Catching Up with Josh Herrin at Catalunya | Exclusive Interview
Catching up with Josh Herrin
Our GP Correspondent checked in with Air Asia Caterham Moto2 rider Josh Herrin Friday just ahead of the Catalunya GP.
The 2013 AMA Superbike Champion has had a rough start to his rookie year. After six rounds, he has only finished one race. He was forced to miss the other rounds due to multiple crashes.
Herrin – the only American in 2014 Moto2 – filled us in on what he is experiencing not only as a rookie tasked with learning the World Championship ropes, but also the stress of adjusting to the constant travel and being away from his family for the first time, with whom the 24-year old is very close.
Josh Herrin Interview
UMC: How did the opportunity for a Moto2 ride come about?
Herrin: “We were looking. Bob Moore is my manager and he has been coming to races in Europe every year for a few years, so we’ve always been trying to find someone to ride with over here. At the end of 2012, we thought we had something but decided to stay in the US, which ended up being a good decision I think because I hadn’t won a Superbike race yet.”
UMC: Did you consider going through the CEV (Spanish championship) first? That seems to be the usual route riders take to enter into the World level.
Herrin: “No, I never did but it might have been easier in terms of getting to know the bike and the tracks and less pressure. But this was the way it worked out, no one regrets it but it’s been tough for sure. I’m the only person I know of who jumped straight into Moto2 with no experience in at the World level at all.”
UMC: Have you been testing on the bike?
Herrin: “We haven’t been doing any testing, we had one test after the season started but that’s it. A couple teams tested at Mugello, but we didn’t have anything to test so we didn’t ride there. When I go home I ride supermoto and that’s about it.”
UMC: Talk about how this type of bike differs from the kind of bike you rode in the AMA.
Herrin: “It’s different, but it’s hard to say why they are different. They’re a little bit slower than the Yamaha R6s we raced in the AMA, but we have better brakes and instead of just stock forks with internal suspension we have full WP suspension. It handles really good, it’s a lot lighter–which is cool–and the transitions are quicker. The (Suter) chassis flexes a lot more but it’s also the only race purpose bike that I’ve ever ridden compared to a production bike. So that’s why it’s hard for me to say what’s different because it really is a completely different bike except the motor.”
UMC: And the tires, how do they differ from national level race tires?
Herrin: “The tires are basically the same. Not the exact compounds but similar, so when I started testing on the bike that made it easier in that I didn’t have to adjust to different tires.”
UMC: Tell me how the electronics differ from what you used in the AMA.
Herrin: “In the AMA we had a full Magneti Marelli system and quite a bit of other stuff; We used the traction control and launch control and engine braking. Here, we don’t have as much as a Superbike. The strangest thing for me is not having traction control – which is fine – but it’s just weird because I’m used to the little popping and knowing that it saves you. Luckily I haven’t had any highsides on this bike, but it’s just different. We can mess with the engine braking and the idle and stuff like that but the data is mostly to read and compare.”
UMC: What else is different about this kind of bike?
Herrin: “One of the biggest problems I’ve had is the way that fairing is, or maybe it’s the way I sit on the bike, but the windscreen hits my visor every time I go into a corner. Like when I’m on the brakes going into a corner it hits my face! So that’s been a pain. We tried shaving the fairing down, but it was the way I was riding. I’ve had to move my head out a lot more to avoid the fairing. I still hit it sometimes but not as bad as before, I had big scratches across my visor before! I have to think about avoiding the fairing when I’m riding, though whenever I get into race mode, I run into it sometimes. “
UMC: Talk about the level of talent at the World level vs the US national level.
Herrin: “There are 33 or 34 riders on the grid, but it’s just so close! I can be one and a half seconds off pole and that’s like 23rd or 24th position. That’s one of the hardest things because I’m not used to that. I could be a second off of pole in the AMA and still be in the top 5 or 6. On the 600, a second off pole would be ninth or tenth sometimes – but it was still the third row. So that’s definitely a lot harder.”
UMC: So the pool of talent is deep.
Herrin: “There are guys all the way back to 20th place who have won a World Championship race! And almost all of them, with the exception of maybe Sam Lowes, have been coming to these tracks for years. But even Lowes has been to a lot of these tracks, a lot more than I have anyway!
“I think the biggest thing is the track knowledge. It’s so hard because I’ll learn the track in the first session obviously, but I feel like I’m always fighting one session behind. I’m within 2 seconds in the first session, but then something doesn’t click after that. Like I’ll get to the spot I’m aiming for, but then still feel behind in the next session, then I’ll get to the race and feel confident but then each race has been terrible. I should be in the top 20 or 15 every race. But we haven’t really gotten to do anything, except in France, the only race I finished.”
