Four-time AMA Superbike Champion Josh Hayes turned pro in 1996. So, he’s been around the AMA Roadracing paddock long enough to have experienced the good times of American roadracing before the DMG debacle and the global financial collapse. Given that experience and the fact that he’s the reigning Superbike champ, we buttonholed him at the Yamaha Champions Induction to find out his thoughts on the ongoing changes to his racing series now that MotoAmerica has taken over the reins. Hayes’ answers reflect his experience and his hopes for the role he will play in the near and distant future.
MO:I just want to talk with you about MotoAmerica and any thoughts you may have about the upcoming season.
JH: Right now, everything’s pretty new to everybody. Wayne [Rainey] has reached out to me to say hi and to let me know what’s going on – how he’s in charge and running things. He’s asked me a few questions about a few racetracks, but for the most part, it’s been kinda quiet over there. I think they probably have a lot going on, and it’s probably hard to get much of that information out until they feel confident things are put together and done well.
So, on the overall grand scheme, I think the first year is going to be very difficult. Change is always hard, and this is a pretty big change. We have some great people involved. Most of them have been riders and team owners, but I don’t think any of them have ever had to schedule and try to run a racing event. So, there are probably going to be quite a few things that are going to possibly slip through the cracks but hopefully not. I think everybody’s positive to try to work together with them to make it better, but the first year, of course, I think will be difficult. I think there’s a bright future beyond that of building and working together and making a good show.
MO:Because of the people involved, do you feel they are more open to suggestion from the riders due to their background in motorcycle racing and not just auto racing?
JH: That’s yet to be seen, but I would think so. I would think that they’ve been around; they’re knowledgeable enough. They know that technology and bikes are moving along pretty quickly, and they’re going to have to catch up a little bit, as well, with some of the things that are going on. They have good resources, having communication with the world championships and where they’re going with their stuff.
It’s yet to be seen because they haven’t been put into a hard situation. So, when we show up at a racetrack and find ourselves in a predicament with some kind of rules interpretation or whatever it may be, I think those are the type of things we are going to have to sort out in time. Hopefully, the guys are stern when they need to be and they listen when they need to. I have high hopes, though.
MO:What do you hear from the other guys?
JH: I actually don’t get much communication with the other guys. Everybody goes kind of silent in the off-season. Most of the phone calls I’ve gotten from other riders have been about the new R1. They all want to know about the bike.
Still, a few people are asking questions. You know: What do I think [about MotoAmerica]? And they’re getting the same answers you are. There are not too many people calling me saying, “Hey, I’ve got this inside information.” I feel like they’re keeping their information pretty close to the chest until they’re ready to release it. Sounds like they’re putting some good people in place, though. I’m excited to see where it goes.
MO:From my side of the fence, it sure seems exciting after the past few years. I hope it lives up to the potential.
JH: You know, I think everybody’s ready for change. I’ve heard a lot of “They couldn’t do worse with it.” I think that we went through a challenging time in racing, but there was probably no easy way out – it started off bad – for those guys to dig their way out. A few more bad decisions made it really difficult for those guys, but I’m glad we had racing for the last six or seven years. Personally, for me, it was my era. I’m so thankful that it was there. I think that my role for the future is it’s a transitional period for several years. I’m going to be here for that transitional period and then hopefully find a place to fit in when I’m done with my riding career.
MO:I think the last few years has produced some really good racing…
JH: I don’t think the racing was ever the problem. I think we had good racing, and I’ve been thankful that Yamaha has kept such a strong involvement in racing and helped, quite honestly, carry the torch for racing and keep it alive. I can’t imagine what it would be like if Yamaha had not raced.
I think everything happened a little late this year to have new manufacturers coming in because the budgetary stuff is already said and done. Hopefully, we put on a decent show for the fans this year, and it gets out and in their face a little better. From there, it will make it easier for the other manufactures to make the decision to show up and spend their money at the racetrack.