Josh Hayes to Replace Colin Edwards in Valencia

Henny Ray Abrams | October 31, 2011


Monster Energy Graves Yamaha’s Josh Hayes didn’t think he’d ever get to race a MotoGP bike, but that all changed when Colin Edwards was injured in the fatal crash that took the life of Marco Simoncelli on the second lap of the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang. Now Hayes, at the age of 36, will face all the obstacles of a MotoGP newbie when he makes his MotoGP debut at the season-ending Valencia Grand Prix in place of the still-recovering Edwards on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1.

The 36-year-old two-time AMA Superbike Champion was previously scheduled to test Edwards’ machine following the MotoGP season finale, but the Texan’s injuries denied him his final ride for the team he’s ridden for for the past four years. Edwards will undergo surgery Tuesday to anchor the humerus bone in his left arm to his shoulder socket, as well as repair cartilage damage. After a four week recovery, he’s expected to return to the track in Jerez, where he’ll test the Forward Racing BMW/Suter that he’ll race in next year’s MotoGP World Championship.Hayes will now join British rider Cal Crutchlow when practice for the Valencia round gets underway on Friday morning.

The official announcement was just a formality after Hayes’ leathers company, Teknic, posted a blog entry on its website breaking the news, much to the dismay of Yamaha U.S., as well as others. The blog entry said that Hayes had  “received a call from Yamaha late on October 26th asking if he would like to fill in for the injured Colin Edwards at the last round of the Moto GP series in Valencia, Spain.”Early this month, when it was announced that he was going to test the Edwards’ M1, he said it was “the perfect way to go about experiencing a GP bike. As a professional motorcycle racer, one of the things I was a little bummed about was that I might not ever got to ride the top technology that there is in motorcycle racing, to experience that. There was a couple of chats and talks about possibly, if everybody didn’t go race at Motegi and it was all wild card guys, that that would be a possibility. I didn’t really think that that would be the right scenario to go try to learn a new racetrack, learn a new motorcycle in a racing situation. I watched Ben Bostrom at Laguna [aboard the LCR Honda MotoGP RC212V] and saw how hard it was for him. And I know he’s a talented rider, so I thought, ‘Well, maybe that’s not the way to approach it.’ The idea and possibility of just being able to go test it, season’s over, I don’t have aspirations of going to race MotoGP.”Now, however, the Mississippi native is in an almost identical situation to Bostrom, only with more obstacles.Hayes will face a number of challenges when he rolls out onto the 2.5-mile stadium-style road course on the outskirts of Valencia. He’s never experienced the power of the M1, he’s never used carbon brakes, he doesn’t have the same level of sophistication with the electronics, though Yamaha U.S. has a very good electronics package, and he’s never ridden on Bridgestone tires. The one plus is that Valencia may be the Grand Prix track most similar to the American circuits where Hayes has prospered. Riders liken it to a go-kart track, with 14 corners-nine lefts and five rights-and a half mile straight tucked into its length.Hayes and Edwards are longtime friends – Hayes rode at Edwards’ Texas Tornado Boot Camp this summer – but the two have yet to discuss the race.”I haven’t talked to him,” Edward said at his Texas Tornado Boot Camp on Saturday, where he was hosting a four-day school, but unable to ride. “Obviously, I wish him the best.’As to what he expected from Hayes, Edwards was candid and forthright, as always.”It’s a completely different world,” he said. “Do I expect great things? I would love to say yes. The problem is you can’t make the transition from riding a Superbike, go do one race where you get basically, what? three-and-a-half hours of practice, something like that, and go into a race and except to be competitive. It doesn’t work like that.”Ben Spies won the [World Superbike] championship a couple years ago. Came and did the last race in Valencia and he finished seventh. So, what I’m saying is at that at time he was hot; one of the hottest in the world. And to come to Grand Prix, and you ask Ben – we had some conversations – he’s like, ‘Jesus, these bikes are hard to ride.’ They’re hard to ride.”

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.