In the 1980s and 1990s, American Honda took a rural plot of land in Simi Valley, California, and created the most well-known, yet fully private test tracks in motocross history. Everyone had heard of “Honda Land,” but few had every stepped foot on the property without invitation or by essentially trespassing. It was there that the Japanese engineers and racing superstars, including Rick Johnson, Jean-Michel Bayle, Rick Stanton, and Jeremy McGrath, worked side-by-side to build some of the most revolutionary “production” bikes to squeeze under regulations of the AMA rule book. The track is now long-gone and just the a topic of bench racing discussions, but while at Pala this Thursday, we felt like we were having flashbacks to the old days. Sure, the San Diego County course was open to the public, but only four professional riders, all Honda-backed, were taking to the gigantic Pro track. While we were there, we snapped photos of GEICO Honda’s Wil Hahn and Justin Bogle, TLD/Lucas Oil/Honda’s Jessy Nelson and Cole Seely, and grabbed interviews with both Seely and Hahn.
Honda Land 2.0 Gallery – Seely, Hahn, Nelson, Bogle
TLD/Lucas Oil/Honda’s Cole Seely Feels Right At Home
After missing last year’s Nationals due to an injury he suffered in the latter part of the Supercross season, Cole Seely is working to regain the skills needed to run at the front. Although the Troy Lee Desigs/Lucas Oil/Honda racer is known more for his prowess in the rhythm lanes of indoor racing, he has has numerous flashes of speed this summer aboard his CRF250R.
We are two-thirds of the way through this year's Nationals. How do you feel your season has gone?
It's been better in the last four or five rounds. The first four were a little tough for me, I was trying to get adjusted to the outdoors again because I didn't race last year, so getting back in the swing of things was a little different for me. I've kept working hard and practicing and things are starting to turn around for me now. I've put in some decent races at Southwick and at RedBud, but Washougal was a little tough for me because I didn't flow too well around that track. I'm looking forward to Millville this weekend.
Does it feel like you have to relearn the tracks because it has been so long since you last raced them?
Yeah, but not because it has been so long. The tracks, like RedBud for instance, the layouts are different and Muddy Creek was a brand new track. It's just that the tracks tend to change whether I have done them every year or skipped a year. Every year you have to adapt, but it has been a little bigger of an adaption for me since missing last year.
The weather has been much cooler than in years past. At Washougal, it wasn't too hot when the sun came out in the second moto, and this weekend at Millville is supposed to be in the low 70s. Does that make it easier for you as a racer?
Yeah, especially being out here in Southern California during the summer. Living in Canyon Hills, it is typically 105 during the day, so going to a track like Washington or this weekend will feel like air conditioning to me. I was mostly surprised by RedBud; I love the track but the weather is what I dread there. I was pumped to get there and it be 80 degrees with a little bit of humidity. The weather this year has been much better than say, 2010, when it was on of the worst for the outdoor series.
How do you feel on the 250? There was talk that you would jump up to the 450, but when it came time to race you stayed on this bike.
I was up in the air for 2014, whether I was going to go up to the 450 or stay with my current team. But once the idea to stay with Troy Lee Designs for 2014, we decided that it made sense to do the 250 again. I did a lot of testing on the 450 and love the bike, but it made more sense to stay on the 250 and leave it up in the air for next year if I will race a 250 or 450. I am excited ride the 2014 chassis with it being the same as the 450 this year.
Will how you feel on that bike sway where you go?
It depends on how I feel, really. In Supercross I fit the 450 better, just because I ride with a lot of finesse and not over my head. When I filled in at Factory Honda (in 2012), I think I showed a lot of speed. I'm excited to move up to the 450, but I still feel like I have work to do in the 250 class.
What do you think of the field this year?
It has been interesting. Coming in, you never know with the new amateur kids coming up and their hype, but there are still big hitters like Tomac, Roczen, and Musquin. I was still surprised by Martin and Webb, because they stepped it up in the first few rounds, but I think they are getting drained by it being their first full season. I think it is cool to see the new guys coming up because they are cool kids and they deserve what they have.
What are you expectations for these last four rounds?
I've obviously never raced Salt Lake and I didn't get the chance to race Elsinore last year, but I am excited for Millville this weekend and New York is always a good one. It is crazy that we are already coming to the end, because it feels like we just started a week ago. I'm excited to get a little off time and rest up a little bit and do testing for the Supercross series.
Does knowing that you have a contract for next year take stress off you in these last rounds?
Yes and no. I still have to perform and I don't want to let anyone down, as well as myself, but it is nice knowing that I have something. This is going to be my fifth year on the team and it is cool knowing that, but I don't want to let them down. I still put a lot of pressure on myself even though I have something put together.
What is it like to be on this team? With Troy's racing heritage and the general vibe, it seems like the perfect fit for your personality. Is that what draws you back?
