Three-time AMA Superbike championship runner-up Blake Young left the cold of Wisconsin for the warmth of Florida late last year in his quest to find a ride. The bike on offer was the EBR 1190RS, the one that was no stranger to the AMA Superbike podium in 2012 with Geoff May and Danny Eslick at the controls. May will return in 2013 to Team Hero/Amsoil, but Eslick, a two-time Daytona SportBike champion, has moved back to a four-cylinder Suzuki, this time the Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000 most recently ridden by Ben Bostrom.
Young joined May at the test along with May's fellow Georgian Aaron Yates. Yates came out of a nearly two-year injury hiatus at the end of 2012 with guest rides on the EvanSteelPerformance.com BMW S1000RR. In the last of his four Superbike races, Yates, who was brought on to help with development, finished a creditable fourth in the NOLA Motorsports Park season finale.
Since losing his Yoshimura Suzuki ride in December, Young and his management have been scouring the earth for a ride. Hard as it may be to believe, the rider who finished second the past three years in the AMA Superbike Championship hasn't been able to find a home. The fact that he was let go so late in the winter may have hurt his chances, but the rider with the second most Superbike wins to Monster Energy Graves Yamaha's Josh Hayes over the past three years shouldn't have to work this hard to stay in the sport. Which is why he landed in Florida in the dead of the winter to ride a strange bike on a strange track.
Asked what he'd like to say about it, Young said, "I think what I'd like to say is, first I want to thank Erik [Buell] for giving me the opportunity to come out and ride the bike. And having those guys give me a chance on it, I think the biggest word on the day down there was it's different. It's way different than anything I've ever ridden before. Riding around Jennings, I've never been around Jennings, but I think it's a pretty good track for testing. They had Geoff [May] and [Aaron] Yates were there. And they had a third bike for me to ride and I got to spin some laps.
"You know, to see the difference on the bike, I mean, it's been a while. I've been on Suzukis for nine years now, since I was 14-years-old I've been riding Suzukis, pretty much. So it's been a pretty big change going from an inline four to a twin like that. But nonetheless, it's a motorcycle with two wheels.
"There were definitely some positives. I thought it was really good on front-end feel and corner entry into turns. I don't really even think out of the day of testing I got on it, even at the end of it I don't feel I was pushing myself as far as I thought I could really go on the thing. It definitely has some positives to it, even from the power delivery on the bottom end of it. I mean, the thing just really gets off the turns really well. It was a good experience, a good thing for me to be able to go and ride it."
Young had an inkling of what to expect after his race-long battle with Eslick in the second race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Eslick is less of a finesse rider than Young, preferring to slide the bike, which has no sophisticated electronics. Young rides differently, and soon realized what he'd seen in Homestead and elsewhere wasn't a mirage.
"I think after riding it the bike it's... surprisingly I would just assume it suits Danny's [Eslick] riding style really well," he said. "I think I'm more a guy that likes to keep it in line and keep it rolling through the center of the turn and lots of corner speed and momentum. Where it seems like the power of that twin, when you shut the gas off, it likes to back around, it likes to be sliding around, it likes to be squared up and shot off the turns... that's kind of how it was ridden by Danny and he did really well on it. It's a twin."
Young thought there was a possibility of taking the second seat to May prior to the test, but now he believes there's less chance he'll line up for Team Hero EBR in 2013. And word on the street is that Yates will team with May.
"Nothing's really going to become of it," he said. "I don't know if I'd be happy, I don't know. I guess I can say I don't know."
He also said that the rider market had gone quiet over the holidays and was just now awakening, though it still seems to be in a deep sleep.
"For me, it's been a little bit slower than I'd like it to be," he said. "But that's just kind of the times and the way things are right now. It's kind of tough being a motorcycle racer right now."
Unless you're a Packers fan. Young has tickets to his home state Green Bay Packers, who on Saturday night avenged their loss to the Minnesota Vikings from the previous week. With an 8 p.m. kickoff, Young faced a very long day had he made the drive north to join more than 71,000 fellow frozen fans.
"I was happy to watch it at home," he said. "If we do get the opportunity to have the NFC Championship game here at home, I would love to go to that."
That's dependent on Green Bay winning in San Francisco on Saturday and Seattle upsetting Atlanta on Sunday.
"A few things gotta happen," he said about the playoff scenario, but he might as well have been talking about his chances of returning to the paddock.