Starting from the pole, Hayes earned his second and third wins of the 2009 AMA American Superbike season July 18-19 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.
Race One began with Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Blake Young jumping ahead of Hayes. The veteran made several attempts to pass before finding success on lap six.
Hayes would hold off challenges from Jordan Suzuki’s Aaron Yates to lead the rest of the 21-lap race to win by 0.183 seconds.
“It started off pretty crazy,” says Hayes, who earned his first American Superbike win earlier this season at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. “I started off pretty good through Turn One and just got trounced before I got to the keyhole, then Blake kind of got out there and took off and ran. It took me a little while to get my wits about me and get to him and get through there and then I just tried to ride smooth, and I just had a lot of fun. It was a good race. There was a lot of pressure the whole way, and the last lap was right up there with every other lap.”
Yates jumped into second place on lap 15 but saw his best chance at passing Hayes stalled by some lapped racers. Yates finished nearly three seconds ahead of Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Mat Mladin, placing his GSX-R1000 ahead of all three factory machines for the first time this season.
“I felt pretty good about the end of the race, but it was tough getting by a couple guys,” says Yates. “We ran up on some lappers just kind of cruising along that wanted to race with the leaders and kind of gave a little gap to Josh there for a little while, but it was fun at the end being able to chase him down. I felt like if I had some clear track, I could have caught back up but I just ran out of laps.”
After the race, AMA Pro Racing suspended privateer Yamaha rider Johnny Rock Page from Race Two and the next round at Heartland Park for impeding the progress of the race leaders.
Mladin had an uncharacteristically poor qualifying session, starting the race in ninth.
“These guys were running a good pace,” says Mladin. “It’s one thing to be able to get up there, but it’s another thing to get past. We couldn’t do it today and that was it. Obviously it would have made it easier to be a little bit closer on the start. That’s the way it goes, we just didn’t have the pace today.”
While Hayes spent Saturday’s Race One defending the lead from a pack of Suzuki riders, his closest competitor in Sunday’s Race Two was teammate Ben Bostrom. Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Tommy Hayden took the holeshot but lost the lead on turn six later on the first lap. Hayes would lose the lead only briefly to Bostrom on the same turn in laps eight and 11, only to regain the lead by the next corner.
“This is what Superbike racing is supposed to be,” says Hayes. “One lap I had a full second gap, and the rest of the time I had these guys breathing down my neck. This is what you feel good about; when you go home you know that you put it all out there, that these guys were having a good day too and you came out on top. It doesn’t matter how much you win by, it’s the difference between racing and just going fast around a race track.”
Hayes finished just under a second ahead of Bostrom to put two Yamaha R1s on top of the podium. With the win, Hayes became the first Yamaha rider to record three AMA Superbike wins in a single season since Colin Edwards in 1994.
“We had a very good bike today,” says Bostrom. “It seems like when you brake on the inside, you never seem to make the corner, and Josh is real smart, very savvy. He just kind of high-lowed me back up there, so I tried to get on the gas pretty hard the second time and came pretty far out of the saddle. I thought I was going to jump on his bike. I just settled down and tried to follow him and figured I’d just make a run on him in the end. I felt like my bike was incredible.”
Hayden would finish third ahead of Young to complete the podium. Foremost Pegram Ducati’s Larry Pegram was fifth across the finish, followed by Michael Laverty of Celtic Suzuki. Mladin would follow in seventh for his worst finish of the season.
“It’s no secret that we’ve struggled a bit this weekend,” says Mladin. “We have some issues that need to be sorted out. We’ve been working on it, but so far we haven’t come up with anything that allows me to feel comfortable enough on the bike to really push it. But we’ll keep trying and hopefully come back stronger for the next race.”
Mladin still holds a comfortable 390-264 lead in the championship standings over Hayden, followed by Bostrom at 246 points and Hayes at 245 points.
Yamaha’s performance was the biggest story at Mid-Ohio, but the top issue going into the race was the American Superbike debut of the Buell 1125RR. Detractors question whether the race machine met the series’ homologation requirements
Privateer Taylor Knapp was the first to ride the 1125RR in competition. Knapp qualified 12th and finish in that position in Race One. Knapp fared better in Race Two, finishing tenth.
The 2009 AMA American Superbike series continues July 31-Aug. 2 at Heartland Park Topeka in Topeka, Kans.
|2009 AMA American Superbike top five standings|
|1st||Mat Mladin||Suzuki GSX-R1000||390|
|2nd||Tommy Hayden||Suzuki GSX-R1000||264|
|3rd||Ben Bostrom||Yamaha YZF-R1||246|
|4th||Josh Hayes||Yamaha YZF-R1||245|
|5th||Larry Pegram||Ducati 1098R||223|