Features 5 Oct 2022

Conversation: Josh Hook

Honda racer on EWC success, racing future and The Bend ASBK.

F.C.C. TSR Honda France talent Josh Hook recently notched a second FIM Endurance World Championship (EWC), managing a race of attrition at the 2022 Bol d’Or to help secure the crown. In this Conversation, CycleOnline speaks to the 29-year-old about that title-deciding bout, his EWC success, racing future within the series and a cameo appearance for the final round of this year’s Mi-Bike Australian Superbike Championship (ASBK) at The Bend.

Image: Supplied.

Congratulations on your second EWC title! Can you explain the emotion of achieving that and the build-up to the decisive Bol d’Or where you and F.C.C. TSR Honda France secured the crown? 

Basically, it was a tough year for us. We didn’t win a race, all year, which is not ideal by any means as normally we are pretty strong in 24 hours and right up there. We had a lot of bad luck throughout the year, mechanically mainly – just stuff going wrong. As everyone had seen in the last round, a lot of the top teams had dramas. A 24-hour race is hard enough, but it is just so hard on the machines and you can’t really predict what is going to go wrong with the bike. You can basically guarantee that there is going to be an issue at some point. We didn’t have a good run at all this year, but we were able to get on top of the problems quickly and get back out there to score points.

In the last race of the championship [Bol d’Or], we were only 20 points behind first place going into it. It was definitely doable, especially because the last race of the championship was points and a half, it was roughly 80 points I think up for grabs. In the Bol d’Or, title contenders Suzuki [Yoshimura SERT Motul] had a big problem with the engine, only two hours into the race from memory. Then basically, we went into survival mode for the whole race because we had to take care of our engine, just in case something happened. At Bol d’Or, the straight is so long and you spend so much time full throttle in sixth gear that it is so hard on the engine and the majority of them, they just break.

Once Suzuki was out we had YART to contend with and they were leading the race at the time, but behind us in the championship, so we just sort of stayed close to those guys, which we did. Then they had an issue and we had the championship sort of won, although there were more than 12 hours to go in the race so it was far from over. The main thing was to take care of the engine, no over-revving while upshifting and especially on the downshifts into turns.

It wasn’t the way we wanted to win the championship, for sure, obviously, we would much prefer to race our hardest until the end but there comes a point in time where you have to weigh it up, what you came there for – to win the race or to win the championship. I have no doubt in my mind, if continued riding the way we were, we would have won that race. Most of the top guys were out and the pace was very slow – it wasn’t anywhere near as quick as what it should have been. Luckily for us our approach pulled through, we didn’t have any dramas other than with the exhaust, every four hours for the last 16 hours we were pitting and putting a new exhaust on it to save the trouble in case it did blow up, so we were losing a lot of time in the pits just being cautious, let’s say, replacing things that we were uncertain if they going to give in on us.

That was basically the race, a bit boring to be fair but we did what we needed to and in the end we won the championship. Stoked to win the championship again, for the second time.

You’ve won races and championships here in Australia and also experienced success on an international scale. Where does winning the title for the second time in EWC rate among that? 

It’s definitely up there, I mean now the championship is getting so much stronger than what it once was. There are more manufacturers getting involved, and there are a lot faster riders getting involved too. Suzuka has always been a big one, riders come from all sorts of championships – MotoGP and also world superbike. It’s getting more and more like that now for all of the races, you’ve got a lot of good riders coming from Moto2 and World Superbike, World Supersport and racing in the championship full-time, so I think the level has stepped up a lot since I first won the championship back in 2018. It’s just getting harder and harder to win, in the past consistency would at least win you a race, if not a championship, but now you have to be extremely fast and be consistent at the same time.

For sure this one was harder than when the first one came, we did a good job but we didn’t have any luck whatsoever until the last race. It’s a bit like that, everything needs to go your way across the rounds. Sometimes in those 24-hour races you have a problem and you are down in 30th place, there are still 16-18 hours to go and it’s a bit hard to see yourself in that position and still wanting to go out there and do your best but that is what you’ve got to do because things do go wrong. What is looking like a bad race at one point in time can end up being the best race of your life.

Image: Supplied.

With the championship getting more competitive and having won the two titles, do you see yourself remaining in EWC for years to come? Say from a priority standpoint, if you had the opportunity to go back into the MotoGP World Championship paddock again, would that take precedence over racing Endurance? 

For me personally, I’ve tried going the World Superbikes and MotoGP route in the past and it just hasn’t worked out, especially financially. I’m at the stage now in my career that I need to make money from racing a motorbike, it’s not so much about making it to the MotoGP paddock now, because I just think that is unrealistic. I know there is way more money in EWC than there ever will be for me in Moto2 – I know I won’t get into MotoGP now because I am too old. You sort of need to get into that championship in Moto3 back in the early days and then progress throughout the three classes. You don’t really see many people come into that championship from other championships and step straight on a big bike. It’s unrealistic and as I said financially it’s just not possible for me anymore.

I’m contracted to HRC, so for me that’s a massive win. I’m contracted to one of the biggest motorcycle manufacturers in the world and you know that you are going to have a good bike underneath you every time, a good team, and you can go out and win races. That’s what I care about more so than progressing into Moto2 or MotoGP. Even World Superbikes, there’s only a handful of guys there that are getting money and it’s a similar story, I’m too old now to try and get into a championship just because of the name of it. I need to be making money and just like anyone with a day job, you don’t want to go to work for free and then come home and struggle financially. Everyone deserves to get paid and make money doing what they love, and for me, it’s in Endurance. I can’t see myself going anywhere anytime soon unless circumstances change, but at this point in time, I’m happy to keep chipping away and seeing how many championships I can get under my belt.

Yeah for sure. Finally, with the announcement of you coming back to The Bend to compete at the final round of ASBK and Jack Miller putting together a team for the event, is there anything you can share on what the arrangement will be for you? Obviously, you raced with Penrite Honda Racing at the event last year, but this time around it won’t be with them? 

Basically what it is – I won’t be riding for Penrite [Honda Racing] again this year, the reason why that came about in the past was that Troy [Herfoss] was injured and they needed someone to ride the bike, one thing led to another. It is a great event and I live with Jack in Europe so we do talk about things quite a lot, and we both were talking about going back and doing this race and he just said, look, I’ll make a team. I got a bike from Honda and we are just doing it that way. He’s going to build his own… not a race team by any means, just same sort of set-up like what he had last year – just went there with a few of his mates and a couple of people who know a little bit about motorbikes and go racing and enjoy it. That’s more so the thought behind it at this point in time, we both really enjoyed ourselves there last year and had some fun. That’s what it is about.