MXA INTERVIEW: JAMES HANSEN FROM ROCKSTAR ENERGY
BY JIM KIMBALL
WHAT IS YOUR TITLE AT ROCKSTAR, AND THE KEY POINTS OF YOUR JOB? If you have to put a title on it, it would be Global Motocross Manager, but that is a bit vague. I basically oversee everything offroad with two wheels in the world. I handle race reports, photos, photo approval, branding, website updates, social tracking and social posting. Everything that would go into the business, I have some part of. We have a team at the office that I could not do without. Basically I am responsible for everything. So along with Supercross, Nationals, Motocross, Arenacross, and the amateur racing in America, I handle MXGP, MX2, SuperEnduro, and then the Canadian Nationals. As far as branding goes, one thing that is convenient is that the same people in Europe work with every single team, so that actually helps not having to deal with many different managers. Obviously, there are different team managers for every program, but with communication over there for the most part, you are dealing with two or three people.
I CANNOT IMAGINE HOW YOU ARE EVER HOME WITH ALL OF THIS ON YOUR PLATE. Well, that is the funny thing. Literally, I got home yesterday from a photo shoot and, in my head, I thought this was finally the end of my travel until twhen 2018 Supercross series in in motion. This is basically my off-season from travel. Most people just think that we just go to the races on Saturday and hang out during the week, but that is not the case. Honestly, the off-season is my least favorite part, because you’re starting over, doing branding, working on paperwork, organizing spread sheets, and often staring at the computer sometimes for eight or ten hours straight, and realizing that you have been there that long without even noticing.
SO, EVEN WITH ALL THE TRAVEL, THE RACE SEASON IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE YEAR. During race season, you go to the races, and on Saturday when the gate drops that is the highlight of my life. I love every moto, during the season it is cool because once the season starts it is like your life has structure. You are flying in on Thursday or Friday and coming home Sunday, and you know what you are doing during the week. Monday is downloading photos, sorting them, approving them, sending them out, posting race reports, and all that stuff. It becomes structured, where during the off-season, you are constantly hit in the face with “oh crap, this needs to be done, it needs to be done by tomorrow, and It is messed up.” The gear companies, team sponsors, and everything has to go through an approval process between Rockstar, and Husqvarna to make sure it is right. The off-season is by far my least favorite time of life every year, as you have to schedule out the entire year.
TELL US ABOUT PULLING PULL EVERYTHING TOGETHER PWITH THE APPAREL COMPANIES. Everything like color requirements, branding requirements, goggle strap colors, gear color, and all of that have to be approved before they can even apply brand names. In that part of the negotiations, everything is very detailed. It is called a Visual Line Plan (VLP) where you have a schedule, knowing what each rider is wearing at every race, so it is really broken down into that much detail. In Europe, there are qualifying days, and added practices, it is broken down a lot further than people think.
LIVING IN THE STATES, AND ATTENDING ALL THE RACES HERE, HOW DO YOU COORDINATE THINGS IN EUROPE? We live in a digital world, so you are always reachable. That is all part of the process of approving everything. As far as U.S. motocross and Supercross, I have to be at every single race, plus two or three big amateur races a year. At the Supercross and motocross events I handle all the podium stuff, and all of our guests, whether they are from Pepsi, our distributors, or some major key accounts. If someone that owns 20 mini-marts and sells a ton of Rockstar. I have to coordinate all of that on the sales side with our sales managers that come out with their guests. Then obviously I need to be at the podium to work with our riders. I have a lot of on-site duties, plus sending photos for our social media group. But in Europe people that work for the teams over there handle all of that basically.
ARE YOU INVOLVED WITH SIGNING RIDERS? Yes, we are basically a team across the board, so the Husqvarna team, and ourselves as Rockstar, always have discussions. We are always in the loop on what is going on, and we all have our own opinions. That just comes from experience, working together, giving the high points for each guy, and obviously testing them. It does not necessarily just come from “hey, I think this is the guy we want.” Sometimes you may test a couple of guys, and see how it goes before you make a decision, but it is a team deal where we all communicate, give our thoughts, and then make a final decision. You know who is going to be available, what is going to happen and the things that are changing. You know everyone’s contract—especially of the top guys. We know right now who will be available next October.
WERE INVOLVED WITH ROCKSTAR HUSQVARNA SIGNING MITCHELL HARRISON FOT 2018? Obviously he was a Rockstar rider already at Star Yamaha, so I was involved. He came over and I introduced him to Bobby Hewitt, the Rockstar Husqvarna team owner. Mitchell knew that he was not going to have a ride with the team he was with. So he was looking. I think he had a couple other offers, but we knew he was available. I see a lot of potential in him, and I think everyone else sees that too, so when it came down to it, it just worked out.
ARE YOU CONSTANTLY COPING OUT FUTURE RIDERS FOR THE TEAM? Yes, everybody does. Every team out there knows who is available, and knows what everyone is doing, and what the results are. If they are on one of the top teams everyone is watching especially. Privateers are on the radar too; if they have breakout performances then you are going to be watching them. Every one of us is there every weekend and watching every race, so we see every person. We are at the track at 30 or more events so you know everyone, and you know how their year is going. Also you are constantly doing race reports, looking at results, and sending results, so even if you did not notice or were not paying attention at the race, you still see them on the list where they finished. Aside from that it helps to know their contract—if it is going to be up or not.
