Sometimes you just have to know when it’s over. No one likes that guy that stays late to the party and won’t leave. Nothing good really comes out of hanging on and trying to see if something can happen that will change your luck to the good side.
That’s kind of where Wil Hahn was at this fall and he, wisely it says here, got started on real life. Hahn, a 250SX Eastern champion not that long ago, had been on factory Kawasaki the last two years without a lot of success. Whether it was on Kawasaki or before that on the 250F with GEICO Honda, Hahn has suffered a litany of injuries you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Well, maybe you’re worst enemy but you know what I mean.
Three AC joint separations, broken collarbones, a broken right arm, broken ribs, punctured lungs, vertebrae fracture twice and a broken wrist in his eight-year career and that’s just the major ones. A few of these were caused by bikes blowing up also. The final blow was suffered in Atlanta this year at a supercross when he was involved in a major crash with two other riders.
“Kawasaki treated me great the last two years, but I wasn’t having fun. I crashed, I got hurt a lot and it’s tough to have that pressure on you that you’re not performing,” Hahn said “I’m sure they weren’t real happy with my results either.”
No, they probably weren’t. Dirt bike racing isn’t the nice guy business, it’s the results business.
Hahn announced a few weeks back that he was quitting the sport to go work for his buddies at GEICO Honda doing some testing and working with the amateur race team that they have. Sometimes, it’s just time you know?
“The bottom line is I had a fair share of concussions but I’ve never been scared of getting hurt,” Hahn told me. “I never felt like that. When I work up from surgery this last time, I just knew. I sat there and said ‘I don’t want to do this to myself anymore’. The bottom line is it was a concussion thing for me.
“This last time I could not remember getting back to the truck, I couldn’t remember changing into my clothes and I started educating myself on these. There’s no definite science to having concussions but I’ve had enough to call it a career.”
It’s bleak in America right now for rides as Dean Wilson or Malcolm Stewart can attest to and Hahn, still a very good rider if he could stay healthy, saw the writing on the wall for him. Without any real results the last two years there was no factory ride waiting for him. At this point, a guy like him could hope to get a ride with a B-level team with expenses paid and hope to get some gear money. To go out there to train, practice and try to get on the level of a Roczen or Tomac for 50-75K a year (before the purse money) and take that chance of further injury just isn’t smart.
“I knew when I walked off at Atlanta that I wasn’t getting re-signed and that was it. That was frustrating but it was good to go down and get some racing in at the end,” said Hahn.
What he’s talking about is his recent foray down under for the six round Australian Supercross series where he, riding a Kawasaki, made a podium, was top five a bunch and sort of left his career on a high note. If not a high note at least he didn’t leave it laying on the ground in pain.
“I enjoyed it down there, for me I had to do what I had to do. I was going to go to work (at GEICO), but this deal came about and it was last minute. I felt like I had to do it. I couldn’t end my career with a crash at Atlanta. Regardless of results, I wanted to go enjoy riding and not have that regret or that animosity.”
Wil Hahn was determined that the last image of him racing a dirt bike was not going to getting carted off in Atlanta with yet more injuries. “At the end of the day I had my mind made up to retire but it would have been tough to sit on being injured being the last time I raced. I had a blast down there and they made it fun again.”
So Wil Hahn makes the transition into regular life (“I’ve never had a regular job!” he says) where he has to show up on time, work a certain number of hours and make a regular paycheck. Definitely a little different from what someone like him is used to. He says he’s got some good money still put away from his years of doing well, he’s a homeowner in Southern California and, at the end of the day, he’ll still get to ride dirt bikes quite a bit in his testing role at GEICO.
It’s got to be tough for a guy like Hahn but, in the end, this was the smart thing to do. He walks away with a 250SX title, some money in the bank, really cool memories and he’s still involved in the sport.
If you’re forced to walk away, make it on your terms. That’s exactly what Wil Hahn did.
Words: Steve Matthes | Image: Sean Ogden