In 2014 the AMA Pro Road Racing schedule is down to the lowest number of race weekends in 35 years. And to date there has been no TV package announced and factory participation is at a low level not seen since the mid-1980s. There’s even a new alternative pro series springing up, harkening back to the days when Formula USA thrived during a lull in AMA Superbike racing. Yet in spite of the gloomy pre-season outlook of the overall health of America’s motorcycle road racing championship, the news is not all bad.
We may in fact be set to see one of the most competitive Superbike championships in years. The most obvious battle is the one between the main factory teams of Yamaha and Suzuki, but there will be little subtexts that will be interesting to watch as well.
In addition, since wunderkind Cameron Beaubier is finally coming up to Superbike, a move many thought should have happened last year, fans will finally get to see if America’s best hope to eventually move up to GP racing is the real deal. Can he be as good as he appeared to be in the Daytona SportBike class?
For the sake of American racing one can only hope. Much like Ben Spies with Mat Mladin, one thing is certain, if Beaubier someday does move on the GP racing and becomes a star on the world stage, his battles this season against a rider of Josh Hayes’ caliber will have provided him the essential experience needed to make it to the next level.
Yamaha’s Hayes, the three-time AMA Superbike Champion, is back and he’s in a nasty mood. Losing last year’s title to teammate Josh Herrin by way of a spate of bad luck, bad starts and broken machines, Hayes will be eager to regain the title he felt should have been his for a fourth time last season.
At 38 (he’ll turn 39 in April) there is some question if father time will finally start to catch up with Hayes, but don’t count on it. He is supremely fit and one of the hardest training riders in the history of the championship. In fact, Herrin said on particularly hot and humid weekends he would look across the grid at Hayes and all he could think of was how many miles Hayes had put in on his bicycle that week. He’s that fit.
When I called Hayes to ask him his thoughts on the season he was, as you might guess, out on his bicycle training.
Hayes said he is eager to get the season started and see where everyone stands. You can tell he’s most intrigued by his new teammate Beaubier.
To read more of the AMA Pro Road Racing season preview in this week’s Cycle News, click here