As mentioned in part one of this feature, GasGas Motos is back and will return to the world and North American markets in a big way. As part its North American plans, the company has hired two familiar names to help grow and develop the brand in the U.S. market. One of them is former National Enduro and ISDE racer Johnny Barber, and the other is former factory pro motocross racer Broc Hepler. In part two of this feature, we chat with signee Broc Hepler and ask him about his new place as part of the rebirth of the GasGas Motos brand in the U.S. market.
Broc, what have you been up to in the last few years? We noticed your name popping up from time to time at regional offroad races on the east coast. How did you get started racing offroad?
Offroad has always been fun for me since I was little. I remember following my Dad in the woods when I was on 50s. Also, woods made it easy to leave right from the house and ride all the time when my parents were not home to take me to a motocross track. Growing up I did two or three GNCCs on 80s, and I did one in 2006 at Unadilla where I was able to get sixth in the Pro class.
We bet it was a big change going from riding motocross where it’s all about raw speed and going fast to having to slow down and pace yourself over the course of a two to three-hour long race. Did you find it fun to make such a big change?
The change is different, especially the enduros, where you only see the track once all day. It is about looking ahead and being prepared for what lies ahead. I feel it keeps the excitement and boredom away from events that run continual laps. There are times where I start bumping trees and making mistakes so I try to remind myself to ride a little calmer and I end up farther ahead and use less energy.
"I started enduros locally because of the great trails and to enjoy myself. I know riding a bike is risky, but I like the enduros because you’re not racing head to head."
-- Broc Hepler
How did the deal with GasGas come about for you? You obviously know Johnny Barber from the Appalachian Championship Enduro Series (ACES) of which you were the 2015 Overall Champion. Is that where the makings of the GasGas ride started to unfold?
Yes, John reached out and was able to get things started. I was open to what he had to say with his past accomplishments. He has a really good resume with ISDEs and a National Enduro win, so I felt we could work together and show how great the GasGas is. Mark Berg was able to put things into place so John and I will be able to go race. Our plan is to do the ACES series, two National Enduros, and a Sprint Enduro. I’ve been out of racing seriously since 2009, so I wanted to take it slow and keep the stressful national series away to make sure my concussion symptoms stay away.
Beyond racing will you play any other type of role GasGas in North America? Will you help coach any future riders and try to help them meet their goals as a team?
This year I will be GasGas Motos North America’s regional rider and enduro development. For 2016, the goals are to race some of the East Coast races and show how well the GasGas is. John’s [and my] responsibilities are to give feedback on the bike. The 2017 bikes will be available this summer. We hope that we can display GasGas this spring and how well the bike works on handling and power, so consumers are attracted for their next purchase.
Back to racing the Ohio-based Appalachian Championship Enduro Series, you seemed to dominate that series in 2015; taking 9 of the 11 overall wins. It looks like you’ve adapted well to racing in the woods!
Last year was a very good year. This year I know it may look like I performed worse if I don’t win them all. It will be difficult to even match what I already did, but I will give it my best shot. I know with so many miles covering the course it is difficult to not have a mistake or a bike issue over so many races. Also half of the races in the series are the old school time keeping, so I need to be on my toes at all times.
So for 2016 you will once again focus ACES series and then possibly show up at select National Enduro and Full Gas Sprint Enduro events. Is your intention to ease back into professional-level racing then make a full go in 2017?
I don’t have an answer for that. Ultimately it will be a decision on how I feel later on in the season. I quit racing in 2009 because of concussions. I started enduros locally because of the great trails and to enjoy myself. I know riding a bike is risky, but I like the enduros because you’re not racing head to head. If I am feeling good, then I can go faster. Also, I would rather have a mistake on my own rather than racing bar to bar and having that person push you to ride over your head.
We understand you also have aspirations to race the ISDE this year for a club team and possibly work towards someday in the future representing the USA on the Trophy team. Tell us a little about those plans.
I have started training again. I think it would be great to experience something with so much history. With GasGas being located in Spain, it would also be very convenient to have them help out. I know it would be very difficult to compete on a Trophy team and it would have to be my full-time job if I wanted any success.
It’s great to hear that you are having fun riding a motorcycle again. Has the sport of offroad racing helped reignite your love of riding again?
I would say that offroad gave me new goals. Especially with the time-keeping enduros, it has given me a challenge. I still enjoy riding, but if I ride too much it will become a job again. I feel like for everyone the more days you take off from riding the more enjoyable it is when you get back on the bike. No matter what sport or job you have, if you do it too much it is not fun.
Thanks, Broc for letting our readers see what you’re up to. It’s great to see you are back riding and having fun. We’ll be following how things progress with you and the team. Is there anyone you would like to thank?
I would like to thank Mark Berg and John Barber with GasGas for having interest in me riding their bike. I look forward to performing well and it is really neat that people already love checking out the bike, so the plan is to show how awesome they are. Lunova Group, Supersprox, Tri-State Powersports, Golden Tyre, FMF, Spectro, Fasst Company, HBD Graphics, Super B, and Numbers Brewing Company. I also want to thank my personal sponsors that have stepped up to help John and I. 6D Helmets, Shift clothing, Scott Goggles, and PR2.
Read Part 1 of the two-part Interview, HERE.