Monster Energy Graves Yamaha's...
Monster Energy Graves Yamaha's Josh Hayes was yet again the man to beat in Friday's provisional qualifying in AMA Superbike at NOLA on Friday.
NEW ORLEANS, LA, OCT 5 – We’ve seen this before. Not Monster Energy Graves Yamaha’s Josh Hayes taking the provisional pole-he’s taken nine of ten poles this season. What we’ve seen is new tracks tearing up tires, especially fronts, and riders having to figure out a way to adapt.
That was the case in Friday AMA Superbike qualifying on the first day of competition at NOLA Motorsports Park across the Mississippi River from New Orleans. The hardest tires Dunlop had were tearing, both front and rear, and Hayes said he might have to find a way to conserve the tires in the race. As it was, there were corners he found scary the more the tires wore, so he backed off to find a solution.
In the end he backed off less than the others and took the provisional pole by nearly a second on Jordan Suzuki’s Roger Hayden, the only rider other than Hayes to be on pole this season. Hayden took the pole in the previous round at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he earned his breakthrough first win in difficult conditions on Saturday. But today’s conditions were hot and sunny, as they’re expected to be all weekend, and the riders had not rain to deal with but a hot track with little rubber on it.
The conditions aren’t dissimilar to what happened the first times AMA motorcycles tested and raced at Barber Motorsports Park. Once the track got more rubber on it, it was fine. (It was also eventually repaved.) And it’s expected that the track conditions should improve over the course of this weekend as more rubber gets put down.
“Everything’s going well,” Hayes said. “The track’s definitely getting better as we get more motorcycles to go around it. The first session you could definitely tell it definitely hadn’t had too many motorcycles going around it and so I thought that the conditions here in the afternoon were quite a bit better. And winds died down, you know, not too bad. Track might have one or two more little bumps in it, but nothing of any consequence, I don’t think. And things are clicking along alright. We’re still a little far off from where we tested, but we’re on different tires than what we rode at the test. So I think we’re still trying to kinda sort out some of those things. And so far, everything’s going pretty well."
Hayes thought everyone was tearing tires on Friday at New Orleans during AMA Superbike provisional qualifying, though he got about 26 laps on both a front and rear, and “just spent most of my time trying to figure out how to deal with it, because I don’t think it’s an issue that’s going to go away come race time.
“I think the ones that I chose were the hardest tires and they’re typically the ones that will not tear, if they’re going to tear. Like I said, there was some tearing. I imagine if we were on softer tires it could get worse quick. But we also have a little bit of experience. We know that as more rubber gets put down on the track…you know, the second day of the test the tires lasted a little longer than the first day. They had that big storm, they’ve been scrubbing all the dirt off this track. We knew that the track conditions weren’t going to be the best this morning, so we chose the hardest options that would give us the most amount of track time, because we see on the race track, what’s the most adjustable thing on a motorcycle? The wing nut behind the handlebars. So give me time to go out and ride the thing around the racetrack and see everything and feel fresh, feel good. And then this afternoon and tomorrow and wait ‘til there’s a little more rubber on the track and having a lot of motorcycles out there before we start worrying and even looking at if the softer tires are going to be able to do race distance or not. Right now I’m pretty fast on the hard stuff, so I feel pretty good about it.”
Tire conservation could “possibly” come into play in the AMA Superbike race, Hayes said. But he added that he was able to string together a number of fast laps at New Orleans “and felt fairly safe doing that. So I feel I can possibly put together a couple of fast ones and see how that goes and I’m getting a better idea of where the limits are, where to take chances, where I can’t take chances, where I can, on the front, whenever it gets in that situation I’m just trying to do a lot of laps.”
If he does have to adjust his riding style it will come in trail braking, he said, “that’s where you’re hardest on the tire.
“The hard part is when the tire gets that tear on it, the scariest part of the race track is the fastest part. Going fifth gear off that back straightaway and then fourth through that series of switchbacks…is terrifying when the tire’s moving around. You really feel it. Even though you’re moving really fast, things are happening in slow motion. Your wheels are spinning so hard, so much centrifugal force that it takes a lot of force in the handlebars to make anything happen. So you start to change direction, you really start kinda pulling on those things and you feel the front tire and front end moving and you go, oh man, if its not rolling straight, that means it’s sliding and it’s really, really hard on the brain stem, whenever it starts doing that. That’s definitely the part of the track that’s the scariest. But it’d be really easy to run off into Turn 3 or Turn 4 and make an easy mistake trying to trail brake off in there to make a pass or something like that.”
Hayes did make one mistake at New Orleans during AMA Superbike practice, running off the track and crashing. Initially he didn’t want to talk about it, but he did.
“I just hit the edge of the red curbing and I fell as soon as I hit the curbing trying to lean it over and stay off the grass and I was just kind of at that point standing it up to go off and just ride out,” he said. “I feel like an idiot. I feel bad for my guys. I tore up my motorcycle for no reason.”
AMA Superbike New Orleans Friday provisional qualifying:
1. Josh Hayes (Yamaha) 1:39.943
2. Roger Hayden (Suzuki) 1:40.941
3. Blake Young (Suzuki) 1:40.962
4. Danny Eslick (EBR) 1:41.159
5. Ben Bostrom (Suzuki) 1:41.175
6. Larry Pegram (BMW) 1:41.665
7. Roberto Pietri (Suzuki) 1:41.806
8. Geoff May (EBR) 1:42.078
9. Chris Fillmore (KTM) 1:42.238
10. Taylor Knapp (Suzuki) 1:42.474