2012 was a big year for Yonny Hernández. The 24-year-old Colombian was rubbing shoulders with the big guns at MotoGP and holding his own. He was an incredible blend of passion and talent radiating a determination you often see in those riders who live to race. It was his debut season, but you wouldn’t have known it.
It hasn’t been easy. The road to the pinnacle of motorcycle racing never is. There have been speed bumps, like the Sepang round last year. A spill and an injury to his left shoulder saw him miss the last three races of the season. But there has also been triumph. He scored the first CRT ‘win’ for Avintia Blusens at Indianapolis. Yonny Hernández has come a long way from the time he was a little boy fascinated with motorcycles and so determined to ride them, he would sneak out of his home to go next door to ride his best friend’s bike.
Today, Yonny is getting ready for the first race of the 2013 season aboard Paul Bird Motorsports, with Michael Laverty as teammate. His shoulder injury has not slowed him down. The first test in Sepang saw him post an impressive 2:05:407. There is a lot of work to be done, but Yonny meets every challenge head-on complete with a big smile. It’s easy to see why his motto is, “Never give up your dream, no matter how hard it gets.”
Riding Fast and Flying Low is proud to present an exclusive interview with Colombia’s first MotoGP rider:
Looking back at the 2012 season, what impressions and lessons have you taken back? What was the experience like?
Looking back at last year, it was a very steep learning curve, not only for me but also the team. The whole year was an incredible experience, in the good times as well as the bad. It just makes you a wiser person with more ability to adapt to the bike. The team plays such a big role. Learning to speak English and TV and press interviews were all a big challenge.
Looking ahead to the 2013 season, how do you feel about racing for Paul Bird Motorsports?
I am so excited about my new team, Paul Bird Motorsports, and I can’t wait to try the new bike. I know it’s going to be a great year. I will do my best for them, that’s for sure. Phil Borley was a very respected racer and team manager, so with his guidance, this year, I am sure we will make a great team. I am super happy Paul Bird thought of me for his team.
What will be your target for the 2013 season?
My goal for this year is to give my new team and my fans a CRT podium every race! Now that I have the experience with the other riders, I know what to look for and how to get the job done.
2012 was the first year for the CRTs. How do you think the CRTs have changed the competition in MotoGP?
Dorna and the CRTs have given me and many other riders the opportunity to be able to ride and show our capabilities. It would have been impossible before and I think it makes for great racing, which brings more supporters to the sport. I am one of the lucky ones and feel very humble and grateful for the chance to race with the best in the world.
You are the first Colombian to compete in world motorcycling championships. What were the challenges you faced?
I feel very honored to be the only rider to represent my country, Colombia, and Latin America. I ride 100% faster just for them and my fans. They have supported me 100%. Colombia’s Marka Pais have given me the backing to be here in MotoGP, so Colombia has a very special place in my heart. It was hard to get sponsors in Colombia in the first year, as there is only ESPN cable. Not everyone has or can even afford to see the sport. I am very lucky to have my family’s support over the last 6 years, and now I have a great team around me to help with sponsors. But it’s never easy.
What would be the one race you would always remember and why?
Indianapolis, USA, because it was my first win. I have never been so happy! Everything came together that weekend.
How old were you when you first rode a motorcycle? Which motorcycle was it? How did it make you feel?
I first rode a bike when I was 5 years old. I can’t remember the feeling, as I was too young. But I never looked back. Even though my mum and dad did not want me to ride, I would sneak out of the house to my best friend’s house next door whenever I could to ride his bike. I owe him a lot.
What goes through your mind when you are at the grid, waiting for the race to begin?
I am focused on doing my best and getting the best result I can.
Which circuit, among all the MotoGP circuits, is your favourite? And why?
I like Jerez, Silverstone and Indianapolis. I like Silverstone a lot, mainly for the corners and the changes of direction, and the speed. It’s super fast! I enjoy riding there.
What is your training schedule like before a race and during the season? And then during the off-season?
I train for 3-4 hours every morning, mixed with cycling and long-distance running.
What is your preferred ride off the track?
A GP bike would be my dream on and off the track and I would love a McLaren in my garage to drive hard and fast.
What do you do to unwind?
I love the simple things, like going to the cinema, music, meeting my friends and to relax! Quads and riding in Colombia is incredible. The scenery and the mountain roads and streams make for a great day out!
What are the most important attributes for MotoGP rider?
Discipline and determination mixed with a happy outlook on life, and feeling good about yourself.
What is the one thing about racing that you love and why?
Traveling around the world, enjoying new cultures for the first time is just awesome. Riding my CRT, getting to know how it works and fine-tuning my riding style. Making new friends along the way and learning new things everyday is the best part.
What advice would you give new riders who want to race?
Never give up your dream no matter how hard it gets. There will be lots of challenges to overcome. Always have a big smile and make use of all your time to train hard and practice your skills! It’s a mental discipline you need to stick to and enjoy learning new things. And make sure you know your bike like you know your best friend!
A special thank you to Yonny’s sports manager Salvatore Salamone for organizing this email interview