Interview: Lee Hogan

We talk to Lee Hogan about the success of Girls on the Gas and his flourishing media and coaching career.
Author: Garry Morrow

Author: Garry Morrow


Former 11 Time Australian Champion Lee Hogan has not sat still since hanging up his helmet in early 2003. The 34-year-old has carved a nice living in the sport that he made such a name for himself in. While Hogan is a visible person in the sport via his on track and TV presence as a host and commentator, he also runs some of the most successful riding schools in the country through his 'Building Champions Program'. If that is not enough work Hogan last year came up with, and ran the 'Honda Girls on the Gas' competition. In it's first year it was an outstanding success, with the second year almost completed we thought we would catch up with him and see how the concept has panned out. Insider: What was you main intention in starting the Girls on the Gas Competition?

Lee Hogan: I guess I was looking into the sport and trying to find something that wasn't being done properly. Sort of a market niche that needed some attention. I was going through a bunch of ideas in my head and as soon as I thought about Women's motocross a light bulb went off. I switched the computer off and within ten minutes I'd come up with the name 'Girls on The Gas' and the concept of the competition. Combining public speaking, fitness and riding skills. Soon after I had already spoken to Jason Nicholas and locked in Honda as the main naming rights sponsor. So it all happened really, really quickly once the ball started rolling.

Insider: It is a good idea and women's motocross is definitely growing and becoming more a part of the motocross landscape. Just this morning I did the results for the Women's championship and there where 40 women who took part in the series.

Lee Hogan: I know! Women's motocross is going along awesome for sure, without a doubt. For some reason Women's racing just never seemed to get that much publicity though. I know Kevin Williams does an awesome job with the Women's National championship, and truth be know, he has always been right there for the women racers. Just from a press side of things women in the general sporting scene get a fairly good go, but in our sport it has always been a bit under done. From the moment I started 'Girls on The Gas', the media have grabbed the ball and run with it which is pretty amazing.

Insider: There are a lot of girls out there that ride bikes but are not competition minded, do you think it has opened up the door for them a bit more?

Lee Hogan: It has. I think the most interesting concept and probably part of the reason why we don't get some of the really big name riders come and do it is that it's not just about the riding. It's about the public speaking, the fitness side of things off the bike, as well as speed and skill on the bike. So there is no area that's left out, you get scored just as well on your public speaking as you do on your speed on the bike, so it's a bit weird in that sense. But I guess at the end of the day that's why we end up with such a well rounded athlete. You only have to look at Taylor Jones, the winner from last year to see that she is really fit, presents herself well and can ride extremely fast, has good technique and she speaks really well. I am sure that if all the factory team managers had athletes that covered all those bases then there would be a lot of happy team managers around the country.

Insider: The first year of the Girls on The Gas was an obvious success, has it been as successful the second time around?

Lee Hogan: I think in quite a few different areas it has been a bigger success; there is not one area where it has been less successful. Red Bull approached us to jump on board which was a bit of a buzz to have a company of that stature sit up, take notice and want to get involved. As far as numbers go, every state except for one had more girls entering for the competition. I guess the other thing has been the media coverage and talk/hype about it all has been growing strongly. Outlets such as yourself, Dirt Action, MXTV and the general press media in each state have really pushed it along. So I think we have had about a 10% growth for 2007 which is what I was personally aiming for.

Insider: I remember talking to you at the start and my concern was the longevity of the competition. Have you attracted new interest this year or were a lot of the competitors from the first year.

Lee Hogan: There has been quite a few new faces come along, though in a similar breath we have had a few of return visits. For example Dimity Lee Duke won Western Australia again this year as did Emily Flint in Tasmania. I guess on that side of things it's been good to have some familiar faces but there are definitely a lot of new ones which is encouraging for the future.

Insider: So you see it kicking goals well into the future?

Lee Hogan: Where I think the longevity of it, I guess, could be a bit of an issue - although I am putting plans into place now to counteract it - The fact that I run it as one of my riding schools and students come along and pay $200 to do it. From that side of things if you have the same girl that wants to come along five years in a row. Some girls will be happy to return year after year and work on their skills. Others will just want to do the competition, so I need to come up with a plan to cater for both.

Insider: But this is where you would be hoping that there are new girls coming in every year?

Lee Hogan: You always get new people coming through but, just like a national championship I'd like to have riders that come back the following year and improve in the different areas. I guess it's tough because it is not purely a competition where we go right, show me your public speaking, lets see how fast you are etc. I actually coach them in the different areas before they get judged. If there was no coaching involved then the competition would be around $70 or $80 to come along and enter for the two days, but because it's also a school that we are actually trying to lift the women's side of the sport by getting them to learn about public speaking, realise how important fitness is, show them proper technique. The only way to achieve that is to run it as a semi-school. So what I am thinking from the third year on perhaps is that girls that have come along and participated at least once in the competition can just come along and do the second day, the competition side of it. We are in the process of trying to improve the competition all the time. At the end of each year we look at different areas that may need some attention. I don't want to cut out the coaching side of things because I always see a massive improvement in general in their approach, speed and professionalism. To tell the truth they pretty much speak better than most of the boys anyway, not sure why that is but most of the girls can get up there and string together some public speaking session no problem. Insider: So it's a continually evolving thing really.

Yes, for sure. At the end of each year we just look at what can be improved and hopefully make a stronger competition. We definitely want to be here for the long term.

Insider: So on the Lee Hogan front, what are you up to media wise?

Lee Hogan: I'm still doing a bit of the Motocross and Supercross commentary. I have also had some discussions with Chad Reed as far as the commentary and hosting of the new supercross series goes, but who know where that will go, I am sure Chad is not the only one who makes the decisions.

I really enjoy the media side of things in our sport but unfortunately it's not like football or some other main stream sports where you can make a good living at it. I love doing MXTV and the guys are a pleasure to work with, once again though I hope it keeps evolving and ends up going to a bigger audience. The show is about to go back into the studio in the next month and while it doesn't have a huge air play here in Victoria when ever I go up to Queensland and NSW it's almost cult like. Even people who aren't big motorbike fans love it. So that's all looking good. Insider: Finally, are your schools all ticking along OK.

Lee Hogan: Sure, the schools are going great. I guess there are few different reasons why the schools in general are doing good. The five hour coaching thing is a bonus, although I try and steer away from that type of thing, the last thing I want to do is having kids come along just to get their five hours done and the last thing they want to do is be there because they think they know it all already. Overall I think the five hour system is a good thing though. The two day school has been a bit overdone, so what I wanted to do was come up with something nobody else was doing. I'm a big fan of the 5 day schools as you can really transform a rider in that time, so we came up with a 5 day plan where you get to ride four different tracks in the first four days and then do a fitness boot camp on day five. We put that little experiment into practice from January and since then we have run four of them throughout Australia and they all sold out within the first 24 hours. We sort of hit the nail on the head there. In all my years of running schools I have never sold out a school in a week let alone 24 hours. It's almost like a school camp except with a bit of a spin on it, they are great fun.

Insider: OK, well we will let you run off to the gym now; I am gathering you will be at the Bronte Holland night on Friday?

Lee Hogan: I sure will and urge everyone to grab a ticket and get down there; it will be a good night.

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