Get to Know: Josh Hayes
Josh Hayes rides for the Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing Team in the MotoAmerica Superbike Championship as Cameron Beaubier's teammate. He is a legend of US racing and is a four-time AMA Superbike Champion, two-time AMA Formula Xtreme Champion, AMA Supersport champion, plus he has a MotoGP top seven finish to his name. Yamaha-racing.com caught up with the 42-year-old from Mississippi during the summer break to have a chat about his season so far, the success of MotoAmerica and the future of US riding talent.
Yamaha-racing.com chatted to Josh Hayes during his summer break to get to know him a little better:
Josh, you filled in for the injured Colin Edwards riding a Tech 3 Yamaha at the Valencia GP in 2011, finishing in seventh, what was it like to race in MotoGP?
"Yeah I got my one shot at MotoGP! I was very fortunate to have a good weekend, everything was pretty steady. It had its challenges, like the fact the first time I had ever ridden on slicks and with carbon brakes was in Qualifying, because all the practice sessions had been wet. It was a big learning curve because it was such a different experience and the bike was so hard to ride. If I got the chance to do it again, I would probably be more nervous the second time around as I set the bar a little too high! It was the end of the 800 era, which were notoriously hard bikes to ride, so I was very lucky and very appreciative to get that experience on the Yamaha M1 at the top level of motorcycle racing considering I have been a professional motorcycle racer my whole life!"
Talk us through your 2017 season so far?
"It has been a very difficult year for me. I was saying to my wife recently I have had 12 years in a row where I have finished first or second in every championship I have raced in. That's a pretty solid run but here I am on year 13 and it is really turning out to an unlucky year for me. I have crashed at 5 of the six race weekends this year. I don't know how these MotoGP guys do it, I don't know how they can bounce on the ground so many times and so fast, and yet just get back up and keep on going! I am going to have to rely on my experience to get things going this season. I have one race win under my belt, which was satisfying, and we are trying to turn things around. We have had some new rules this season and some new challenges, plus the competition has upped their game considerably. We are not out of it yet, we just need to figure out how to exploit the advantages of the R1 over our rivals and keep getting better to put the pressure on the top guys."
MotoAmerica is in its third year now, how successful is it?
"I am lucky as I have gotten to see all three eras of modern US racing. I raced in the original AMA, then AMA when it went professional and now we have MotoAmerica. All the things are here in MotoAmerica to make it one of the best race series in the world! The one thing we are lacking is depth. The top riders are good enough to be competitive in any national or world championship, but we need more depth. America is a big country, but Motorsport is not a big as it is in Europe. Operationally everything is great, now we have to try and figure out how to sell our sport to get more people involved, more motorcycles on the road and people excited about the racing, which is awesome! Anyone I have gotten into bike racing finds it exciting and they continue to follow it and become lifelong fans. It's getting that experience into more people's hands, so they can relate to what they are seeing and get excited about it. I think the biggest area that needs developing is the grass roots level racing at the local level, we have to figure how to build that up more so that we have a constant influx of strong, new, young Americans to work their way up the chain and learn their craft. Everything that is needed is here, we have good teams, good riders and good racing, we just need a few more good teams and riders to take it on to the next level. We are all enjoying what we have and the success of MotoAmerica. It has grown a little bit each year, for instance you have more motorcycles capable of winning this year than last year, so all we can do is keep plugging away, try to put on a good show and hope that we can continue to grow."
Who do you see as the next 'big thing' in US racing?
"It is difficult to say! There are quite a few good riders out there. PJ Jacobsen has gone to the World Supersport Championship and he is doing a pretty good there. At this time, you just can't deny that there is political bias in racing in regards to where the money comes from, the sponsors are national sponsors normally so passports and money are always going to play a role. Probably more so now as racing is more expensive now than it has ever been. Right now, it's hard to get American companies to spend money in Europe and European sponsors aren't that excited to have an American rider, so it makes it hard for us to go over and race. I think if you took any of the top guys in BSB, AMA, IDM, WorldSBK, MotoGP, we are all top riders. If you took any of us and put us in the right situation, with the right team that believes in us and works with us so that we feel good about our situation, then we would rise to a very competitive level. That is obviously more complicated than it looks, but we have a lot of talent over here in this series. I know how good Cameron Beaubier is. I know Josh Herrin is incredibly talented. I think he did some growing up by going from being the man here to going to WorldSBK and having to start at a lower level and work his way back up again. He has definitely come back stronger. JD beach and Garret Gerloff, my Yamaha teammates in Supersport, both have so much potential. It's just a case of trying to find the right position for them that makes them comfortable and confident to take that chance, to take the leap and go after the next level."
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