When and where was your first race?
Ernesto: My first race was back home in Costa Rica when I was 5 years old. That seems like a long time ago now!
Justin: I started racing when I was 5. I used to race at this place called ‘Flying High’. It’s just outside of Albuquerque where I grew up. I started racing on Yamaha YZingers. My cousins raced with me too. We were a bunch of clowns back then. It started out as a fun kind of thing, and from there we started traveling a lot because there’s not a lot of races in New Mexico. We went to Colorado, Texas, and California.
What do you like most about racing?
Ernesto: I get to do something I love, and I get paid for it. It’s my job to live and learn on my bike everyday. The traveling is fun and everything, but once you do it as often as we do it can get tiresome sometimes.
Justin: I just like riding motorcycles. And racing is a lot of fun because it’s so competitive and I enjoy that part of it. I also like being around the people and hanging out with my friends. I pretty much like everything except the injuries. I work with a great trainer (Eddie) and we’ve been together for a little over a year now.
What do you like least about racing?
Justin: Mostly the injuries, and sometimes it’s a problem to get to the races. Other than that I love it!
Ernesto: I really have a passion for racing. I’ve had a lot of fun so far in my career and I love it. It’s tense sometimes but that’s part of the job. There is a lot of travel, and sitting in airplanes is not so much fun. We don’t really get a chance to see all the interesting places we travel to. It’s not a vacation or site-seeing time. We go there, take care of the racing stuff and then we go home.
The sport has a lot of women fans – do either of you have a girlfriend?
Justin: Yes, I have a girlfriend (Danielle) and we’ve been together just over a year. We are good friends. We have fun together and she comes out to the races sometimes.
Ernesto: No, I don’t have a girlfriend right now. I am very focused on my racing career. I am still young and learning about what makes me happy. I realize that time goes by so quickly and I am trying to enjoy every minute of my life, but I also think of my future.
Who were your favorite riders growing up?
Ernesto: My favorite rider of all time was Damon Bradshaw. I remember when I was a little kid in Costa Rica watching him on videos and ESPN. It’s a shame that he never won any 250 championships because he was a very good rider. He won a lot of races but I guess that’s how it goes. Bradshaw was my hero and I did get a chance to meet him …. but I don’t really know him. And of course Jeremy has been so good for so long that I also look up to him, and now Jeremy and I are friends.
Justin: I liked David Bailey and Rick Johnson when I was little, and after that I was a big Bradshaw fan too. I look up to a lot of riders, obviously Jeremy McGrath for what he has accomplished and he’s a cool guy. Same for Jeff Emig.
Your bikes this year – what’s new, what do you like about them?
Ernesto: Of course it’s different than every other bike …. it’s the 250 4-stroke. I am very comfortable with the power behind it and it would be a big change to go back to the 2-stroke. I needed a change going into the 2001 season and it was the perfect thing to do. I was very happy to help Yamaha and it was a good push for this new year.
Justin: My bikes are great, they haven’t changed much from lastyear. I feel really comfortable with it. We switched to VP fuels and FMF pipes and did a lot of testing with them and it’s great. It’s been getting me a lot of hole shots-lately, especially in the beginning of the year.
Racing against each other – what ‘s that like?
Ernesto: When I’m out on the track there are so many other guys out there I’m just focused on who my next battle is going to be with. Justin is a great rider and he is going to be a contender for next year’s championship for sure.
Justin: It’s good, we are friends and we get along very well. We haven’t had a knock-out drag-out battle yet this year, but you never know. We have really good people working on our team and everyone is driven to win. Erik Kehoe is our team manager, Dean Baker is our technician, along with all of our mechanics. Zack White works directly with me, and I know all these guys put in 100% all week. It’s not just an effort on the weekends. It starts on Monday, goes all week, and I’d like to thank them for that.
What do you remember as the best battle you’ve ever had against each other?
Justin: The best battle I remember with Ernesto was probably when we were in Florida in the Mini Olympics and I think we were 12 or 13 years old. It’s a week-long event and there is supercross, motocross, and TT. And back then they used to have a Grand Prix and we were pretty much going at it the whole week and I think he was beating me more than I was beating him. At one of the motocross races we were just going at it, passing each other 3 or 4 times on the last lap and I think that was one of the best races we ever had. Ernesto won!
Ernesto: For me it was at Loretta Lynn’s. We were racing 80’s, and I was winning and then he caught me and passed me. Then on the last lap I caught him and won. That was a race I really remember the both of us battling it out! We’ve only raced a couple of years together.
The Yamaha of Troy team – what’s it like?
Justin: It’s been awesome. I was fortunate enough to picked up by the team my first year as a rookie. I kind of struggled last year with my results, and they were always willing to try to help me and talk to me about it.
Ernesto: It’s a real good team overall and we work really well together. With the help of Yamaha it makes it a lot easier on everyone. Dean puts a lot of work into the motor development along with Phil and also Erik takes care of all the sponsorships and promotional things. And the mechanics take care of their riders! I think our mechanics do a great job and I am really happy with how things are going. I would like to thank Kenny for all his hard work and dedication to making this a successful year.
You are team-mates, but would you stuff the other guy in a corner if the championship was on the line?
Justin: That’s one of those things that is a last minute discussion. But if the championship was on the line, I wouldn’t intentionally knock him down but I would stuff him. ; )
Ernesto: If the championship was on the line, I think it would come down to that. It depends of who wants it more, you or the other guy, so I think, what ever it takes!
What would you like to do if you were not racing motorcycles?
Justin: I always did pretty well in school, and got A’s and graduated high school. If I couldn’t race tomorrow I would probably go back to school and get a business degree.
Ernesto: I think I would like to play professional soccer. I would like to do so many things, but soccer is something I really enjoy.
Finish this sentence: ‘I love motocross because …. ‘
Justin: I love motocross because of the freedom I feel when I’m riding my bike and becauseof the time I get to spend with my friends and family doing it.
Ernesto: I love motocross because it’s my job, but I don’t really take it as a job because it’s so much fun. Plus I get paid to do something I love.
Finish this sentence ‘In 20 years I will be …. ‘
Justin: In 20 years I will be, how old will I be in 20 years? 40, probably retired from racing but working inside the industry. Maybe running a team or something like that, and probably have a family.
Ernesto: In 20 years I will be an old man trying to stay in shape ; ) I imagine I’ll be somewhere between Costa Rica and California.
If you could talk to all of your fans, what would you like to tell them?
Ernesto: I would like to thank the fans for all their appreciation for what we do. Even thought it’s fun for us, they know the element of danger involved with this sport.
Justin: I appreciate all the fans pulling for me and it really makes a difference to have people on your side and to know people believe in you, cheering for you and want you to win. I think that’s awesome!
Photos by Bill Q and Frank Hoppen
Click here to visit Justin’s web-site www.justrace.com