Photography by Gold & Goose
Everyone talks about how rough it’s been for Nicky Hayden over the past five years with Ducati, but at least he wasn’t stuck on a CRT bike like fellow American Colin Edwards. Edwards is going into his third year with the Forward Racing team and although the team has made progress of late, the first two years have been a struggle. But now there’s hope.
With the new “open class” replacing the CRT class for 2014, Edwards is reunited with Yamaha as the Forward Racing team will run a leased Yamaha FTR machine. As part of Yamaha’s leasing program, which is its counterpart to Honda’s for-sale RCV1000R, the bike features a Yamaha engine, frame, and swingarm.
So at the end of the day of testing at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia, Spain, everyone wanted to know what Edwards’ initiial impressions were. But before he could even answer, his smile pretty much told the story.
“Awesome. So nice to be back on a Yamaha,” Edwards with an ear-to-ear grin. “Honestly, those guys they know how to build an engine. It just like I said, it’s a freight train. I’m so used to shifting gears the last couple of years and bashing my helmet against the windscreen cause you get a little hiccup here or there. On this thing you shift gears and it pops a wheelie. There’s no this intermittent upsetting the chassis. It’s awesome. It’s nice.
“To get off the last two gearboxes that I’ve had to make do with over the last couple of years… this thing it’s like butter. It’s just barely any pressure… it’s just dink, dink. And that’s when you go from a streetbike gearbox to a race bike gearbox. I guess that’s what you get.”
On top of the smile, it only took him 21 laps to beat his qualifying time from the weekend on the FTR Kawasaki, so the Yamaha is showing plenty of potential.
“Yeah it does,” Edwards said. “We had some initial balance issues that we tried to figure out to get the balance right. Electronics… what I’m comfortable on, what we’ve worked with all year, for some reason we did not have that on the bike today. So we’ll have to wait until Jerez [there upcoming three-day test there starting November 27] and play around with that. There was an issue with the electronics today that I wasn’t 100 percent… just wasn’t comfortable. You know when you know an electronic setting that works and you spend all year developing and then you throw something else at it it’s just not comfortable.”
Edwards was then asked to be more specific about the electronic issues he was facing.
“Just theory,” he answered. “Just the theory that I like with what we have with cuts and power and taking power away and what that is we didn’t have. It’s their own theory. Something that they’ve come up with; the Yamaha guys have spent time in the dyno or at the test track and have come up with a theory that they know the bike runs good on this theory. Everything’s cool so lets start out with that and then for me we got to figure out how to get where we were.”
Was Edwards speaking of the spec-Dorna electronics that are required to run in the open class?
“Yeah. Yeah, but I mean… it’s a whole bunch of boxes with numbers, you know what I’m saying. So it’s just a matter of putting the right numbers in the right boxes.”
How did the Yamaha leased bike compare to the Tech 3 Yamaha prototype that he rode three years ago?
“It’s still different. It’s still totally different,” Edwards answered. “Engine character you would say is similar, but it has two black wheels and that’s about all that’s the same.
“Just the freight train affect,” Edwards elaborated. “It just pulls and pulls and pulls.”
The other encouraging sign at the test was that Yamaha engineers were present in the garage, giving the appearance of support for the team rather than “here’s a bike and good luck with it.”
“Absolutely. They’re putting a lot of time and effort into it,” Edwards said. “They want it succeed.”
Edwards is confident that with the softer tires and the extra four liters of fuel that the “Open” class bikes will be able to use that he will have a competitive weapon under him
“Yeah. Yeah. I’m just going to say yeah,” Edwards said. “It should be good. But you know it’s just the initial… the whole thing today is just get a first impression and don’t do anything stupid. Don’t go throw it down the road. Let’s just go one step at a time and get some feedback. Should be good.”
To put it bluntly, Edwards is pumped.
“How do you think it makes me feel? It’s awesome,” he said smiling. “Hey, you know that was whenever I came with Giovanni here a couple of years ago, it was ‘Do you all want to build something or do you just want to put a bike on a grid?’ So that’s this year finally at this test… we’ve spent two years building infrastructure and team and getting everything right. Now we just need the right unit and obviously it’s what we’ve got.”
Did he have any goals for testing tomorrow?
“My goals for tomorrow is to catch my 6:40 flight out of Madrid,” Edwards answered. “I’ve got to catch that flight. Then to make my connecting flight at Heathrow. Then to make my connecting flight to Houston to get to Baja so I can go do the Baja 1000 here in a couple days.”
Edwards and a bunch of his Texas Tornado Boot Camp instructors are finally fulfilling one of their bucket-list items and racing the Baja 1000 next weekend. They already did 500 miles of the pre-running and the rest of the crew is already there awaiting Edwards arrival.
Just exactly how much riding was Edwards going to be doing on the back end of just completing the MotoGP season finale and post-season test in Spain?
“At the moment I’ve got a 175-mile stage, but I think I might have a 100-mile stage in the beginning so it might be 275 miles,” said Edwards. “But, I’m just a f*#king badass anyways.”
He said. With even more smiles.