UMC: Tell me about the crashes, you’ve had three thus far…
Herrin: “In Qatar, I got taken out. The next race in Texas, I ended up causing that crash. Then I missed the next two (due to a broken collarbone). I finished the race at Le Mans and then in the last race, which was Mugello, I got really frustrated because I got stuck behind someone I couldn’t get around. He kept wobbling in front of me so I had to let off the gas to avoid him, then four guys would go by me. When I crashed, I think I was in position 21 or 22 at the beginning of the lap and then the last turn I was like fourth from last and was just so mad. I knew I was good in the last corner, so I tried to pass people on the outside and went in too hot and crashed.”
UMC: And then you were injured in training.
Herrin: “Yeah that was terrible. I broke my collarbone and the bummer is that no one had been to Argentina, and the one track I tested at was Jerez, so those were the only two tracks I had any sort of a jump start one, and those are two the races I missed! No one had any advantage at Argentina other than Tito Rabat who tested there – so that did indeed suck. I’ve only ever missed three races since I started in the AMA, and these were two of them.
UMC: How is the World Championship different than what you anticipated?
Herrin: “For sure I haven’t met any of the expectations I had. We did a lot better in testing than I’ve been doing in the races, but I was also getting 150 laps at a track and now it’s like you have 45 minutes to try to be up there. Obviously I’d like to be doing better but for now the goal is qualify top 20 and see what happens in the race. I know I’m usually better in the race, but I have to be at least top 20 at the start so that I’m not with all the guys at the back who are block passing every corner. Which I do too—you have to in order to make through every corner without losing two spots, but it’s just frustrating.”
“I wanted to be in the top ten–that’s what I thought was reachable, and I know I can finish there. But I don’t know if it’s learning the tracks or what it is. At first maybe it was the travel, because I was really hating the travel, but now I’ve gotten used to it and it’s been fun. Teesha (his fiancée) goes with me to all the races so that makes it easier.”
“But it’s still a really big change for me. This will be first race where I’ll stay in Europe in between the rounds, so maybe my body will be more prepared, though I didn’t feel travel was affecting me before but it’s possible that it was, so I’ll be able to tell by staying in Europe.”
UMC: Where are you living now?
Herrin: “Georgia. Well we have been going back after each round so far. But this race we are going to stay out here for a couple more weeks, until Indianapolis.”
UMC: How do you like Europe?
Herrin: “It was tough at the beginning, that’s why I was going back to Georgia between the races – I just missed home too much. But now it’s gotten a little bit better and we are going to hang out with some people out here so that helps.
UMC: Would you ever entertain the idea of living over here during the season?
Herrin: “Yeah I thought about it. I don’t even know what the hardest part of that would be – my brothers are a lot younger than me I feel like I’m a lot closer to them than maybe most brothers are. I would like live here, but it would take a lot of them coming to visit me.”
“We have a friend moving to Spain for the military just North of Jerez, so we might get an apartment with him out there. Though by the time he moves there it will be August and then there will only be four rounds left in Europe before the season ends. It would still be nice to do for testing and next year, we could be home from November to March and then be in Europe the rest of the time.”
Teesha: “This is Josh’s going away to college stage.”
Herrin: “This is change for me. Everything is different and stressful. It’s a big change. I’m used to be right in my backyard all the time. I’ve only ever been out of the country two or three times before this and now I’m living out of a suitcase.”
UMC: Have you talked to any of the American riders who are in or who have been in the World Championship?
Herrin: “I talked to Colin Edwards in Texas a little bit, but I haven’t really seen him or Nicky [Hayden] at all since we’ve been racing. Colin told me to have fun with it and make it an experience. Which we do, we have fun traveling it’s just stressful that I’m not doing well.”
UMC: Do you fraternize with your teammate Johann Zarco at all or is your box more like two different teams competing against each other.
Herrin: “The team is open, we all help each other. They share information with us. We’ll look at their data but it’s hard to compare data when you are 1.5 or 2 seconds off their pace. In testing when I was closer, it was really helpful then, but so far at any of the races we are too far off.”
UMC: What are you long term goals?
Herrin: “Right now they are to do a couple years in Moto2 and then hopefully slot into a spot that an American in MotoGP is leaving. We need Americans in MotoGP!”