Rider Spotlight: Josh Hayes
NEWS November 3, 2011
Photo by Brian J. Nelson
Two-time AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike champion Josh Hayes is filling in for Colin Edwards on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1 in this weekend's MotoGP finale at Valencia. AMA Pro caught up with the Mississippi Madman ahead of his MotoGP debut, read on to find out how the deal came together, his thoughts on how his weekend will go and about how wife Melissa Paris will also be getting a chance to ride the M1.
AMA Pro: How did the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 ride come about?
JH: Earlier in the year, there was an offer to do World Supersport and be a teammate with Chaz Davies when Luca Scassa had an issue in Italy. I asked for permission but unfortunately, because of our championship and the things going on, they felt that they wouldn’t be able to let me take the offer. Keith McCarty told me that if there was a way to make it up to me in the future, that he would. So, over time he went to work with several other people and was able to recruit the help of people at GYTR, YES and several other sponsors that we have in common with Tech 3 in order to put together a test for me and the M1 on the Tuesday after the last MotoGP round in Valencia. It was intended to be kind of a no pressure test, just for me to see what MotoGP is all about. All of these people were able to put everything together between Monster, GYTR, Tech 3 and Yamaha and came to me after the AMA Pro championship was done, and said, “Since you won the championship, we’re going to have you go over to Valencia to ride the MotoGP bike.” After Malaysia though, it changed the scene of the race, but since I was already planning on being in Valencia anyway, it was a good fit for me to step in for Colin Edwards. Then the question was, can I get the leathers and all of my suits in time? I called Teknic to see if they could get me a suit in a couple of days and they got so excited that they put out a press release before Yamaha… oops! [Laughs]
AMA Pro: How was your trip out to Valencia?
JH: Originally, I was planning to fly out here on Wednesday or Thursday, and I knew I’d be pretty jet lagged but I’d be able to meet the team before the weekend. They couldn’t find those flights though, so I ended up having to leave Sunday, Oct. 30th. We had the Yamaha party for the championship on Saturday night in Los Angeles, then the next morning it was LAX to Rome, a long flight (13 hours), and then another two hours of travel to get here. So I had a pretty long day yesterday, but now we’re here.
AMA Pro: What's your schedule looking like for the rest of the week?
It’s kind of funny, I’ve been playing a lot of tennis lately and the Valencia ATT 500 Tournament is about three blocks down the road from here, so I might be able to go watch a little bit of tennis. Other than that, Melissa and I are just checking out Spain. There are a lot of museums and fun things to do. I like museums, and you don’t get to see a lot of this stuff in the U.S. Tomorrow [Thursday], we're going to go in and meet the guys. Spies gets here tomorrow, and my crew chief Jim Roach gets here tomorrow as well. I’ll be at the track for most of the day. Friday morning is the first time I'll get to see the track and the bike.
AMA Pro: You’ve been talking about wanting to ride in World Superbike. How will this experience compare to that goal?
JH: I’ve had aspirations to ride a MotoGP bike, and as I was saying, about riding in World Supersport. As a full-time gig? I don’t know, I never really put that much thought into it. One issue is my age, with how late I got to a superbike. I didn’t think there would be a lot of time for me to get that opportunity. I don’t really know if I realisitically see it going any further than this weekend. I’ve been in AMA Pro SuperBike for a long time and, as a competitive racer, you are always looking for the next challenge. World Superbike looked like a series that I would enjoy and be able to fit into easier than the MotoGP paddock. I don’t know if it’d ever work, but it's definitely a challenge I’d like to see, and AMA Pro is a good stepping stone for me to get into these things.
AMA Pro: How do you think racing a MotoGP bike will change your time in AMA Pro for next year?
JH: I wish I knew. I’ve ridden some really good bikes, and I’ve ridden some really bad bikes. We do all kinds of things differently. I hope that the experience of riding a MotoGP bike, of working with the crew and seeing all the different ways they do things… I’d like to take the things I learn and incorporate them to improve myself as a rider and my crew as a team. That’s why I was so interested in doing this in the first place; I wanted to see if there is something I can learn on a GP bike to use on a superbike. I don’t know, so here I am to find out!
