By Kaity Coisman
DE PERE – Hank Vossberg is a 13-year-old student getting ready for his eighth-grade year, but racing has been a part of his life since he was in diapers.
“He wasn’t even two years old, and he had a little 50cc dirt bike with training wheels, and he just rode around in the backyard. I put in a throttle control so he couldn’t go too fast, but yeah, he’s been riding since then,” said Hank’s father, Billy Vossberg.
Hank’s racing didn’t start until two years later at age four when he raced mini bikes, later turning to racing full size bikes at 10 years old.
Hank Vossberg is a many times over national champion motorcycle racer in multiple events and looks to continue his run of success this season.
Motorcycle riding and racing has been a three-generation hobby for the Vossberg family.
Billy Vossberg remembered riding on his father’s gas tank when he was little and also raced when Hank was a baby.
This has led to the family tradition of friends and family all riding and racing together.
There is not a lot of time outside of racing for the Vossberg family because they race 10 months out of the year.
“… as soon as the summer is over, we ride into October and go down south for a big race at the end of the year and then as soon as the ice is frozen, we are out riding on the ice until it melts in March and then we are back at it in April,” Billy Vossberg explained.
Although Hank has managed to squeeze in some other hobbies, including football, skiing and mountain biking.
Billy Vossberg explained that there are many life lessons to be found in the sport.
“A lot of managing lots of situations that require decision making and making choices, making plans and preparations and all the things to make it go right. With riding the bike, it is one thing to go out and ride around, and it’s another thing to kind of get to the pointy end of the stick to get the bike better and to get people to help you with your suspension or your motor, like what is the bike doing, how it is going, how can we change things, what is it doing on a certain part of the track and not the other and gearing and all kinds of things. It has been a fun progression for him as a kid to just get on and go to now…,” he said.
Many of these lessons have brought Hank to a better understanding of how to be successful on the track where there are a lot of factors to consider.
“I think the big one is just learning tradeoffs and understanding what the situation requires. You can only race who shows up, sometimes you know who is showing up and sometimes you don’t, and maybe he’s got the kind of taste to have everyone covered. He doesn’t have to go ride to the limit and be on the verge of crashing if he’s got a pace enough to win. Or you may be in a race where you know you are kind of outgunned with faster bikes or faster riders. He does a lot of two-hour endurance races, so he is racing for two hours with the same guys on the same track, and after the first half hour, you kind of figure out where you sit. You can kind of do the math if this is going to be okay, you know? I don’t need to do something that is going to put me out of the race just because I can’t control what I’m doing,” Vossberg said.
These lessons have led Hank to be a multiple-time national champion in a variety of different events.
“As an expert, he has won several national championships with Wera, and I think he is in the 60s or 70s for race wins. His race win percentage is over 70% of the races he has entered, so it’s pretty high, and he has won multiple Supermoto championships down in road America. We have a group that races down there that started out five years ago and that’s been really nice. He is currently leading the 450 class this year with it being his first year in the 450 class and then we are doing a national endurance championship this year and he is third in points so far. In that one he has one race win, a lot of the bikes in that class are 400cc motorcycles, and he is racing a 300cc so he’s got to do a little bit more on the breaks and on the corners, so that’s been good for him too. We are pretty proud of how he’s been doing with that as well,” said Vossberg.
Hank said that a couple of his most noteworthy accomplishments were his two national championships in the N2 two-hour endurance race, his win last weekend against a pro-studded line-up and his wins in the expert division.
“I think winning a pro race was really cool for the first time because I never thought that I would be racing with them, and then winning the championship for my expert series was a big accomplishment too,” he said.
All of Hank’s accomplishments didn’t come without any hard times as he had a compound fractured in his femur last year from a racing accident.
“A good friend of ours, they were going to run the endurance race together and just said that (Hank) was going to take his bike out, you know, just before the session is over, and I was working on his mini bike. You know, he stopped and there was a red flag and he had gotten into a bad, we call it a high side, he had gone over his handlebars and hit a tree and compound fractured his femur, which is pretty narly, and that was a year ago this weekend. He was in a wheelchair for a month and then on crutches to start school pretty much and then he was back racing the 25th of September. The first thing I ran to the scene, waiting for the ambulance and the only thing that he was worried about was his points championship for his road racing class. That was the first thing that he was worried about; you know, I guess he is a racer at heart,” recalled Billy Vossberg.
Hank said that although the accident was sad at first, he just told himself, “This is what happens, that’s part of racing…”
His biggest injury also led to his greatest feelings of redemption.
“I think one of my favorite memories is probably last weekend riding supermoto. I was able to win every race, and last year during that same race weekend, I broke my leg, so it is really nice to get kind of a redemption, and it was just really fun to be there with everybody,” said Hank Vossberg.