LEEDS, AL, JUNE 22 – Monster Energy Graves Yamaha’s has won a lot of Superbike races, but none at his home track of Barber Motorsports Park. Judging from his current streak of AMA wins and qualifying effort, that’s likely to change in Saturday’s first race of the Triumph Superbike Classic.
“It’s not even about the streak, quite honestly, it’s just about winning races,” Hayes said after qualifying on the provisional pole with a lap of 1:25.696 . Hayes has won the previous three AMA Superbike races, and five of the last six, while building up a 20-point cushion on rival Blake Young, the Yoshimura Suzuki rider who crashed at the end of qualifying at Barber.
“This is a track that I have to almost consider home being from Gulfport, Mississippi. This is the closest national track we’ve had to home for the last ten years. This year we’re going to add one a little bit closer (the season-ending NOLA round at New Orleans in October). The very first year that we came here I won my first AMA pro championship,” the 2003 Superstock championship. “I got second in the race, but I brought home my first championship. Then 2009 I had a pretty miserable year here on a Superbike, my first year on a Yamaha Superbike. 2010 I had some good races. I think we had some weather in one of them and Tommy (Hayden) beat me, though. And then because this was always a good track for him. Again I cruised around and I was able to bring home a championship.
“So I brought home a championship at Barber twice. And then 2011 I just got beat. So I’m about ready to try to put a good one together and bring home the ‘W’ not just for Yamaha but for me, for my mom and my dad and all my family and friends that are standing around the hills out here.”
Anyone standing around today would have gotten baked. The temperature during AMA superbike qualifying was in the low 90s with 40% humidity. Hayes said the conditions were similar to what they’d race in, “so it does give you an idea of how the bike’s going to act at the end of the race.
“There’s quite a bit difference in tire performance over race distance here versus, say, Road America or some of the tracks where we’ve had cooler temperatures. Even Miller, early in the week when it was cold the tires were good for four or five laps, then they were gone. But come race time, there was enough heat in the track that it stayed fairly consistent through race distance. This place isn’t going to be like that.”
The best lap Hayes turned in AMA superbike qualifying at Barber was a 1:25.696, which was well off Mat Mladin’s qualifying record of 1:23.664 in the pre-control tire, proper Superbike era.
“They went fast, that’s what they did,” Hayes joked when told the time. “They went fast.”
Having raced a variety of motorcycles at Barber—FX, Superstock, Supersport, Superbike—Hayes thinks Superbikes are ill-suited to the track, which is short, with lots of elevation changes and some long corners.
“It’s a very difficult track to get a Superbike around,” he said. “It’s short, there’s a lot of waves, there’s a lot of elevation, there’s a lot of long corners and Superbikes don’t really like long corners like that. When you’re in second gear going downhill on something that g’s out and cups up on a Superbike, there’s so much energy being generated and forced through the tire that a lot of times the tire just can’t handle it. And then you put all the horsepower to it, it’s just a very difficult racetrack I think to ride these Superbikes around.
“I’m going to go back, I’m going to look at some things and I’m going to see if I can go faster. I would think tomorrow I can get into the low 25s. I don’t know if I have 24s in the bike right now. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
From the pace the others are going, Hayes doesn’t have to get into the 24s. The only other rider consistently in the mid-26s during AMA qualifying was teammate Josh Herrin, who was fourth in his first visit to Barber on a Superbike. Between Hayes and Herrin came Team Amsoil/Hero EBR’s Geoff May (1:26.061) and Jordan Suzuki’s Ben Bostrom (1:26.548)
Young was fifth fastest, not consistent with his lap times and presumably not happy about ending the session on the ground.
AMA Barber Motorsports Park Superbike qualifying results:
1. Josh Hayes (Yamaha) 1:25.696
2. Geoff May (EBR) 1:26.061
3. Ben Bostrom (Suzuki) 1:26.153
4. Josh Herrin (Yamaha) 1:26.458
5. Blake Young (Suzuki) 1:26.621
6. Roger Hayden (Suzuki) 1:26.860
7. Larry Pegram (BMW) 1:26.882
8. Danny Eslick (EBR) 1:26.937
9. Chris Clark (Suzuki) 1:27.391
10. Steve Rapp (Kawasaki) 1:27.479