Aussie recalls epic Suzuka 8 Hours podium with TSR Honda.
F.C.C. TSR Honda’s Josh Hook firmly established himself as an international talent on his way to second in the 2015 Suzuka 8 Hours on Sunday, partnering Moto2 regular Dominique Aegerter and reserve rider Kyle Smith in the iconic Japanese race. Currently fourth in the Japanese Superbike series as a regular on board the TSR CBR1000RR, Hook’s year to date has been all about getting a strong result at the 8 Hour, which will go a long way to getting him on the world stage moving forward. CycleOnline.com.au contacted the 22-year-old from Taree today to get the lowdown on his performance and his expectations for the future.
Congratulations on the podium at Suzuka, obviously a big result for you and your career. How’s it feel?
Yeah, obviously it’s a very good result for myself and my career. I think it definitely paid dividends for my future in motorcycle racing and it’s one of the best results I’ve had to date, so I’m really happy about that and just over the moon really. The excitement’s sort of just settling in now and now it’s all finished and done, I’m really excited – I don’t know what to say.
You’ve raced the 8 Hour before but never on the machinery you had this year or with the TSR team. This year you’ve been based in Japan and there’s been a lot of effort in the lead-up, so has that been all about a good result at the 8 Hour? It must feel like it’s all paying off in some ways.
For sure. Before I even signed the contract with F.C.C. TSR Honda they let me know quite heavily that the 8-Hour is their goal for 2015 and JSB is just for me to learn the bike and tyres, get to know the team, so leading into the 8-Hour we’d have a really strong package and a good relationship. That was their goal and it’s definitely paid off because to come out of the 8-Hour with a podium finish is unbelievable. It’s not just that I haven’t been on the right machinery in the past, the bike is really good, but it’s the whole team and everyone there. The whole package is just so professional and everything works well together – the tyres, the brakes, the chassis and TSR are amazing at what they do. They’re ready to go when they need to, they know exactly what to do and when to do it. That decision making and strategy is what makes them professionals and that’s the reason we got on the podium. That’s what I’ve been missing in the past, I suppose. I had strong teammates too, which is really good. In testing we didn’t seem to go that fast because we spent a lot of time on the race tyre trying to develop that with the bike, even in free practice and qualifying we didn’t go that fast, but come the race it seemed as though all the teams were back on the race tyre and that’s when we really shined [laughs]. I’m pretty stoked about that.
You and Aegerter did the riding throughout the race and Kyle Smith was in the team as well. It looked like you guys formed a good relationship in the lead-up to the race and that really played a pretty big role in the race – everything looked seamless.
The last thing you want in a team is a shithouse relationship with your teammate, because that doesn’t make it easy for anyone. Dominique came over to Japan for the test and he stayed for about three weeks with me. So did Kyle. We got to know eachother really well, being three young guys and we’re all racers, we all want to win and share the same interests. We got on like a bloody house on fire! In that respective it’s really good and we ride the bike similar too, so we could both find a happy medium with the set-up and everyone’s happy. The develop a good relationship played a big part and was a massive help when the race came around.
How’s the reaction been? With the race being live on television on Eurosport Australia and overseas as well, the name Josh Hook’s now pretty familiar in people’s minds at the moment and you were really impressive across the course of the race.
Yeah, I actually didn’t even know that it was on Eurosport until that night or whatever [laughs]. It was really good, a lot of people have been on social media and there’s a lot of talk about mine and the team’s effort. I’m stoked because for me it’s what I needed. I had a lot of pressure from Honda and TSR coming in, needing a good result. I accepted that if we didn’t get a good result my career wouldn’t be going in an uphill spiral anytime soon! The pressure was a fair bit, but I accepted that and did what I had to do, so it’s paid off. We worked hard, trained hard in the previous months, so it’s all going good and to stand up on that podium with a lot of world class riders – Pol Espargaro, Bradley Smith, Dominique, Kyle – they all race world championships and it’s definitely good for me. I don’t really know what to say about it at this stage, we will see what happens, but I’m sure something good’s got to come about [laughs].
You were fast in the early stages, had a good battle with Bradley Smith and you were really good through the traffic as well, but then you were consistent when you had to be at the end as well. Was there any specific target set out by the team in terms of strategy?
At the start of the race our strategy was seven stops, so I was supposed to finish the race and Dominique started. We both would have got four stints each. But it turned out that HARC PRO crashed, Yoshimura fell back with dramas, and Yamaha did a long stint at first. Two stints in our strategy advisor came in and said ‘look, there’s been a change of plans, we’re going to have to do 32- to 34-lap stints now and we’re going to scrap one stop. Therefore Yamaha will have to do another stop toward the end of the race and that will close the gap and possibly a win’. That strategy changed a lot and poor old Dominique had to do four stints and I ended up with the three, so I got the better offer there. It was alright, the race is so demanding physically and mentally, but the main thing for us was just to stay consistent with no mistakes. That’s what we had to do. We didn’t really get the best of luck with Safety Cars, but it is what it is – it’s kind of luck of the draw. We’re more than happy to come away with second, even though of course we wanted to win the race. We did our best and got on the podium, which is the main thing.
During the race were you feeling the pressure at all, especially once the HARC-PRO team went out and you were Honda’s main hope? Once you were in contention and you were on the bike battling for the lead, it was really tight at the front.
Not really. HARC-PRO went out in the second hour or something like that, but at that stage of the race you can’t predict anything with a long ways to go. I just thought to myself to stay consistent and not make any mistakes. With 75 bikes on track or whatever it is, you’ve just got to make sure you don’t take any big risks because you can quite easily get tangled up with a lapped rider, there’s no doubt about that. You’ve got to make smart decisions, but I didn’t really feel the pressure. I just stayed focused on the job, stint by stint.
I know you said before you’re not 100 percent sure where this will lead, but there’s always speculation about your future, racing there in the backyard of HRC and the Japanese manufacturers for this year. Do you have any news on that or can you confirm where you would like to go?
For sure I want to be racing in the world championship. My goal has always to be the best, whether it’s next in Moto2 and then move up to MotoGP or whatever, that’s definitely the goal. At this stage we just have to take the steps to that, but obviously my relationship with Honda and HRC is really good at the moment and getting on the podium for them at the Suzuka 8 Hour is definitely a massive push for my career. I don’t know where it’s all heading. Their request to me was to get a good result at Suzuka and they we’d go from there. I did that, so it’s all up in the air and we’ll just have to wait and see. I’m very excited about it and I couldn’t imagine anything bad happening, because the relationship with Honda is really strong and they’ve supported me for a long time now. I continue to get good results with them and I want to be with them in the future no doubt, so it’s just a waiting game now [laughs].
Well we’re definitely excited as well! Thanks a lot for taking the time out for us this afternoon and once again well done on a great race.
No worries, thanks mate.