Interview: Gabriel Hernandez III, Red Bull Rookie
SJ: What was the Selection Event like? [Note: After the application process, 109 riders were invited to a Selection Event in Guadix, Spain. See a video about the event here.]
GH: The first day of the try out I didn’t ride. We were watching the Spanish and Italian riders, I think. That day it was wet. I was hoping it wouldn’t be wet the next day and thankfully it wasn’t.
I rode with my fellow American, Daniel Costilla, and some British riders. We were just keeping pace with each other and being consistent. We made it to the third day, I just tried to stay at a fast pace. But they moved us into different groups, so Daniel and I couldn’t follow each other anymore.
In the new group, honestly I was scared because I didn’t have a lot of confidence. But gradually I started to get the flow of the track. In the last session I was passed by one of the fastest riders, but then on the final lap I was able to do one of the quickest times out there, so… But the time, you know, it was just my dad using a stop watch. (laughs) So, I don’t really know if it was fast.
SJ: You’d never ridden the Guadix track before, right?
GH: Yes, before that I’d only ridden in America. The farthest away from home I’d ridden was Miller [Motor Sports Park near Salt Lake City, Utah]. So I had to learn the track quick and just do the best I could.
SJ: After the Selection Event, you did a test at Jerez, yes? How did that go? Obviously it would be a challenge to be on the KTM 250 for the first time AND on a track that was new.
GH: Yes, it was very difficult. I think I struggled by just not learning the bike the way I should’ve. I was more worried about my times compared to the leaders rather than adapting to the bike. I know I could’ve done better, but, you learn from your mistakes.
SJ: With the first race coming up next weekend, how are you approaching that? What is your goal for the first race?
GH: I want to be, hmmm, fifteenth, somewhere around there.
SJ: How hard do you think you’ll have to push to reach fifteenth out of 24 riders?
GH: I think I’ll have to push a lot. These guys are the fastest young racers in the world and I think it’s going to come down to who has the best fitness and talent. So yeah, I’ll have to push very hard.
SJ: Speaking of fitness, are you working hard on yours to prepare for the racing?
GH: Yes, I go to a gym, and when I’m not there I have fun playing sports like basketball, some [American] football, anything I can play with my friends.
SJ: And have you been able to find a bike that’s similar to what you’ll be racing at Jerez to practice on?
GH: Actually we have a 125 and we just practice on that bike because, well, those 250s cost a lot.
SJ: So you’re aiming for fifteenth in the first race, how about your goals for the 2015 season?
GH: I just want to be top 12. That would be good for my confidence for next year, if I get invited again.
SJ: So that’s another goal for you, to do another season in the RBRC?
GH: Yes, I’d like to do all three of the possible seasons for a single rider.
SJ: If you are able to do those three seasons, what would you like to do after?
GH: Hopefully I’d get a call from a Moto3 team. Then work my way up to the World Championship and MotoGP. That’s my main goal.
SJ: How long have you thought this is something you could try to do and possibly accomplish?
GH: To be honest, I didn’t really have a lot of confidence before, but ever since I got selected [for the RBRC] I’ve had more confidence and now I’m pretty sure I could do it. All I need is the work ethic, seat time, good training, and just to learn from everything I do. I think I can accomplish that goal.
SJ: So, are you excited to leave for Jerez tomorrow?
GH: Yeah, I’m not really scared, I’m just trying to stay calm and have the least pressure as possible. But I’m excited.
Gabe’s goal of finishing the 2015 season in the top 12 is ambitious but on reasonable. That will mean being in the top two of the actual rookies, since ten riders are returning this season with previous experience on the machine and at the European tracks.
Both Jerez races (Race 1, May 2nd – Race 2, May 3) will be broadcast Live via RedBullTV and via the RBRC web site: www.redbullrookiescup.com/jerez-live
Thanks for talking to me before your trip, and the best of luck in Spain, Gabe!