ELKHART LAKE, Wis. — Defending AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike champion Josh Hayes admitted that he felt a bit rusty on Friday at Road America as GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing resumed the 2013 championship chase.
Rusty or not, Hayes was still the class of the field as the Subway SuperBike Doubleheader kicked off, topping Friday’s free practice and then earning provisional pole position aboard his Monster Energy/Graves/Yamaha YZF-R1.
Despite lapping well off his record-setting laps of a year ago — a fact he attributed primarily to a change in available tire selections — Hayes led the way with a fast time of 2:13.355.
Following his Daytona double DNF, the reigning triple champ is in need of a big weekend here in Wisconsin.
“It’s going OK,” Hayes said. “I’m feeling like it’s been a little bit of a tough day — I feel a little rusty. But for the most part, I’m happy I’m riding a motorcycle; it’s been a long time.
“This is usually a good track for me. I usually get up to speed a bit quicker. But usually we’re usually four or five races into the season before we get here. This is a pretty tough one to come here and go fast right off the bat with all the long straightaways and you have to be pretty pinpoint with all your brake markers. I guess it’s taking me a little longer than I’d like to get rolling, but all in all, it’s going good. We’re still a small step ahead of the rest of the guys. We’ll keep plugging away.”
During last year’s stop at Road America, Hayes went virtually unchallenged; besides posting a perfect points weekend by claiming pole, leading the most laps in both races, and earning the double win, Hayes was the fastest man in every single practice, qualifying session, and race, by more than a second per lap.
As Hayes hinted, that was not the case today. Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing’s Martin Cardenas threw down a fast lap of 2:13.776 late in qualifying today to move within 0.421 seconds of Hayes’ best time.