2019 Island Classic Interview
Four-time American Superbike Champion Josh Hayes was a bit wide-eyed when he first rode Phillip Island last week.
Hayes remarked, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that he had his eyes closed at turn one for the first day or so. Then once the racing started he was really taken aback at just how hard competitors at the Island Classic International Challenge were willing to push the limits.
With Team USA front liner Jason Pridmore injured in race one, it fell to the 43-year-old to step up and deliver for this team. He did exactly that and by the final race of the weekend he had really found his groove and romped away to a clear win in that last six-lap bout of the event.
Overall, Hayes was the third highest points scorer across the four Island Classic International Challenge races, finishing on equal standing with three-time Aussie Superbike Champion Shawn Giles.
Phil Harlum: So we’re here with four time AMA Champion Josh Hayes, great to have you here, we’ve spoken about it before, Phillip Island a special place, the atmosphere, it’s what makes this event..
Josh Hayes: “I’m trying to imagine it being anywhere else and I don’t think it would be any good. I think the track is amazing, fortunately for me it suits our bike pretty well, but you know the atmosphere, the area in the world, all of it is a part of it. It’s just fun to be around a fun group of people, and I don’t think there’s a person in this paddock who’s making money. It’s 100 per cent about passion, people who are willing to spend their money because they are passionate about motorcycle racing, and it’s hard not to enjoy being around people like that.”
Phil: The event obviously is all about racing, when it comes down to the International Challenge, you now know how serious the guys take it…
Josh: “Well I didn’t until I got here, now I realise just how serious the guys take it.”
Phil: Obviously you took it pretty seriously in that last race, off to a fantastic start and then put your head down. The first two or three laps were amazing, that’s what built up that eventual race win for you.
Josh: “Well you know I tried to give you the thumbs up, to say ‘Hey man things are good, I’m ready to go’. So I just wanted to do my job. Crussell and Jason asked me to come be a part of this, and you don’t want to come in as what they consider a ‘name’ and then not perform well, so I wanted to do a good job, and that was the most important thing. When I got in front those first three laps, I made a mistake in Honda and ran wide, I thought I had a freight train of people behind me, and I was just running like a scared rabbit, so it was just wanting to do a good job, and be in the race, at the front. That’s what I wanted, to kind of clear and have my own race was nice.”
Phil: We talk about how special this track is, after four days of riding it, what’s you impression now? Especially after winning a race.
Josh: “You really need to ask me this again, to ask anybody again? Because it’s so obvious it’s one of the most amazing tracks in the world. And I have truly enjoyed my time here, and of all the places in the world away from America that I would want to go ride a race track, this is top of the list, without a doubt top of the list.”
Phil: So we can pen your name in for the 2020 event, same bike, next year?
Josh: “If Dave Crussell will have me back, there’s a reasonable chance I’ll be back for the event next year. With any luck I could maybe find a ride for my wife Melissa and bring my little son Hawk, who’ll be two, and let him see Australia too.”
Phil: Thanks for coming Josh.
Josh: “Thanks for having me guys!”
International Challenge Points – Three Nations
- Australia – 676 points
- USA – 634 points
- New Zealand – 460 points
Ken Wootton Perpetual Trophy
- Steve Martin AUS 152 points
- Aaron Morris AUS 150 points
- Josh Hayes USA 141 points
- =Shawn Giles AUS 141 points
- Larry Pegram USA 130 points
- Michael Gilbert USA 128 points
- =John Reynolds NZ 128 points
- Mark Miller USA 121 points
- Craig Ditchburn 120 points
- Barrett Long 114 points