As the new guy (yes, still), I hardly expected to get the good gigs until I’d served my tour of fetching people coffee and washing bikes. The boss threw me a bone last month though, sending me to NOLA Motorsports Park to ride Josh Hayes’ three-time champion Graves R1. Having roadraced for 10 years and being a fan my whole life, I have watched Superbikes and wished I could ride one for as long as I can remember.
As the day approached, all I could think about was what it would be like when I opened the throttle, what it would feel like to hang off and drag my knee on a piece of Superbike history. In the end, the experience did not disappoint. Yamaha was endlessly hospitable, providing us with food/water/shade for the day and best of all, access to the daily grind of developing a Superbike. I was able to spend time with Josh Hayes on track (image above) and in the pits, talking to him about riding: What he thinks about on track, how he perceives setting a bike up, and of course what it was like to ride Yamaha’s ultimate weapon, the YZR-M1 MotoGP bike. I also spent time talking to Hayes’ crew chief, Rick Hobbs, about the development of the bike and how the team approaches making changes and documenting progress. It’s fascinating stuff, and the ease with which Hayes won the latest championship obscures the constant development and hard work of the team.
The bike was obviously stunning, and of course I wish I could have spent more time on it, if for no other reason than to feel like I was actually grasping what it is capable of. I ended up turning 19 laps in two sessions, enough to get me sweating and cramp up my hands. But I have wanted more ever since. Our video crew has produced a segment for On Two Wheels about this event, and I think it does a good job showing what a brutally fast bike the Graves R1 is, and what a fantastic opportunity it was to experience it. Hope you all enjoy!