Geoff May knows his way around a road racing motorcycle. He grew up in Georgia not far from Road Atlanta, and he still lives there. Over his nearly 20-year career, he’s raced Superbikes for Michael Jordan Motorsports, Erik Buell Racing (EBR), and others in both AMA racing as well as World Superbike. So, when Omega Moto needed an experienced rider they called on May to join their team and ride their Yamaha YZF-R1 Superbike for the remainder of the MotoAmerica season starting with the upcoming round at Utah Motorsports Campus.
After Omega Moto made the announcement, we got in touch with May and asked him a few questions
Did Omega Moto contact you? How did this whole thing come about?
GM: Yeah, it was a random Facebook message.
Did they get in touch with you, or did you do it or what?
GM: No, they got in touch with me. I’ve been doing my own thing. I’m now a mortgage banker, and I do loans in all 50 states. That’s my day job. I go club racing on the weekends to scratch my itch and make a little side money. I’d just come off a great weekend at Road Atlanta, and I got a message on my Facebook page. I didn’t know who Ken Chewey, Omega Moto’s team owner, was but he reached out to me and just simply asked, “Hey, would you be interested in filling in for us for the rest of the year?” I was like, “Yeah, let’s talk about it.”
I guess every team wants to get better results when they’re in a situation like that, but I didn’t know what the situation was with their current rider and how that was set up. They clearly weren’t getting what they wanted.
I Googled the team and looked them up and saw some of the stuff you guys have written about them before we had the conversation. I was like, “I don’t know who these guys are. Let me see what’s going on here.” I read about them and was like, “Okay, it’s a real Superbike. Let’s talk about it. Let’s come up with a plan.”
You, of course, have probably heard or know about the new, larger Dunlop rear tire. Have you had any experience on it?
GM: Yeah. Dunlop has been a huge supporter of mine since I haven’t been racing in MotoAmerica. A lot of times, I do testing and R&D for them in the background if they want to get a second opinion on something. It’s very easy for me to go to a track and “what if” something. So, I’ve been on the new 200/60 for the same amount of time as everybody else… probably more.
I’ve been able to adapt to it pretty quickly. I was able to “what if” it back to back with the other one, which is probably a little better advantage than the other guys because they didn’t have that option. They went to the 200/60 and right away, they’re on the 200/60 from then on, whereas with what I’ve been doing the last two rounds at Road Atlanta and VIR, I’ve been able to go back to back with the 200/55 and the 200/60 to really quantify the changes and figure out what needs to be done to the bike. The 200/60 for me is quite a bit better tire than the 200/55.
What do you like about it? Corner grip coming out of the turns, or what? What’s the deal?
GM: For me and my Kawasaki ZX-10R that I compete on in club racing, the profile of the tire is a benefit. It helps the bike steer better. The Kawi is a little heavier and harder to turn, so it’s made it less effort to flick the bike back and forth. It also has a larger grip section, so it helps lay the power down and get off the corner. I was able to decipher that it’s got kind of a different nuance. You have to be aware of how you are applying the power on that tire much more so than the 200/55 or you can upset the carcass, which you can see in the video showing the (MotoAmerica) guys (running it) at Road America.
Do you know the Omega Moto crew? Do you know any of the guys on the team, or are you bringing any of your own crew in? How is that going to work?
GM: From what I understand, everything is staying status quo with the team. I don’t know any of them personally. I’ve talked to Ryan Haddock before, but that’s about it. It’s all-new, and it’s going to stay the same from what I’ve been told. I’m just going to come in there and do what I do. That was pretty much my job explicitly with EBR, to be a development rider, do R&D, and go through lots of different provisions and test things and make the bike better. That’s kind of, I think, what attracted them to reaching out to me. Omega Moto has a lot of data on their motorcycle, but maybe they’re not all working in unison together. My job is to come in there, refine the thing, and make it more of a front-running motorcycle. Move it up the field. That’s the immediate goal. It isn’t to come in and set the world on fire. It’s to chip away at it and build their motorcycle up.
So, it’s a Yamaha R1 as opposed to the ZX10R that you’ve been riding. About your last stint on an R1 with Westby Racing, do you have any reservations about that? What are your expectations coming in and riding an R1 again?
GM: I’ve ridden a lot of different motorcycles in my career. I showed up at Daytona in 2015 with a Yamaha R6 that I built in my garage. I’d never ridden an R6 before, and I was able to put it on pole for the 200. So, that was a totally different motorcycle, one I’d never ridden before. Then, I rode the Turbo Turtle Honda for a little bit and had a little bit of success on it. That was a different motorcycle. Then I rode the EBR last year again at the Barber Pro Formula Shootout, and I was able to win on it again. So I’ve been jumping around on lots of different bikes. I don’t have any reservations at all. My previous stint on the R1 with the Westby team, it wasn’t a good situation for anyone. Dane (Westby) had passed, and it was very fresh. It was an absolute, brand-new motorcycle for the team, and to most everyone else in the paddock at that point in time. COTA was a new racetrack for me. Then, we subsequently got all of our time cut short because of the weather and MotoGP’s schedule that weekend. So, that was a totally different scenario. Since then, I had the opportunity… I worked with Anthony Kosinski when he was with Quarterley Racing. I was able to ride his R1 for three days and do some development on it for those guys, and just kind of play with the motorcycle in an open environment where I had a lot of time to try a lot of things. I like the R1. It’s a great motorcycle. The reason I ride a Kawasaki is solely because I chase contingency money, and I can make the most money on it. That’s it.