For me it is more about environment than it is making the most money or riding the fastest bike. The bikes are really good, and with our new engine and suspension packages, I think they are the best. It is a good environment for me and it was my dream to get on the team in 2010. It was what I wanted and pushed for, and I showed (David) Pingree (former team manager) that I could do it. I feel like every since then we have grown. I got my first podium on the team and then the following year I got our first win, so I feel like as I grow, the team grows. We are both at the same levels in our status, and I feel like it is fitting. I have been with my mechanic for four and a half years now and we work really well together. It is really cool to have a home here.
Coming Back With Wil Hahn
Wil Hahn may have missed the opening portion of this year’s Nationals with a hand injury, but that did not stop the GEICO Honda racer and newly crowned 250 East Coast Supercross champion from jumping in with both feet. In his return at Budds Creek, Hahn managed to nab both holeshots on the day and continued to do so in the following rounds, but it’s been difficult to copy the fifth and sixth place scores he claimed that day in Maryland. With eight motos left in 2013, Hahn has enough time to build momentum he will carry into his rookie 450 season.
Now that we are two-thirds of the way through the Nationals, how do you feel it has gone? Granted, you didn't get to ride the first rounds because of injury.
I think the holeshot part of it has been great, but my results have been up and down. With starts like that, I should be putting myself in podium contention or the top-five. I wouldn't say that I am bummed about the season, but it's not been as strong as I'd like it to be. I am still making improvements and learning along the way, but it is a patience game and it's tough to be patient.
But having a championship for the year already probably makes it a little easier…
Yeah and no, because it builds expectations that you didn't have before. It is something that I am learning with and be patient with the results.
Are you surprised with how the field is this year?
Not at all, because it was so tough last year and I knew it would be this year. From first to 15th is a tough deal right now.
Knowing how you ran in Supercross, if you could have jumped into the Nationals without the injury, how do you think you would be ranked?
That's tough to say, because I don't want to speculate that I'd be any better or different, but racing every weekend at that pace puts you in a groove that is hard to mimic when you jump in halfway through. But I do think that I would be in the top-five.
Does having a deal lined up for next year take some pressure off you in these last rounds?
It takes a bit of pressure of, but at the same time you want to show everyone that you have earned that position. Not that my Supercross season didn't, but you want to continue to build off of that and get the results for these guys because they have faith in you.
When we talked a few weeks, you said that for next year you'll have to ride the 450 indoors but could go back to the 250 for outdoors. As of right now, what do you feel you would do?
I am open to anything, but my heart is telling me to ride the 450 outdoors. We will make that decision when the time is necessary, and the team and I will make that call.
Do you think that having a full year on the same bike, instead of jumping from one that has plenty of development on it to an all-new bike, will be an advantage?
Not necessarily, just because the new chassis is so similar to the 450 that it would be an easy transition either way. And by that time, they will have both bikes dialed in, so it is something that would hinder me.
Have you gotten any time on the new 250 yet and is there a chance the team could race it before the end of the year?
Yeah, actually I did the intro on it. I can't wait to ride it because it feels so similar to the 450 chassis in turning and they made a lot of improvements to the motor. I don't know if we will have it before the end of the year, I think that is up to Honda, but I'd ride it at Elsinore if we could.
Now that your deal is locked in for next year, do you have the details like gear and boots figured out? Will you still be matching the rest of the team in Alias gear or will it be like Kevin's deal, where he could have his own gear, boots, and helmet?
As of right now, I am in Alias for casual and gear and I will be in it next year, but as far as my other deals, no, I haven't signed on with anyone. I am available to do boots, helmet, and goggles, but I haven't finalized everything yet.
Will you be under the Muscle Milk banner again?
Yeah, I'll be with Muscle Milk again and keep the relationship going with those guys.
Next year you'll be one of a handful of guys stepping up into an already stacked field. What do you set yourself up for?
I set myself up to learn, have an open mind, and be there every weekend. I can't learn if I am not there, so I plan on doing my best to stay healthy through those first 17 rounds and take it weekend by weekend. We only get two weekends off in those weeks, so I have to be on my toes and be smart. I'd love to be a top-10 guy at the end of the year, but I want to learn and be better every weekend.
What do you do in these last four rounds? Do you go out there and pin it, or do you play it safe?
Just do what I have been doing; go out there and try to get starts and run up front as long as I can.
Millville and Unadilla are pretty standard, and you have a year at Elsinore already, but Utah is unknown. Do you enter them all the same way?
Even though Salt Lake is different, you know the routine and have to attack it head on to make the best out of it.
Does having the weather being much cooler this year help?
It has been cooler, still a little hot, but it hasn't been that hot here. I think it is one of those things that everyone adapts to and the heat as always favored me. I have never been one to bonk in the heat, so I have always been for the hotter days because I can pull through.
What about the shorter intermissions between motos?
That has been a tough transition, I'll say that for sure. When you come off of the track, the 450s are already on the gate, so you only have a little time to get undressed, wash off, get some food, and get back out there. We are all in shape and are doing our thing, but that is not a lot of time.