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May 29, 2001

Josh Hayes Returns To Roots By Racing With WERA At Talladega

By David Swarts<BR><BR>Bruce Transportation Group's Josh Hayes raced his personal Honda CBR600F4 in the Dunlop-sponsored 600cc Superstock race at the second round of the WERA National Challenge Series at Talladega Gran Prix Raceway last weekend. Hayes normally attends track days near his Gulfport, Mississippi home to stay sharp, but no one expected the AMA professional to race in Sunday's sprints until he took his place on the last row of the two-wave, 27-rider 600cc Superstock grid.<BR><BR>Hayes disposed of 10 riders in the first three corners and moved all the way up to second place by the end of the 14-lap race. Hayes pulled off the track on the last lap.<BR><BR>Hayes said that the time on the bike was beneficial as he always learns something whenever he rides, adding "I just wanted to come out and have some fun riding with my old friends."<BR><BR>WERA racers asked about Hayes' appearance expressed positive feelings, and 600cc Superstock race winner Chris "Opie" Caylor said, "Josh shows me what is possible. He came from right here and earned his way to where he is now. He inspires me. What he did today, he didn't do with some exotic, factory bike. The bike he rode today is much closer to stock than my racebike."<BR><BR>Hayes rode his ex-press fleet 1999 Honda CBR600F4 with Erion Racing bodywork, an Erion Racing exhaust, an Ohlins shock, and braided brake lines. Hayes changed his own tires all weekend and even re-built his own forks on Saturday.<BR><BR>Hayes signed with Team Valvoline EMGO Suzuki following strong performances on his own ZX-6R in WERA National Challenge Series events outside his home region, and following strong endurance performances with a private endurance team, again outside his home region.<BR><BR>After winning two Suzuki Cup Championships, co-riding to several overall WERA National Endurance Championships, winning the F-USA Sportbike title and winning many other WERA Championships, Hayes moved with Team Valvoline EMGO Suzuki to the AMA series full-time in 1999, winning the Daytona 750cc Supersport race that year and regularly out-performing the Yoshimura Suzuki 600cc Supersport factory riders.<BR><BR>When Hayes started winning AMA events, AMA regulars, who hadn't paid much attention to non-AMA races previously, asked "Where did he come from?"<BR><BR>His 1999 performance earned Hayes an offer from American Honda to race with Erion Honda for 2000, and American Honda out-bid Valvoline EMGO Suzuki for Hayes' services. But nerve damage suffered in a Daytona crash in 2000 hampered Hayes' results, and Hayes has been moved to the Bruce Transportation Group squad for 2001. Hayes has regained some strength and feeling in his damaged right hand resulting in a second-place finish in Formula Xtreme at Road Atlanta following other strong finishes in 600cc Supersport action at Road Atlanta and Sears Point.<BR><BR>Recently Hayes has held informal talks with Valvoline EMGO Suzuki regarding a possible return to the team in 2002.