Since he started racing in the late 1990s, San Diego, California racer Jeremy Toye has lived a storied career. His extensive domestic resume includes several top-five finishes in AMA Pro Racing competition. In 2006, Toye set the fastest lap for a rookie at the Isle of Man. On his sixth trip to compete at the Macau Grand Prix, Toye’s third place finish in 2010 earned him the distinction of being the first American to podium the event in 10 years. The following rain-hampered year, he fell just short of the podium. Although he’s raced several motorcycle brands, the last couple of years have seen him focus on Kawasaki’s ZX–10R.
This year has been a pretty spectacular one for Toye. He successfully teamed with Kawasaki for a one-off effort to conquer the 92nd Running Of Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. In recent days, Toye’s Instagram feed has revealed some seat time on Kawasaki’s upcoming H2R. We caught up with Toye to get his impressions of a busy year of racing and testing.
MO: How did this teaming of you with Kawasaki for Pikes Peak come together?
Jeremy Toye: I came up with an idea that the Pikes Peak dates kinda work into our schedule. I’ve been riding the ZX-10R for Kawasaki the last couple of years, and it seemed like a good bike. I said, “Hey, you guys interested in doing it.” All of a sudden, they turned around and shook their heads, “Yeah, we’re really interested in doing it.”
“Did you guys understand that it’s a race…and…it’s racing.” And they took it on and ran with it. Kawasaki was highly supportive, right off the bat. It was pretty amazing – especially with the state of racing in America and the involvement from some of the manufacturers. For Kawasaki to want to step up and want to do it full-bore is pretty cool.
MO: Running a ZX-10 goes against the popular thought about what it takes to race Pikes Peak. Where did you get the inspiration?
JT: Yeah, I’m a little stubborn, and like I said, I’d been on the bike for a couple years and really liked the bike. I started doing a little bit of homework, and every time I said that I was going to ride a ZX-10, people were going, “Uh, that’s probably not the best choice. Uh, you’re probably gonna need higher bars. Uh, you’re probably gonna need this. That’s not gonna work.” And I went, “I don’t know about that.” It was almost a challenge. That was a major ingredient in it.
I definitely have the racer mentality, but maybe because I’m a little older in my years, my focus has changed a lot. I end up getting in and learning and figuring new things out and just kinda progressing in multiple ways – not just speed. Fortunately, a residual fact is that I have gotten faster, I keep getting faster even though I’m getting older. I’m understanding more. It’s another one of my hobbies that I like figuring things out – maybe not quite as much as racing – but damn close.
MO: When setting the bike up for Pikes Peak, were there any big changes you had to make to the ZX-10 that were different from prepping it for the track?
JT: Yes and no. In the overall scheme of things, it’s still a nice, short course-style chassis – just a little bit softer. The main focus really was lightening the thing up. If you look at the hill and you see what goes on in the course, it’s super tight. So, we thought, “Alright, if we can get this thing really light, maybe close to these dirtbike-style chassis, that’s gonna benefit us.”
The motor was the second biggest thing – if not the biggest. We all know the ZX-10 makes a ton of horsepower. Great. But I kept watching and watching the videos, and I kept thinking to myself, “You know what? I know we’re at elevation, but it doesn’t look like it takes that much horsepower to get up this hill quick.” So, we started thinking that we need to have this bike come off the turns well and accelerate well because there’s no real hardcore straightaways. It has no Isle of Man straightaways in it.
What we ended up doing was detuning the motor and trying to stack as much of that horsepower we took from the top onto the bottom. We ended up getting a bike that still made over 190 horsepower but was friendly to ride. That was the biggest thing. I wanted to have somebody friendly to deal with when I’m not in a friendly environment.
MO: How did you go about learning the course?
JT: I did it the same way I did the Isle of Man. I got the game and played the shit out of it. Pretty much, every day, I’d come home and do an hour of the game and maybe a little bit of video. I was able get it, and I felt pretty comfortable by the time I got there. Obviously, the games don’t do road surface justice – and all the elements. At least, when I got there, I knew that I was going straight, turn left, dog-leg, up over this-and-that…which was a major benefit. Where even after doing [this race] and having a respectable time, I can still see so much time just from more track knowledge, where I can make up a lot of time, next time.
MO: Would you approach preparation differently if you knew how green the road would be after a day without practice sessions.
