Interview: Austin DeHaven
He’s represented USA in the Red Bull Rookies Cup, won the 2010 overall AMA SuperSport National Championship and raced in Europe with the European Superstock Series, all before the age of 19.
Q: When did you first start riding motorcycles?
A: I first started riding motorcycles a bit late compared to most kids. I didn’t get my first bike until I was 10 years old. It was a little pocketbike I got from my dad on Christmas.
Q: Why road racing?
A: I grew up around road racing. My dad had raced cars and so had my grandpa. Racing in general was just something I had always wanted to do since I was a little kid. I originally wanted to race go karts or cars but when the time came I decided on motorcycles. It was just something new and it was something I really enjoyed from the start.
Q: I read somewhere that you wanted a go-kart but got the pocket bike instead. Were you disappointed? Do you still want to try your hand at go-kart or car racing?
A: Of course I wasn’t disappointed! From the first time I sat on the bike to ride it I was completely hooked. It was something different, something that most people didn’t do. I still want to try go-kart or car racing just because it’s something I’ve been really good at since I was a kid. Maybe one day the opportunity will arise. Maybe my dad and I will even rebuild his old race car!
Q: Is racing as much fun now as when you first started? Why?
A: When I first started racing it was completely different. It was just a hobby, something for fun, kinda like an extreme family activity. My dad would race and both my brother and I would race as well. I miss those days when it was fun and easy, and there was no pressure.
It wasn’t until I made it into the Red Bull Rookies cup that it became serious for me. Ever since then its been more of a job than anything. However, it’s a job that I love to do. Sure at times I get down or stressed or feel like I’m not as into it as I first was but then I sit on a bike and its just like my first time all over again.
Q: Biggest accomplishment? Biggest disappointment?
A: I would have to say my biggest accomplishment was winning the 2010 overall AMA SuperSport National Championship. I came into it as an underdog and came out on top. It was a big reward for me after years of hard work.
I haven’t really had any big disappointments. Everything someone would see as a disappointment I would use as fuel to improve. I would have to say my lowest point of my career so far was doing the world championship and living in Europe. I had lots of crashes and disappointing results. It really took a toll on my confidence and made it difficult for me to enjoy riding and competing.
Q: You weren’t able to race this year because you were recovering from injury, is that right?
A: I actually decided not to ride this year because of my financial situation and just the difficulty of finding a team with a front running bike. It’s just too much money to keep racing at the pro level. For me, I would rather it be like the old days riding with my family and getting to share my love of riding motorcycles with them rather than spending the money and time away from home.
Q: What is your plan for 2014?
A: I don’t really have a plan to be honest. My goal is to race amateur stuff with my dad and just enjoy the season. If the opportunity arises to race at the pro level again then that is always a possibility as well.
Q: You did a year of racing in Europe with the European Superstock Series. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
A: Oh, that was such a tough season for me. It was hard being away from home, it was hard being on a team that didn’t speak english, it was tough competition, it was tough travel. However, it was a huge opportunity for me and an amazing experience. I would do it again if I could.
Q: How is racing in Europe different than racing in North America?
A: The biggest difference for me was the fact that the mechanics run the show in Europe. In the US the rider more so runs the show. The competition was extremely close, not necessarily faster than the Americans, just deeper fields of competition.
Q: Favourite track in Europe? Favourite track of all time?
A: That is such a difficult question because there are so many amazing tracks out there! I would have to say my favorite track in Europe is Brno, but my favorite track of all time might have to be Miller or Laguna Seca.
Q: Explain motorcycle roadracing to someone that has no idea what it is.
A: Well you see, we put our foots on the ground and do backflips and stuff! Haha no, it’s always difficult to explain what roadracing is to someone. I always explain that its on a closed course with pavement.
Q: What was it like to work with the legendary Keith Code and his team of instructors? What was the most important thing you have taken away from his method of teaching?
I don’t think I can ever explain to anyone what it’s like to work with the California Superbike School and Keith Code. The amount of information I have learned from him and his team of amazing instructors just amazes even myself.
My riding would never be at the level it’s at without the help and support from them. Every time I attend the school there is always something I take away from it that improves my riding greatly. It’s always a new experience and you always have something to work on. That’s where his coaches are highly skilled. Their ability to observe and analyze my riding while riding themselves, then break it down to find areas to work on and strong points is incredible. All of my accomplishments thus far would have not been accomplished without their help or support.
A: For me the hardest technique is handling your visuals. There are so many factors with riding and so many things to focus on that sometimes you forget about the largest part which is your visual skills and the ability to analyze the track. I still struggle with it and that is one of the hardest things for me to learn.
Q: If you weren’t racing bikes what would you be doing?
A: Honestly, I’d probably be doing graphic stuff, video stuff, or even artwork. There are so many things I want to do that I haven’t really figured it all out yet.
Q: Tell us a little bit about filming for Road Warriors? What was it like to have a film crew follow you around?
A: It was awesome because it was a completely new experience. Lots of fun and comedic moments with the crew lead to an awesome documentary. You definitely have to watch it if you haven’t already!
Q: You got to watch the film screening of Road Warriors, what was it like to see yourself on screen?
A: It was quite funny, especially when you get to see scenes in the movie and know exactly how it happened and came to be.
Q: I’ve heard that you are quite the filmaker yourself. Can you share a little bit about your experience in film and filming.
A: Yes, I did a lot of filmmaking in High School and am still doing some video stuff on the side. My dad has been in film since before I was born so that’s just another thing I’ve grown up around and enjoyed since I was little.
Q: You are also an incredible artist with very detailed work. Tell us a little bit about what art means to you and what you enjoy about it. How do you decide what you want to draw?
A: Art for me is a way to get a moment and just relax. It is something I started doing while flying back and forth from Europe so much in the world championship. It was just a way to kill time and make the flights go by faster especially because I have a hard time sleeping on planes. I eventually just kept getting better and learning more and more until I got where I’m at now. There is always something new I am working on and learning so it’s opening up a lot of possibilities for me with my future artwork.
A: I think the biggest misunderstanding especially with the guys at the pro level is that we make a lot of money and pull huge sponsors, where that’s not necessarily the case. It’s a struggle even at the pro level unless you are Valentino Rossi or Nicky Hayden and that is just the reality with a lot of motorsports.
Q: I’ve seen photos of your dad’s indoor climbing wall, do you climb as well? What else do you do to train for racing?
I am climbing a little bit but not anywhere near as much as my dad. To be honest, I’m scared of heights so when we go climbing outdoors I’m just like smearing myself up the wall and not looking down. Hahahaha