AVONDALE, LA, OCT 6 – Monster Energy Graves Yamaha’s Josh Hayes took his tenth pole in 11 tries in final qualifying for the AMA Superbike races at NOLA Motorsports Park, tying the single season record set by Yoshimura Suzuki’s Mat Mladin back in the ten-race 2005 season.
Like Mladin, Hayes has been utterly dominant this season, winning a record 14 times with the likelihood of adding two more this weekend at what is his home track. Hayes’ hometown of Gulfport, Miss. is about an 80 mile drive east of NOLA Motorsports Park.
The three-time AMA Superbike champion’s pole time of 1:39.339 around the 2.75-mile, 16-turn road course near New Orleans was nearly a second faster than second fastest Ben Bostrom, the Jordan Suzuki rider who’s riding for his job. Bostrom put in a late fast qualifying lap to top teammate Roger Lee Hayden (National Guard Jordan Suzuki) by .050 seconds, the third fastest qualifier.
“It was a good morning, not unlike yesterday,” Hayes said. “Everything’s going fairly smooth. We were rolling around the racetrack pretty well, putting in some good consistent fast laps. At the end we wanted to be safe and try a different front tire, so we came in and we put on a front and a rear, did four or five 39s in a row, things were going OK and just got to the end of the session and one of the big issues I’ve had is with the rear is actually spinning the tire on the rim and I’ve had some pretty bad vibration problems and I’m sure the boys have got a plan on how to combat that issue.”
Tires, specifically fronts, are going to be an issue in the AMA Superbike race at New Orleans. The control Dunlops on offer aren’t the same spec as the tires that were tested here a few months ago. The fronts are wearing too quickly, while the rears seem to be holding up. Hayes said he’d done more than race distance on both the front and rear. “You get six, eight laps into it. I had a couple of big moments and then I took a lap or two to kinda compose myself and then just started working my way back into it to see how can I ride this tire to finish the race and I spent quite a few laps working on that yesterday. And I was still able to do, you know, pretty decent times in the 40s still, being what I thought was careful in the areas of the track that the front tire was a problem. I feel like we’re in pretty good shape for the race."
A day earlier after provisional qualifying, Hayes had said he’d have to adjust his riding, trail brake less to conserve front tire life. Second fastest Bostrom agreed.
“He’s absolutely right,” Bostrom said after AMA Superbike qualifying at New Orleans had ended. “I got to follow him for about a half a lap out there and watch him. That’s exactly right, you’ve got to brake hard and somehow not trail brake too much. And then you’ve got to have your bike geared to come off the corner, because this track should reward you for corner speed, but right now that’s not the case, so you’ve got to have a lot of grunt to come off the corners and gear your bike and hope for the best. That will save your tire. I think we all know it. It’s no secret out there. The rear tire lives and the front tire’s kind of a slow death.
Earlier Bostrom had described the tire situation for the AMA Superbike race at New Orleans as “pretty dire.” He said he could see "way too many crash marks in the fast esses and I know it’s because guys have been out there for five plus laps and you’re slowing through the esses and there’s not a front tire that’s going to last. So I’m not sure how the race is going to go.
“Obviously, I hope none of these guys” on the front row “have a tire that’s going to last, because I don’t. And the rears are quite good though. The track’s quite fun, it’s fast and I really do like the set-up they’ve got here in the pits. It’s one of the coolest looking podiums we’ve had all year. I think tire management’s going to be a big issue and 18 laps is a bit long for it. Maybe a race of attrition.”
Danny Eslick put the Team Hero EBR at the end of the New Orleans front row with a qualifying lap of 1:40.628. That dropped Yoshimura Suzuki’s Blake Young to the second row AMA Superbike pole.
Georgian Aaron Yates continues to improve on the EvanSteelPerformance.com BMW, qualifying sixth fastest in front of fellow Georgian Geoff May. May was seventh fastest on Team Amsoil Hero EBR. Chris Fillmore qualified eighth on the Team KTM/HMC Racing KTM RC8.
**AMA Superbike New Orleans final qualifying results: **
1. Josh Hayes (Yamaha) 1:39.339
2. Ben Bostrom (Suzuki) 1:40.251
3. Roger Hayden (Suzuki) 1:40.301
4. Danny Eslick (EBR) 1:40.628
5. Blake Young (Suzuki) 1:40.977
6. Aaron Yates (BMW) 1:41.037
7. Geoff May (EBR) 1:41.189
8. Chris Fillmore (KTM) 1:41.562
9. Larry Pegram (BMW) 1:41.698
10. Robertino Pietri (Suzuki) 1:41.808