JT: That’s a difficult question. Yes, and almost no – because preparing for something like that is almost impossible. Let’s just say, it caught us off guard big time, and we really thought we had a good game plan. And we got into something, and we’re like, “wow, we are not ready for this.”
MO: Could you explain how the course changed for race day?
JT: Basically, we started off, and you get four days of practice. And practice went very well. There’s a consistent four days of cars, bikes, and rubber put on the ground. By the end of those practices, it was starting to feel like a short circuit course. Good grip. We were actually riding pretty aggressively.
At the end of Friday, the course is opened to the general public and the elements of Colorado – which is something in itself – for almost two full days. When we set out for our race lap, the thing had changed so dramatically that I couldn’t even concentrate at the start of the race because the bike was so different. I’m yelling at my mechanic, he must’ve missed the setup. He did a change. We must’ve missed the tire pressure.
I’ve got all of this stuff going on in my head. So, the consistency of inconsistency was there for the whole [course], and I thought to myself, “You know, it’s not changing. It must be road surface.” So, since everyone else was dealing with this, it was like “OK, hammer down. Let’s do this.”
MO: Did you have any idea how well you’d done, or did they have to tell you at the top?
JT: Total surprise. I actually…not that I really want this out…but I actually got to the top and, uh, threw a little fit. I did. I’m not normally like that. I got to the top, and I was just like frustrated…I could’ve rode so much better. I didn’t think I’d put it together. Then to find out that the other bikes in the race had the exact same problem I did, and I dealt with it a little bit better. It was that much more special to hear that these quality guys that had been there years over had the same problem. I was pretty happy after it was all said and done. Initially, not so much. Initially, it was a shock, to be honest.
MO:You had one guy, a European guy, who was consistently quicker than you through the whole week…
JT: Yeah, me and Fabrice (Lambert) had gone back-to-back during pretesting and qualifying. Then I fell off [in qualifying]. We had pushed ourselves into a corner that it was going to be hard to get out of. Then to find out that we had beat him by the top. Not only to beat somebody of the quality of that guy but in the conditions that we did…that was satisfying.
MO: I know you have to get up early for this event. What’s it like living that kind of schedule? Does it alter the way you approach the bike or practice?
JT: The only thing it alters is my happiness. Because it sucks. It just sucks.
MO: I heard you were pretty grouchy.
JT: Yeah, I’m not a morning person, and to have to get up at 3:00 in the morning to be at the track and riding by 4:30. Real simple, it sucks. It’s one of those things they have to do. They actually open the track up to the public in the afternoon. So, you get in there first thing in the morning which sounds crazy, but it’s the best weather, too. Colorado, that time of year, tends to go south in the afternoon. So, in the morning, it’s dark, and everything is nice and dry. There’s a reason for it. And my reason is: it’s bad; it sucks.
MO: Do you want to do it again next year, or is it something you sorta said…
JT: Yeah, I’m sure the ultimate buzz over the thing at my end will be a little bit lower if we do it next year, but I didn’t accomplish everything I set out to do. So, I definitely want to go back next year. Even as we were done with the race, I was thinking to myself, you know what, we could’ve done this, I should’ve done this. Coulda-woulda-shoulda, and then you come up with 100 things you could’ve done, and probably, 99 of them probably wouldn’t have worked. The only way you’re gonna figure out if this is the true direction or the true answer is to go next year.
MO: Switching gears from the recent past to the near future, we’ve seen on Instagram that you’ve been riding the H2 at 210 mph. Have you been working in any sort of official capacity with Kawasaki?
JT: Noooo,…uh, officially, no. Unofficially, I’ve definitely had …been asked for my opinion, and we can leave it at that.
Officially, I’ve done Kawasaki’s commercials since 2009. I did a project with Kawasaki a bunch of years ago on the previous generation ZX-10 and did a magazine deal, and we raced it and did really good. At that time, I started my relationship with a couple guys at Kawi. Since then, I’ve been doing a lot of commercials from 2010 on. All the ZX-10 commercials, all the ZX-10 ads. Ninja 300 commercials, ZX-14 commercials, all those have actually been me.
That’s how the H2 thing came up. That’s what I was doing. It was not test riding. I was doing a commercial.
MO: What can you say about the bike? Anything?
JT: No. (laughs – long pause) I can say that it’s f**king gnarly. It is f**king fast. All I can say is…uh…the hype is real. It’s no shit.