'll be at a new track, which will be difficult.
You really cut your teeth in America racing 600s and did so for six years. Do you feel that'll give you an advantage?

Josh Herrin:
I'd like to say so. I few people have asked me that and I think it might because I know the characteristics of a 600. It's obviously not the same bike but it's still a 600 and I'll know some of the things it can do and how they act at the end of a race. As soon as you get three or four tests under your belt you know most of the stuff [about the bike]. But at the same time, I jumped on to the Superbike last year and there are still things I'm learning on that. I think in a way the experience will pay off maybe towards the end of a race.
You've tested at Jerez which the series visits early next year. Do you have experience at any of the other MotoGP tracks?

Josh Herrin:
I raced at Valencia when I was 13 but we'll test there again. It was a World Mini Grand Prix series and there was a world championship race that they had. It was only one race there but there were riders from all round the world and they did one race at that track.

I'm going to try to do as many track days [at other tracks] as I can before the races too. Obviously you can't ride your Moto2 bike but if you're there ahead of time you can do it on a production bike.
I read an interview with you earlier this year and you said you felt your training regime could be improved. Have you adapted it for the offseason?

Josh Herrin:
It's a lot different. Being at the tests limited what I could do because I didn't have my bicycle with me. That's the main thing I do. I have a trainer over here in the States who has a lot of experience and knows what he's doing. I also try to be on a motorcycle as much as I can and go to the gym.

I found out this year that talent could only get you so far. I wasn't training before and I was still able to win Pro races but when I got on the Superbike I had the pace but I wasn't able to stay there the whole race. I never really reached my full potential fitness wise when I was on the Superbike but next year should be really good for us.
Will you move to Europe in the new year?

Josh Herrin:
I'm not sure where I'm going to move. It's still up in the air. We're trying to find a place and we're talking with a lot of people. We have some time to decide but I think it'll be a place where we have some friends so there'll be fun things to do and training partners, stuff like that.
The AMA series is reeling somewhat after the withdrawal of the Jordan Motorsports team and some have been critical of the management of the series in recent years. What are your views on the current state of the paddock?

Josh Herrin:
I think they're just trying to find their way. They haven't found the right formula yet and when they do it's going to be a great series like some people thought it was before. There's a lot of talent there but because of word of mouth people put it down that shouldn't be doing that. Especially Americans that are racing in it and it gives us a bad name.

It only takes one person who has experienced racing on the world scene that has a lot of followers. It spreads through word of mouth and makes the series look worse and worse. I think it's a great series and we just need to get more people to the races, more people watching and find the right formula. When we do that it'll be what it used to be like and probably better. There are a lot of great people who work at the AMA and with the series.

As far as teams go there are a lot of smart people and I think it could be really cool. I'll be trying to help as much as I can. Hopefully we can get some good results and some more people watching the AMA.
It seems a lot of American riders are hoping you succeed so more world championship teams look to the AMA for rider recruitment. Do you feel this could be the start of that?

Josh Herrin:
I'd like to say that will happen. If we can get good results people will start looking at riders over here. It's a shame that they haven't already because there's a lot of talent. Spies had some bad luck but he proved that he was a contender for the wins at times.
And does this bring any added pressure?

Josh Herrin:
Maybe a little but I'm thinking of it as a fun experience. To be able to say I'm the only American in the series is really cool. I know I have a lot of people supporting me so I think it's more of a cool thing than something to feel pressured by.

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