After finishing runner-up to Mat Mladin in ’09, Josh Hayes finally clinched his first-ever AMA Superbike championship last season with the help of the Graves Motorsports team and Yamaha’s YZF-R1. For the 2011, Hayes and his team have picked up new sponsorship from Monster Energy. We recently spoke with him prior to last weekend’s season opener at Daytona in which he scored a 3-2 finish. Find out more in the 2011 AMA SuperBike Daytona Race 1 Results and 2011 AMA SuperBike Daytona Race 2 Results.
Shoot I think it’s easier to ask my wife… All the usual things: a little bit of moto, some cycling—helping Melissa [Paris] with her program. I’ve done a little bit of testing. We went to Daytona twice, tested at Las Vegas a little bit and went to Chuckwalla to do some videos and public service announcements for the military. I’ve been playing a lot of tennis which I played in high school and am enjoying that again. I’m just trying to enjoy the off-season, living by the beach, and making sure I’m ready to go for this year.
ANY IMPROVEMENTS TO THE ’11-SPEC YAMAHA YZF-R1:
For the most part the bike is ready and now has a new look since it’s now Monster Energy Graves Yamaha. Otherwise we made a few small improvements. I have been very, very lucky that Yamaha hasn’t rested with what they had and continued to work on the bike. Judging by our tests and the way things have been going, I think we are going to show up with an improved motorcycle compared to what we had at our last race at Barber. I’m excited and fired up to see some new faces on some new motorcycles which will be a fun and interesting. Roger Hayden is coming back and Larry [Pegram] will be on a BMW which will mix things up and make for some excitement in the series. I just keep reminding myself that Daytona is a race in itself and after that we get into the meat of the season that’s when we’ll really see how things fall into place.
LAST TIME WE CHECKED, YOU WEREN’T USING TRACTION CONTROL ON THE R1, EXPLAIN:
It’s the same as when Steve Atlas rode it (see the Hayes Yamaha YZF-R1 Superbike Review). We really have not implemented anything new into the machine this year. In fact, I want to say we did a little bit less. If remember right, we had a small amount of wheelie control on it back when MotoUSA did the test. We did some things with the chassis and engine that prevented the bike from wheeling so much and actually I don’t even know if those wheelie strategies are still in there since I have not discussed them with the team since I can remember. At this point there is no traction control and I know it’s just another tool we have that we can utilize. But I have not gotten there yet. I have not got to the point where I feel ‘you know what, I’m missing out and we really need to work on this to get ourselves to the front.’ Right now we have been focused on things that we feel are more important than traction control.
YOUR TAKE ON THE STATE OF AMA ROAD RACING:
I would say on the racing and operational side of things everything is going well. You know everyone is happy to be racing and having a good time and all of that is great. Now we just need to start working on the promotional and marketing side of our sport and try to help it grow and get back some of that core crowd that we lost years ago. Also we need to introduce it to new people and figure out how to get them involved and invested in it to make it a better show for people to come out and see.
ANY OTHER ROUNDS YOU’D LIKE TO SEE ADDED TO THE SERIES:
As a racer, I really like racing and I would love a 15 race season. I mean MotoGP has a 18 races and World Superbike has something like a 12 or 13 race season, so from my perspective I would like to see more. The more the merrier. I understand that these are hard times and we typically had a 10 race series but right now we have nine races with a possible tenth to be announced. I’m excited we are going back to Miller which I think is a premier track in the country and definitely needs to be on the calendar. On a personal note, I’m not too excited about the combined weekends where we race with World Superbike and MotoGP but I understand the draw of it. It makes it a little hard to watch because I’m there to do my job. Our series is the premier series in the United States but it gets overshadowed by the World Championship and a bigger show. Sometimes it’s great to run a support class. But I think we have some pretty good racing and it deserves a little bit of its own thunder.
WILL ROOKIES LIKE MARTIN CARDENAS HAVE AN EASIER TIME NOW THAT AMA SUPERBIKES ARE USING MORE SUPERSTOCK-BASED ENGINE RULES:
I think the 1000s are hard to ride no matter what. They are not as big of a pussy cat as it’s labeled out to be. He’s on a proven team and he’s a proven rider. He won more races than anybody. He’s a race winner. He has been pretty spectacular since the day he got here in the U.S. I he’s going to do just fine. He’s a good motorcycle rider and he will be in the mix in a very short amount of time.
HOW YOU’VE PREPARED FOR THIS SEASON:
I found something that is fun again and I’m having a good time with it [playing tennis]. I’ve joined a club that has a good crew to play with and I’ve been enjoying getting out and mixing it up with those guys and being competitive with something. I’ve been doing the cycling and motocross for so many years that it’s fun to have something new in there. I feel fit and still get in my bicycle rides when I can and still do some motos. You know that’s really been the only new thing for me. I’ve had a pretty successful program and I’m not going to venture to far from what’s worked for me.