IS THAT HOW IT WORKS WITH THE AMATEUR GUYS TOO? We do not see them racing in person much, but ywe do follow them. When you do see them, you see them for a week at a time, so you can really grasp what they are like. We were just at Mini O’s for five days, and you see a lot because you are there for so long. You see them race eight motos, but you also follow all the top kids on Instagram too. But the amateurs are more like a crap shoot because it is a lottery. It is not the way it used to be. When we had our amateur team a few years ago, we had 28 kids, so someone is going to be good out of there, right? Now, everyone picks or chooses one or two fuure stars, so if you have to get one early beofre the good one are gone. If they riders you pick end up being a bust, that was the gamble you took. But if you hadn’t picked them up, somebody else would, and then if they end up being the next big thing, you missed it. The amateurs is a lottery.
HAS THE GLOBAL ALLIANCE BETWEEN ROCKSTAR AND HUSQVARNAS HELPED ROCKSTAR GROW? I think there are a couple of big points there. First, we always wanted to have a global alliance with someone, and our graphics are the same across the board. The team name, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing, is synonymous with the two brands. It is combined, and our hash tags are one team, no borders, because we are all one team. We communicate from the U.S. to Europe. If there is something we figure out or learn, we pass it on which is really super cool.
Second, I think our tie with Husqvarna gives Rockstar the biggest demographic as there possibly could ever be with an OEM, because you have popular kids racing for the team. You have Jason Anderson and Zach Osborne for example that little kids look up to. But how about all the other guys, the grandpas out here that rode Husqvarna’s back in the day. How excited are they to see Husqvarna back out there again. Our demographic is like 5 years old to 100! I think that is a good growth point in general, and tying in with that and Rockstar is a huge part of the sport now.
Third, the team coming together and doing this global thing has been really big for both of us. Husqvarna is selling bikes faster than they can make them. They keep exceeding expectations. We share the same vision and that is that we want to win championships. We are both building towards is winning, and to have the passion from both sides is pretty incredible. It is not necessarily about the banner on the side of the track, it is about putting the guy on the top of the podium.
ROCKSTAR’s IMAGE USED BE ABOUT “THE PARTY,” WHEN DID THAT CHANGE?. We did have a team presence with girls dancing and loud music, Basically at that time we had Factory Suzuki, which was our championship contender, we still had our fun team (Hart and Huntington). We always had the championship winning vision. We just wanted to have the fun side, but we had Dungey and Reed with Rockstar Suzuki winning championships back then, so it was both sides back then. We still have the mentality of having a good time, abut ou don’t see it from the outside as much, because it is definitely a more professional presence.
ROCHSTAR IS NOT WITH THE STAR YAMAHA 250 TEAM FOR 2018. No, that was because of Yamaha wanted to have a global effort, like what we have with Husky. We didn’t want to hold them back. I am bummed to see them go, but it just did not make sense. I wish them the best,
HUSQVARNA HAS DONE A GREAT JOB FOR ROCKSTAR. Yes, and it is only going to get better. Jason Anderson can be a championship contender. Dean Wilson is a podium guy. The fact that Dean e was available was pretty crazy, but obviously that was because of his last couple of years and his issues. We were all pretty excited about him, and I don’t think he let anyone down. Definitely his goal at the beginning of the year was to make it through the whole season, then being in the top ten. But later he was mad if he was not in the top five.This could be our best year on 450’s. Your goals and expectations always grow if you are improving, so it was cool to watch him grow and it will be exciting now that he has had a whole year on the 450.
JASON CAN BE THE FASTEST 450 GUY ON THE TRACK, BUT HE ISA INCONSiTENT? Sometimes he fastest, and I have always thought of him a three-year guy, That is the time it takes some riders to transition into winning. Before he got hurt last year, aside from when he got hit in the eye with a rock at Hangtown, he had twelve or thirteen races in a row going from Supercross to Outdoors where he was on the podium. The only one he was not on the podium was when he got hit in the eye with a rock. He was quietly on the podium every single week and that is usually an indicator for a good transition point going into the next year. And what else can be said about Zach Osborne? He won both the 250 Supercross and motocross titles.
AS BUSY AS YOU ARE, YOU ARE A PRETTY HARDCORE MOTOCROSSER, RIGHT? I did not ride motocross as much as I wanted to in the last couple of months, because I was training for the Ultra Marathon (which is 50 miles). I was not riding as much, because I was trying to save my legs. I did it and I finished it. Three weeks before that, I did a half-marathon and marathon back to back and I ended up winning both of those. The plan now is to start riding more and maybe do the Daytona amateur race.
LET’S TALK A MINUTE ABOUT YOUR PROJET “DIRT BIKES FOR PRESIDENT.” It started when I would be reading Facebook and people would be arguing about something stupid. And I would just say, “dirt bikes are cool.” Then everyone would stop arguing and say, “Oh yeah!” When people started arguing about politics, I would post “dirt bikes for president”. Everyone laughed so I started hash tagging it. I trademarked it and once I trademarked it, I thought that I might as well make something. So I have made hats, t-shirts, stickers, and things like that. If anyone makes a negative comment on the “Dirt Bikes for President” Instagram page they get deleted. There is no negativity allowed. It is just about riding with your buddies and having fun. Everyone forget that is why we started riding dirt bikes in the first place. I just do not care for the negativity, and basically “Dirt bikes for President” it is against that, and maybe we will see it on the ballot.