Yoshimura Suzuki’s Roger Hayden has more pole positions than anyone in the Motul Superbike class and if Friday’s two sessions are any indication, he may grab his seventh pole of the season tomorrow during qualifying for the Honda Championship of Alabama, presented by Genuine Broaster Chicken.
Hayden led both Motul Superbike practice sessions on Friday at Barber Motorsports Park, the Kentuckian’s best lap coming early in the second session with a 1:25.974 as he was the only rider to dip into the 1:25s on opening day. The session got slower as it wore on as water seepage through the pavement continued to cause issues in certain places.
“The track just gets worse and worse as the session goes on,” said Hayden. “New puddles keep popping up just when you think you know where they’re at. I had a couple of close calls, almost high-sided once, but luckily was able to bring it back. I tried to figure out some stuff with the bike and my technique in case the conditions are similar to the race. I’m not sure what the solution is going to be to try and get it to dry out.”
Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Josh Herrin ended the day second, .315 of a second behind Hayden in his second outing as the fill-in rider for the injured Cameron Beaubier.
“Quite a few changes were made since last weekend in New Jersey in order to get me feeling a little bit more at home on the new bike,” said Herrin. “The bike is quite a bit different than the bike I was riding previously, especially with the ergonomics. I immediately felt night and day better when I went out on the track today. The biggest thing is just being comfortable.”
Yamalube/Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz was third fastest, .434 of a second behind Hayden. Fourth fastest was YCRS/Cambr/KWR Racing’s Kyle Wyman, the New Yorker maintaining his momentum from his second-place finish in race two last weekend at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
“It was a relatively good day and we were really quick out of the gate today,” said Scholtz. “That was a good step in the right direction for us. The team just worked on some changes to the bike and finding braking markers to get me comfortable. We made quite a serious change in between the two sessions and right away from the first lap in the second session it really seemed to be an improvement. I’m working hard to get consistency for the entire race so that I can run with the Superbike guys for more than just five laps. It has been a weakness of mine to burn up the rear tire early in the races.”
As has been the case of late, from the time Monster Energy/Yamalube/Y.E.S./Graves Yamaha’s Garrett Gerloff rolled his Yamaha R6 out of the truck he was fast. And he stayed fast, the Texan leading both sessions over M5 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Valentin Debise. In the first session, held in the morning, Gerloff lapped at 1:27.314 to lead Debise by 1.3 seconds. In the second session, the lead duo went slower, with Gerloff’s best a 1:28.184. Gerloff’s teammate, however, had his best session in the second one but still ended up third on the day. Benny Solis was fourth fastest in both sessions on his Team H35 Honda.
“Today was a good day for the team and I,” said Gerloff. “The first session I was able to go decently fast and was real close with my qualifying time from last year. It was pretty difficult in the second session since we were trying different setups with the bike, but it ended up being a step backwards. The track was seeping water through, which was a little sketchy and tough, so hopefully we can get the track to where it will stay dry throughout the day. I’m looking forward to qualifying tomorrow morning.”
The fastest Superstock 600 lap of the day was turned in by championship leader Jason Aguilar with his 1:30.217, set in the second session. Aguilar’s championship rival Michael Gilbert was third fastest in both sessions.
The KTM RC Cup, meanwhile, ran one practice session in the morning, but its afternoon qualifying session was cancelled because of the water-seeping issues. Championship contender Cory Ventura was fastest of the KTMs in the morning session by just .076 of a second over the man he is tied with in the title chase, Benjamin Smith.