BIRMINGHAM, ALA, JUNE 17 – Monster Energy Graves Yamaha’s Josh Hayes has finished on top of every qualifying session this season. Today was no exception. On a warm, overcast day, and on a not completely dry track, Hayes took the provisional pole for this weekend’s Barber Superbike Classic on the lush grounds of Barber Motorsports Park.
Hayes wasn’t fast straight away - rather he wasn’t comfortable. The track didn’t feel right and he struggled with edge grip. “Otherwise I thought some of our settings were pretty good,” he said. Adding to his discomfort: His lap timer wasn’t working.
“We wanted to run through all the tires that they had,” he said. “We went to the tire that we raced last year and that was the tire that we ended up finishing off the session with. Came in and made one or two adjustments to the bike and put on the race tire that we used last year and went out and it was, the bike was pretty good. Some of the changes they made definitely helped.”
Helped so much that on his first flying lap with about 12 minutes to go Hayes lapped the undulating 2.38-mile road course in 1:25.980 mins. He followed that up with a lap half a second slower, than a lap that was nearly as fast as his best, a 1:26.068. A 1:26.167 was next, with the string ending at 1:26.460 before he slowed a bit. After three laps at less than full speed Hayes buckled down and finished his session with a lap of 1:26.930 mins.
“I was a little surprised to see a ‘25 today,” Hayes said after taking the provisional pole. “I didn’t think when we first rolled out that the track was quite ready for us to go ‘25.”
There was a chance late in the session for Hayes to dip farther into the 1:25’s until he scared himself by running up on painted curbing over the tunnel turn. “Over the top of that hill’s a little dodgy anyway and I was a little scared to tip the thing,” he explained. “You know, you tip it in there, then you’re having to deal with water in the apex of the next turn. I ended up just kinda really not getting through that section well. Still came across with a 26.0.”
Hayes finally got to the point where he “knew I couldn’t go any faster. So I kinda tinkered around and looked around a little bit and went at it one more time just to see, get into a rhythm, get out of a rhythm.”
His cushion on Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Tommy Hayden was a comfortable half-second until the end of the 45-minute session when Hayden stuck in a lap of 1:26.157 mins. and closed the gap to .177 sec. Hayes knew he couldn’t go any faster and wasn’t going to come in for another tire, “and it was like, ‘Well, that’s the best I’ve got today. Hopefully it stands.’ It looks like Tommy got pretty close but not quite there. I think I have some more in me for tomorrow. I knew we had another day, that we’d get another shot at it.”
For final qualifying, Hayes said he “definitely” had some good ideas. “There’s been several weekends this year where at this time in the weekend I think the bike’s pretty good and I don’t really know where to go with it or what to change to improve. But I feel like I have a few things that I can improve for tomorrow. So hopefully we’ll be able to take our pace up another notch.
“And on top of that, hopefully be able to maintain the pace a little longer. Right now, we can get about half-race distance really good and then times seem to drop off. We have some ideas what we want to do to try to improve that tomorrow.”
For the past two weeks he’s been working on the maintenance of his physical pace by coming to the south straight from the race at Road America. He and his wife, Melissa Paris, went for a bicycle ride on a day of morning heat that reached 90 degrees. And they did a couple rides in well over 100 degree heat, “and so I think a little bit of time to acclimate in the heat hopefully benefitted us and maybe we’ll get to see it, see it happen. All you need’s a little edge, right? Maybe that’ll help with having just a little edge the second half of the races this weekend.”
1. Josh Hayes (Yamaha) 1:25.980
2. Tommy Hayden (Suzuki) 1:26.157
3. Ben Bostrom (Suzuki) 1:26.848
4. Roger Lee Hayden (Suzuki) 1:26.850
5. Blake Young (Suzuki) 1:26.884
6. Larry Pegram (BMW) 1:27.053
7. Steve Rapp (BMW) 2:27.280
8. Martin Cardenas (Suzuki) 1:27.300
9. Geoff May (Buell) 1:27.559
10. Chris Peris (BMW) 1:27.950