Yates discusses bike setup...
Yates discusses bike setup changes with the Evan Steel Performance crew at Homestead. Unlike most riders, Yates prefers to be involved with the changes that are made to the bike. "I've got a pretty good knowledge of geometry and all that. I just enjoy trying to make things better, making changes to make stuff better.
Yates was ready to go racing when Indy rolled around and wanted to continue. “I feel like I’m ready to ride. I’m ready to do something. I mean, if I’m not riding I’d like to be involved with somebody or doing something with a team or helping develop some bikes or doing something. It’s come at a time when I’ve got to figure something out. I had a long time there where I couldn’t really do much but carry a set of crutches around or a cane. And it’s been nice this year. Hands have been free and I’ve been able to get some stuff done. So yeah, it’s time to make another step and do something.”
Not long after that, Yates got the call from Evan Steel. The plan was to ride at Homestead and possibly New Orleans. Though he chose not to race on the wet/dry Homestead track, Yates’ performance and feedback convinced the team to go on the season finale in New Orleans. And there’s talk of a full program in 2013.
“Evan’s (Steel) idea is…he thinks that there (are) possibilities of getting some pretty good support from BMW if we go out there and have some pretty good success,” Yates said, “but we really haven’t had the time on the bike to develop it and get what I need out of it.”
Yates is different from most riders in that he’s always worked on his own machinery. “I’m pretty much a mechanic that ended up I had to work on my stuff to go ride,” he said. “When I was doing my own program in ‘94 and ‘95 I was doing my own motors, doing everything and it’s just kind of what I do. I keep my stuff up and go race.
“I’ve always kept up with the changes we’ve made to the bike and what they do and I’ve got a pretty good knowledge of geometry stuff and all that. I just enjoy trying to make things better, making changes to make stuff better. I’ve always paid attention to what we do with the bike and been involved with it, not just telling somebody what the thing’s doing.”
His knowledge has sometimes gotten him in trouble with crew chiefs. What they want to hear from riders is how the bike feels; what they don’t want to hear is suggestions for how to fix it. Yates says many of the technicians don’t ride motorcycles. He said they’ve got “little computer programs and they can look at these numbers and stuff, but it takes actual hands-on experience, actual riding and, you know, just being able to make changes to get an idea of what you want to do.”
Yates didn’t have much time to improve the Evan Steel Performance BMW at Homestead. There was little dry track time for Yates, who was racing against riders who’d had a two-day test at the facility following Daytona.
“I mean, we get like an hour and a half of dry track time, like about 30 laps, maybe to go out there and race with these guys who spent two days, pretty much everybody there spent two days testing at that place,” he said. “And every time I went out we were changing gearing and setup stuff.”
As confident as Yates is in his recovery, he didn’t believe it was worth taking risks on the wet/dry circuit, even though he’s a proficient rain rider. He’s spent time testing Dunlop tires in the wet at the company’s facility in Huntsville, Alabama and went “decent” in the wet practice at Homestead. “But then again, there was really nothing to gain. It was just a little risky. I’m not ready to go put it on the line like that and risk throwing the thing down. It’s different than going riding around in practice and qualifying or riding around there with a bunch of guys. And there’s no telling who’s out there thinking they’re going to go try to win this thing. But it looks like everybody rode smart and had a pretty good race.”
What Yates objected to were the concrete patches just off the racing line that were slipperier than the track surface. “If it wasn’t for the little patches in the corners, the little patches that made the line about a foot and a half wide on the inside of the corner, I would’ve gone forward.”
Having come this far in both his recovery and the improvement of the BMW, the decision was made to get to the next race “without having to spend money on the bike to get it back together. The guy I’m riding with really doesn’t have any kind of budget. They want to try to make the bike better so we can be competitive at the next round. So that was our thinking.”
Having raced through the salad days of AMA Superbike racing, Yates was always properly compensated for his work. Now, he said, it’s hard since he’s not being paid big bucks to go out and race and “that would make things different for me. But to go out there and ride or to try to get $2000 purse money to win or a thousand for third or something like that,” on a dodgy track, “I’ll just wait until it’s more necessary.”
Yates turned 39 in mid-December, but he’s showing no signs of slowing down. He spends a fair amount of time riding Supermoto bikes. His race fitness isn’t an issue. When he got off the BMW, on a sultry weekend in south Florida, he’d hardly broken a sweat.
And he might get another shot at the MotoGP bike. GP Tech’s Maloney has been taking weight off the bike as well as boosting engine power. There’s talk of riding it at the WERA GNF, which Yates thought would be “cool.” There was also talk of taking it to the final round of the MotoGP season in Valencia. “But that whole deal, that was really a lot of fun. It was pretty neat to go racing like that with really no pressure. Not do anything special other than get in the show and that was pretty easy to accomplish. The bike was what it was. It was put together real quick, we had no kind of electronics or anything. Obviously it was a good time had by everyone.” Which — after waiting two and a half years to get back in a racing environment — is what’s important to Yates now. SR