Hill is turning up volume on racing career

Justin Hill returns to familiar dirt for Washougal MX

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

There was a time when Justin Hill and his older brother were just too loud for Clark County.

Now, the Hill brothers get paid to be loud, to ride motorcycles as fast as they can, to make that distinctive motocross sound.

Justin will be back in Clark County this weekend at the 33rd Washougal National, riding the 250 class in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

"I'm going to come into some familiar turf. It's almost like a home game," said Hill, an 18-year-old. "That fact I know Washougal a little bit is going to help me a lot. I'm hoping it's going to transform my season."

These days, Justin and Josh Hill call Yoncalla, Ore., home. Their family used to live in La Center.

"We really liked it there," Justin recalled.

With one exception.

"We had trouble with permits, with neighbors complaining," Justin recalled.

He and Josh could ride with silencers on their bikes, but they could not invite their friends to ride with them.

"At the end of the day, we wanted to do our thing and have people ride with us," Justin said.

So Monte and Angie Hill moved the family to Yoncalla, a small town between Eugene and Roseburg where they could set up a training ground and the boys could ride all day.

"It was a thing we did for Josh at the time," Justin said. "He needed the edge."

A year or two later, Josh earned his factory deal, to ride professionally. Josh has won a Supercross event, battled back from some horrific injuries, and also is known as an X Games athlete.

Justin was 9 when the Hills moved to Yoncalla. He wanted the motocross life, too.

"I was experiencing Josh's success, and I wanted to do it for myself," Justin said.

In 2008, Justin started "really hitting it," and in 2011 he got a deal all his own.

"We got tons of help from Kawasaki, and it was really nice," Justin said.

This is Justin's first year on the supercross and motocross tours. He was showing signs of improvement in the winter when he broke his right wrist.

"It was a bummer, then it was good, then a bummer again," he said of supercross.

Now through seven rounds of the motocross season, Hill is trying to find his groove. His best finish this season has been 10th.

"I want to be up there with the frontrunners. At this point, I'm not," Hill said.

Hill said he will bring more confidence with him to Washougal. As a rookie, he has had to learn the pro courses with just two practice rides before each event. Hill already knows Washougal.

After a year riding with the pros, he also understands the challenge.

"It's rough riding with all these dudes," Hill said, noting each moto is an experience. "It's pretty competitive. I have to hit it hard from the beginning and hit it even harder at the end."

That also pretty much describes life as a young factory rider.

"It's an accomplishment to get here," Hill said. "You work so hard to get to this point I'm at, and then you have to work even harder."

The goal one day is a championship.

"We're starting to inch up, inch up, inch up to try to get there," Hill said. "That's all I want, all I'm working for."

If he gets there, Yoncalla, Ore., will have a champion to call its own.

Clark County race fans will probably put in a claim, as well. He got his start in Southwest Washington.

If you go

What: Washougal MX National motocross, round 8 of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship

When: Saturday. Moto 1 at 1 p.m.; Moto 2 at 3 p.m. (Moto 2 will be shown live on NBCSN.)

Where: Washougal MX Park, 40205 NE Borin Road in Washougal.

Cost: Saturday-only tickets $40 without pit access; $50 with pit access.

■ More information at www.washougalmxpk.com