For those who have been around awhile, it still seems a bit odd referring to Aaron Yates as the old guy in the AMA Superbike paddock. But he is – as least as far as longevity goes. This Daytona will mark the start of the 36-year-old Georgian’s 17th AMA season and, believe it or not, it may be his best chance of coming out of it with that elusive first Superbike title.We caught up with Yates this morning right just after he’d discovered a puddle of oil under the engine of one of his drag racing cars.It’s hard to believe how long you’ve been doing this now…Oh, c’mon, man, you’re making me sound old. But I guess I am that old guy now.With the guys who are gone now, mainly Mat Mladin and Ben Spies, can you say that you’ve ever gone into a Daytona with hopes of victory this high? Honestly, I don’t think a whole lot about it. I just go down there and go racing, but this year, the way things are going and the way we finished the season last year and had a pretty good test, the bike is going good and I’m feeling good. I’m healthy this year going into the season. Last year I hurt myself before the year started and didn’t really get to be prepared for the first round and it held me back for awhile. So, yeah, I definitely feel like this year is my race to lose, or my championship to lose. I’m just focusing on being ready to go racing.The Fontana test a few weeks back went well. Is it a benefit to be back on the ’09 GSX-R1000 rather than having to deal with a new bike?We developed the thing throughout the year and kind of got to a point there at the end where we knew what we needed to do with the bike to make it better. The Jordan guys went back and worked over the winter on the areas where we thought we could improve the motorcycle. When we showed up at the test it was the first time I’d ridden the bike since September and I was really comfortable on it and was able to do some good laps and go fast. It definitely makes a difference coming into a season with a package that you’re familiar with and with a package that you’ve developed into something that works. That’s where we’re at and it’s looking good.Like most of the others, you went into the off-season not having a contract. Was it a difficult time?My deal was up, but I had talked with the team all along and they assured me that they were going racing and they wanted me to be their guy, so I didn’t stress too much about it – until I realized I hadn’t gotten a paycheck in a few months. That got to me a bit, but I’m definitely glad to have a job and have a ride.You seem happy with the Michael Jordan Motorsports team…All the team, the guys, the people… it’s just a great crew. Everybody gets along good and has the same goal and they all work hard to do the best we can. We have some smart people on the team, the whole Gemini thing… they are a pretty sharp group and I have my suspension guy Karl and we all work good together. We’re just familiar with each other now and they understand. I’m pretty technical about the thing and I get in there pretty deep and I know what I want. I’ve got a lot of experience too and it really helps. The whole team has a lot of experience and we just put it all together and we come out with something pretty good.Is having Jake Zemke as a teammate going to work well for you?Jake seems like a cool cat. I’ve never had much of a relationship with him, but I’ve raced him a lot for a long time and he’s been around the paddock. He seems pretty easy going and so am I, and I think he’s going to fit into our team real well.You started this career back in 1994 on a Harley 883…Yeah and I had that Suzuki Sport deal in ‘94 and ‘95 – with the Moroney’s Harley thing. So I was doing 750 Superstock or Supersport, whatever they called it then, and 883s.So it’s been all Suzuki ever since.Well, in ’99 I rode for Muzzy [Kawasaki]. That was their final year and I think that held up the program a little bit. I busted up a bunch of stuff that year, but that’s just part of it.As far as this year goes, are you happy that Daytona is a Superbike doubleheader instead of just having the lone race there?Yeah, for sure. If we’re gonna be down there, I’d like to race every day – I want to do the short track and Supercross and all that stuff, but my contract is to just to ride the Superbike. I’ve always ridden a couple of classes during a race weekend and this past year was a bit different just riding the one class. It seemed like a lot of downtime, but I’ve gotten used to the change. But having an extra race at Daytona… yeah, that’s the way it should be.Do you enjoy racing at Daytona?I do enjoy the new track. It’s quite a mixture and it doesn’t really flow that good, but you’ve got the high-speed straightaways and you’ve got some pretty decent flat turns and some stuff we usually ride on – real tight and just twisty stuff, low speed and some bumps to throw you off. You have to be on your toes and attack the track and that’s what I enjoy. I’ve won a few races there and we’ll see what happens next week.
Yates Ready For Daytona
Paul Carruthers | Editor
Paul Carruthers took over as the editor of Cycle News in 1993 after serving as associate editor since starting his career at the publication in 1985. Carruthers has covered every facet of the sport in his near-28-year tenure at America's Daily Motorcycle News Source.