AMA Pro: What do you think the MotoGP bike will be like?
JH: I honestly have no idea. I get mixed reports. I’ve talked to Colin Edwards, I’ve known Ben Spies since he was a little punk on a 125 [laughs] and I also talked with Cal Crutchlow. We’ve known each other for a while and cycle together. All of them have been pretty cool about telling me what it’s like to ride a GP bike. It’s one thing to say it, but another to actually do it and get a real feel for what it’s about. Spies says it’s really small and light, yet harder to change directions than a superbike, that the GP bikes are so light, small, with big power and ridiculous grip, and that you have to have electronics to be able to ride it. It seems like they’re riding on a very fine edge. When watching their crashes, it doesn’t look like they slide out or fall down at a slow speed but are going Mach 10 and are launched into orbit. Look at Cudlin or Lorenzo for example, that tells me they are riding that fine line and I think that riding that fine line will be a hard thing to learn in a few hours. Also, I’ve heard that the transition to carbon brakes is a little tough to deal with.
AMA Pro: As a rider that doesn’t use traction control, how do you think riding a bike that has so many electronic aids will affect you?
JH: Though I don’t use traction control, we still have a lot of electronics on the AMA Pro SuperBike. We still have things to change power modes, corner entry, wheelie control, etc. I rode a 600 one time when AMA Pro changed the rules to allow traction control on them and I spun the tire twice as much as when I didn't have traction control. I’m somewhat familiar with the electronics and how they work. When you look at the GP motorcycle, its 300 something pounds and has over 240 horsepower. I don’t see how you could ride it without electronic aids. This weekend is going to be about learning how to ride it well as opposed to developing the bike, like I did with the R1. I don’t think they’ll be interested as to what I have to say towards the bike. I’ll put out there what I can, but I think more time will be spent on me trying to figure out how to ride the bike well than on me trying to change the bike into something else. I can find fractions of a second changing the bike, or chunks of time when I change my riding style.
AMA Pro: What would you like to say to all the fans in the States that will be watching you on TV this weekend?
JH: What kind of question is that!? [Laughs] Cheer for me and be patient! There has been a lot of Facebook talk and forum discussions about me on the motorcycle, and I’m shocked at how much positive feedback they’ve given me. Usually, those forums can be a scary place with mean people. I’ve been very lucky to have the support that I have, and I’m going to go out there and do what I can. A lot of people are interested just because I’m new to riding in MotoGP and want to see me do well. I've watched a lot of guys from AMA Pro try to ride in MotoGP and struggle. I’m coming into it knowing nothing, so the biggest worry for me is disappointing myself, because I have pretty high expectations. Those expectations, realistic or not, make me the racer that I am. I want to go out there, ride well, figure it out and maybe do well enough that the cameras pick me up and say, “Hey, there’s Josh Hayes on the track!” There are so many things weighing against me, the weather being one of them. It’s going to be a pretty big task if I have to learn a GP bike and a new track in the wet and then have to race it in the dry. I had to do that in World Supersport, quality dry track time wasn’t exactly there. If everything goes perfectly this weekend, living up to my own expectations will be a tall order to fill. Anything other than perfect conditions will be overwhelmingly tough!
AMA Pro: Talk about Melissa Paris riding the MotoGP bike.
JH: The original plan was for me to test next Tuesday, and Melissa was going to test a Moto2 bike. Now, Yamaha has decided that since the Moto2 bike has a different manufacturer’s engine in it, they’re going to put her on the M1. I think on Tuesday I might ride a few laps on the Tech 3 bike and then Melissa will get it for a while. She was interested in the Moto2 bike, but she can’t argue with going straight to a MotoGP bike!
AMA Pro: What would you be doing right now if you weren’t in Valencia?
JH: Probably sitting on my fat butt! I had taken quite a bit of time off from training and now is about the time that I would’ve started getting back into it. Greg White and a few of the guys were making fun of me because here I am not cycling, jogging or doing anything since New Jersey; I’m probably in the worst shape I’ve ever been and I get a phone call to race a MotoGP bike. Ahhh, I should’ve known better!
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