Below are select quotes from a press luncheon held today in advance of this weekend’s Kawasaki AMA Superbike Showdown, presented by Supercuts, at the Fior d’Italia in San Francisco’s historic North Beach district.
The luncheon featured AMA riders Roger Hayden (Monster Energy Kawasaki), Ben Bostrom (Yamaha), Josh Hayes (Yamaha) and Melissa Paris (Yamaha):
Some of you were able to test last month in Sonoma in preparation for this event. How important was that test?
Roger Hayden: “For me, the test was really important because I haven’t been riding a whole lot and it was nice to get two days of riding in. It was really important and it went well, and Infineon’s a fun track.”
Josh Hayes: “It was extremely important. We have a completely new bike, and any time we can get on the motorcycle it’s a good thing. We need to get ourselves up to speed and I can’t think of a better track to do it. Infineon Raceway has everything we deal with at tracks across the country: lots of elevation changes and a flat section on the second half, and it has a lot to offer us. I think it’s event better to race at.”
Ben Bostrom: “The track’s amazing for testing. It’s a lot of work and you have to get your bike set up right, but the new bike is a fantastic machine. The test was important and we had all of our good parts there and two full days in the heat, which will be a lot like this weekend. It was really beneficial, and Infineon is just a fun track.”
Melissa, this is your first year of professional competition, what’s that been like?
Melissa Paris: “It’s been a really good year. I’ve only gotten to the one event (Daytona 200), and I’m looking forward to the second half of the year when I get to do more events. Hopefully Josh won’t be griding up next to me, though, so that’s one more spot on the grid. I didn’t see too much of him during the Daytona 200, which was good because we were there to do our own thing. I don’t think either of us thought too much about the other on the track.”
Ben, is the new Yamaha ready to win this weekend?
BB: “It’s ready to win. It was ready to win last week (at Barber Motorsports Park), I jut got beat. Rider error. It’s a fantastic machine, and there are just a few little things to figure out. Watching Ben Spies ride the bike (in World Superbike) is pretty inspiring.”
Ben, you were quickest in the test at Infineon Raceway last month. Are you ready to end Suzuki’s winning streak in Sonoma?
BB: “Yeah, I’m pretty sure Josh and I are both ready. It’s time. I’m definitely looking to square off with B-squared over M-squared (Mat Mladin) this weekend.”
Josh, if I’m looking for passing this weekend at Infineon Raceway, where should I be looking?
JH: “I think probably the majority of the passing is done at the end of the back straightaway at the end of the drag strip, Turns 7 and 8, and then the second spot is the new chicane after the esses (Turn 9). The thing about Infineon Raceway is that if you’re creative, one small mistake can leave the door open at several spots around the race track. You never know when the exciting stuff will happen. I’ve seen some good passing into the Carousel (Turn 6). All it takes is a small window of opportunity, and a lot of us will take it when we see it.”
Ben, there is still a little confusion about the series. Does it take a year or two to settle down?
BB: “Yes, it took the first couple of races just to get the rules straightened out and some of the riders’ meetings weren’t so friendly the first few rounds. For sure, the best class to watch is the Daytona SportBike class. It’s awesome and there are five different brands that could win. I watch those races every time. Hopefully the Superbike class will get better. Somehow we’ve all got to step up to Mladin’s level.”
Ben, growing up in Northern California, do you remember your first experience at Infineon Raceway?
BB: “I was pretty young and there was a supercross race back when it was Sears Point, and I went there. I went back the next year because the Honda dealers had this match race against each other, and we were watching the road race and all these bikes were racing around and that was the first time I saw a road race and I realized “I want to do that.” The first time I competed was on a Harley in 1995, but wrestling 500 pounds around that track wasn’t cool.”
Melissa, how is it for you as a woman in a male-dominated sport?
MP: “It’s hard to say because I don’t know how it would be the other way. It’s the only sport I can think of where a woman has an equal shot and you don’t need to be extraordinarily strong. Other than that it gets pointed out all the time, but I have as fair a shot as anybody else does.”
What do you like to do away from the track at home or when you’re traveling?
RH: “When I’m back home, I like to hang out with my buddies – fishing, hunting, camping, chasing the local girls around. When I travel, I just go from the hotel and the racetrack. I’m not much of a sightseer. Wish I was, it’d make traveling a lot more fun.”
JH: “We just hit up the submarine (in San Francisco) this morning, and we were hoping to get over to Alcatraz because Melissa has never been there. At home, mountain biking and motocross.”
MP: “It’s so beautiful here, and there’s so much to do with the hiking and sightseeing.”
Kawasaki AMA Superbike Showdown
WHAT: Big O Tires Racing Season Presents: Kawasaki AMA Superbike Showdown, presented by Supercuts
WHEN: May 15-17
CIRCUIT: 12-turn, 2.22-mile road course
NOTABLE: The weekend will also feature three days of Supermoto racing, with Supermoto USA running on Friday and Saturday, and the AMA Supermoto XTRM Championship Series on Sunday. There will also be SBFreaks Street Freestyle all weekend.
TICKETS: $15-$35 single day/$60 weekend; 12-and-under FREE and parking FREE.
INFORMATION: 800-870-RACE, www.infineonraceway.com, www.ticketmaster.com