The Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance Yamaha team of Josh Herrin and Jake Gagne tested on Wednesday, January 26, at Buttonwillow Raceway Park in California with the test hampered somewhat by cold temperatures and high winds. The two were joined at the test by five-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier, who rode a stock Yamaha YZF-R1 just to get some track time before his Moto2 testing season ramps up.
“It was super windy,” Herrin said this morning of Wednesday. “Luckily, the last time we came out in December to test it was very windy as well, but it hadn’t rained in a while so there was dirt and slime everywhere. Yesterday it was probably windier than it was before, but the dirt was a little wet, so it wasn’t blowing around as much dirt. Yesterday, when a car would run off the track, that would bring dirt and dust on the track. We were still able to accomplish a lot. At the last test I think I only got like 25 laps and yesterday I got about 20 or 25 because there were some sessions that were too windy to ride. It didn’t make sense to ride when you’re five seconds off the pace and the front wheel is blowing all over the place. There were times when you literally had to counter steer with the wind on the front straight and coming into the bus-stop on the other side of the track, you’re fourth gear, three-quarter throttle and the thing is trying to take itself out.”
Herrin spent the majority of his track time working on suspension settings and trying to get himself comfortable on the new Yamaha.
“It was a waste for most of the day, but we were able to try some new suspension stuff – a stiffer rear spring. We wanted to try a little taller bike to get it to turn easier for me. I told Richard (Stanboli, Herrin’s crew chief and team owner) yesterday… he doesn’t want me rushing for any results, but we’re competitive already and it’s just been very small things that I’m missing to get me how I was feeling before on the bike. I know it’s right there on the tip of my tongue, but I can’t figure it out yet because we’ve had minimal track time and it’s been bad weather. It’s hard to dial it in, but we were able to figure that out a little bit yesterday with the stiffer rear spring and raising the bike.”
Herrin last rode a Yamaha R1 when he raced for Attack Performance in 2018. The R1 has changed since then, but so far so good for Herrin, who is also trying to make some changes in his riding style to better match the new bike.
“It seems like it’s easier to ride, which is good, especially for my riding style, which I’ve been trying to change a little bit. Jake Zemke is my manager, but he’s also helping a little bit with this rider coaching. I saw how successful Cam (Beaubier) was and I think every little bit like that helps. So, in these first couple of tests, I’m working with Jake to see how it goes and maybe do the rest of the year with him as far as rider coaching goes. We’re trying to get my riding a little bit under control so I’m not fighting the bike as much. It’s not a case of me riding completely different, but just trying to ride more forward on the bike. We found that I was getting way more grip by scooting my butt forward on the bike more. To me, I’m not into the science of it, but I would have thought that having my butt further back would help with grip, but it was total opposite. It made more grip everywhere so I think it will help. It was feeling really slow to turn, but that was probably because it was sitting really low and now I’m going in the opposite direction.”
If Wednesday’s weather at Buttonwillow was bad, today’s is expected to be worse with a 100 percent chance of rain.
“Probably 80 percent of testing in the rain is just to test for riding in the rain,” Herrin said. “The rest is just spinning laps with it and getting used to the position on the bike. I had limited track time and it will help just to spin laps on it and get more comfortable. The main thing is just when you get to a race and it’s raining, in the back of our mind we know we had some track time in the rain and we’ll always be that one day ahead of the rest of them. We can push the limits quicker because the next time we ride in the rain will be our second day in the rain. I think it’s also good for the crew to see us out there spinning laps no matter what the conditions. I think in years past I would be like, ‘No I’m not riding.’ They leave home and their families to come do this with COVID going on and with it being a little bit smaller teams than with the factory teams, I think it goes a long way with the team having your back to get out there no matter what.”
In addition to a new bike, Herrin also has a new teammate in Jake Gagne. The two have had issues in the past, but Herrin says that’s water under the bridge.
“He’s super cool,” Herrin said of Gagne. “We haven’t always seen eye to eye, but I’ve told people before that I’m a hot head on the track. I still make clear decisions on the track, but for me it’s always been, ‘friends are for dinner.’ No matter if it is your teammate or your best bud, you’re always going to be angry right when you get off the track. Then, when the adrenaline goes down, you’re like ‘well, maybe I was a little bit of a hot head.’ That’s how I’ve always been, super competitive. But we’ve gotten along really well, and it will be a cool year. He’s super easy going and I haven’t talked to him as much in my whole career as I have in the past three days I’ve spent with him. He’s always happy to throw a leg over a bike and he brings some good energy to the team. It makes it easier to show up at the track with somebody who’s having a good time.”