Freddie Spencer on Josh Hayes

Henny Ray Abrams | November 2, 2011

BROOKLYN, NY, NOV 2 – Freddie Spencer knows a thing or two about Grand Prix racing, which means he knows what Josh Hayes can expect when he rolls out for Friday practice at the season-ending Valencia Grand Prix.After winning three World Championships, Spencer spent years commentating on the AMA Superbike Championship and knows Hayes well. He knows Hayes will be sensible in his approach to the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1, but he also knows that no matter how sensible his approach, the experience will be something more.The biggest difference is the “speed of everything that’s happening,” said Spencer (pictured following his son Connor on the dirt track at Colin Edwards’ Texas Tornado Boot Camp). Hayes knows the fundamentals of racing a motorcycle, Spencer believes, but because of “the stopping power, the grip, and then just the sheer acceleration it’s an adjustment.

” Most important for Hayes is “how quickly can [he] adjust to the difference in feel? I think that’s another thing people have trouble with on any Grand Prix bike; the margin of error for forgiveness is very narrow because of that extra rigidity in the chassis, in the suspension and tires and extra grip, because of the extra horsepower you have and acceleration and stopping power. So, I hope Josh does well.”The main thing for him is he just needs to go out and ride. The bigger stage, a lot of people they get that chance to do it and it’s not that they’re afraid, it’s just intimidating, even if they aren’t consciously aware of it.”The way Spencer approached it early in his international career, including in his appearance in the Match Races, was that he would think of it as “if I was in my yard or Texas World [Speedway]. To me it was the same. I never thought about it as the stage being any different, and it worked for me.”One factor Hayes has working in his favor is that the track, with 14 corners in its 2.5-miles, is similar to some of the AMA tracks where he’s raced to the last two AMA Superbike titles.”That would be better for him than going someplace like Sepang or Phillip Island, someplace like that, where you’ve got such a huge difference in equipment and then the speed, it’s just crazy,” Spencer said. “That takes adjusting. So someplace that’s more of a stop/direction change track, that’s going to help him. And I think we saw that with [Troy] Bayliss [in the 2006 Valencia season finale]. I thought about that when he won the race. That was the perfect opportunity for him. He had experience before, so he was already kinda adjusted to that, but the track sets up perfectly for the guy who doesn’t do it all the time.”The choices Bayliss had to make were both more and less complicated than what Hayes will face. More complicated are the electronics. Less complicated are the tires; two Bridgestone fronts and two Bridgestone rears.”The guys can come in, and in Josh’s case, where he doesn’t have the experience, they know what works for Colin [Edwards], they know what kind of works and he can tell them what it’s doing and they kinda have an idea which direction to go,” Spencer said, adding that telemetry will be invaluable. “They can see it… I think that makes it, certainly makes it a little bit easier.”What Hayes needs to go is just “go out there, and I know Josh well enough; he wants to do well. And this is an opportunity that he would’ve just dreamed, or maybe even never dreamed of. That’s why, personally, I want to see him do well because he’s a good kid, he really is, and nobody would appreciate the opportunity more than Josh.”

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.