I caught up with the cool and collected five-time AMA national champion (four-time at the time of our interview) Aaron Yates to find out what gets his motor humming. [I conducted the Q&A last year for Suzuki Way of Life mag but it's all timeless so I thought I'd post it here]
Congratulations on an awesome season so far. I know you're from Georgia but would you say Jordan-Suzuki's Carolina blue is the fastest colour out there?
Hahaha. Well at times it is, certainly in the Superstock class. The colours are a bit different but a lot of people seem to really like them, and they show up good on T.V. and in pictures.
How'd you get the nickname Yikes?
Yikes. That came from one of my first mechanics. Brad Stevens of the Yoshimura team came up with it. I guess it's just because of some of the things I do and get away with when I ride. That's how it felt sometimes when you watched me back in the day.
Some weekend riders who catch road racing on television, go "man, I think I could handle that." What do you think would happen if a complete novice was given a spot on the racing grid?
Ah, you know it depends. Straight off the street. I think they'd be impressed with the power of the bikes, the speed, and the grip, especially the Dunlop tires but also the whole package. The GSX-R 1000 is really easy to ride and that would help a lot if they were on one of those bikes. If a cruiser guy gets on that bike it really depends how much they want to turn that throttle on.
Outside of the power what else would they be amazed by?
On our bikes we usually stiffen up the suspension a good bit from a stock bike and then the tires are different. You get a lot of complements on the race compound tires. You are really connected to the road. I tell a lot of people that's your limit. That's what holds you back. You can only go as fast as your tires will let you go around a corner.
Do you have to learn to see in slow-mo to handle 190 mph?
You don't even realize the speed at all because you're so focused on looking where you're going, and looking for the next corner and specific spots on the track that you use as reference points. In the heat of the battle, you're racing with who you're with. There aren't any mailboxes or telephone poles or cars coming the other way that give you the sensation that you're going by them so fast. You're just paying attention to where you're headed.
Retired F1 Superstar Michael Schumacher was 21st out of 39 riders before skidding out in his first attempt to make a go on two wheels as a Road racer. How well do you think you'd place if it was arranged to have you pilot an Formula 1 car in a grand prix?
I don't know, it wouldn't be too bad. It depends on the ride, man. At that level, as is also the case with Moto GP or Superbike, you can be a good rider but if your bike is off 10-15 horsepower you have no chance of being up there with the top guys.
When we go to print, the 2008 season will be in the books. By then will you have another championship under your belt?
I sure hope so. We're leading in Superstock by a few points and we're coming to some tracks along the East Coast that I really enjoy riding on in Ohio, Virginia, and Atlanta.
[Addendum-He Won the Superstock Championship!]
How do you like working for Michael Jordan Is MJ a tough boss?
Nah, he's a great guy. It's really awesome that he's interested in our sport. He's put forth some money and given a lot of people jobs and they all love what they do. Michael really, really loves the sport and it feels great to represent his name, and the whole Jordan Jumpman logo and all that.
Are there any cool job perks that come with being on Jordan-Suzuki? Any free sneakers?
Yah we get the new Jordan's and some nice Jordan gear. We get loaded up with Oakley shades and all that good stuff. The team has definitely brought a little something different to the paddock with our sponsorship, our colours, and our whole image. It's a lot of fun at our team. We're kind of the underdogs and we're working hard and doing everything we can to try and beat the factory guys, and we've been pretty successful at it. It makes it enjoyable when things go good, for sure.