Are you going to be able to test the Omega Moto R1 before Utah?
GM: That is kind of in question. We’re working on that right now, I guess, within the rules, what is legal for testing. I didn’t have a Superbike license this year or last year, and I have zero (MotoAmerica Superbike Championship) points, so we’re trying to figure out what is legal and what is our best route to get some time on this bike before we show up in Utah.
I doubt there’d be any problem with you getting a Superbike license. Do you?
GM: No, I just got the license. I think some of the testing ban is in regard to current points-holders? The guys who have points in the series. So, I believe we’re in the clear, and that’s what we’re trying to make our decision off of. We’d love to go and test at Utah (Motorsports Campus), obviously, ahead of the next MotoAmerica round, just to kind of get the thing in the window for me.
You have quite a few laps around Utah Motorsports Campus, don’t you?
GM: Yeah, I’d say Utah is probably one of my best racetracks. I got my first AMA national win there. I believe I was pretty much on the podium every time I was there, in every class I’ve run. I qualified the EBR second on the grid the last time I was there, which I believe was in 2012. 2012 was the last time I was there, and I qualified second on the EBR against the factory guys. I have a very good idea of what works there at that track.
As far as your situation with the real estate career, you’re continuing on with that, correct? I follow you on Facebook with that. That’s going well for you?
GM: Yeah, it’s going really good. I got into it right after the Westby thing. When the Westby ride didn’t work out, I was like, okay, well it’s over. I’ve had a good run. I raced motorcycles professionally for 16 years and had a good run. My wife was like, “You need to do something else because this is over.” So, my best friend’s a mortgage broker and he’s like, “Hey man, go get your mortgage license, and I’ll put you to work.” I did that for a little while. I was licensed in Georgia, and this opportunity came up almost a year ago to the date. I signed on with CBC National Bank, and now I do loans in all 50 states, nationwide. What’s really given me a great headstart is that so many people know me through the motorcycle racing community. I was always very particular and aware of not burning any bridges or doing anybody wrong during that whole time. So, everybody always thought of me, I guess, as a good guy, and I’m very trustworthy. That’s important when you’re making one of the biggest purchases of your life for a home.
That’s pretty cool that people in the paddock have come to you for their mortgage banking needs.
GM: It’s been a great fit for me, too, because being a development rider for EBR, I’m very, very analytical and that has crossed over into the mortgage stuff. There’s a lot of moving parts and features to that. I’m not a salesman. There are a lot of salespeople in that industry, and I’m bringing a fresh approach to it where I’m not a sales guy. I’m a numbers guy. I’m all about the analytics behind it. It’s been a good transition, but my entire adult life, I’ve raced motorcycles. I couldn’t leave it. I’ve realized that it’s a part of me and, whether I’m club racing or racing in the Daytona 200 or in MotoAmerica, I’m going to be racing something until the day I can’t, one way or another.
There are a lot of salespeople who probably shouldn’t be in the business because they don’t have the personality and the interpersonal skills to relate well to other people, and you have that and always have. To your point, you’ve always had good relationships with people in the paddock, but certainly I figured it extends to anybody you deal with.
GM: Yep, like I said, it’s been a great fit for me, and I really enjoy it. I thought I’d never have to use all that math that I learned in school, though. That’s why I got into motorcycle racing.
Now that Josh Hayes is a Yamaha brand ambassador, he’s going to all of our rounds, but he doesn’t ride. Talk about a painful existence, huh?
GM: I can see it from two sides of the fence now being that I’ve had to face that myself. Literally, I had to walk away from the sport. Josh and I talked back when I was at EBR because part of the EBR deal for me was longevity. After I was done racing I was going to have a job at EBR just like Josh has a job with Yamaha. In one sense, he’s very fortunate and blessed to have that, but at the same time, it can be painful to make that transition to not riding because he’s a racer and a very good racer; you never want to not race. I know he’s still got the speed to do it, and I’m sure he’s thinking, “Man, I could be winning these races or putting it on the box.” It’s never easy. But, you’ve got to stop at some point, right? It creates a tough decision because, either way, you got to make a decision. If you stay, or to go out on your own and go after your own desires. That’s a tough thing to decide when it’s all unknown.
I hope you do get some time out on the track, just to familiarize yourself with the R1 again. Not that you have to get up to speed or anything, since you’ve been doing a lot of club racing, but it’s always good to get some seat time, isn’t it?
GM: Absolutely. It will just put us that much further ahead with me and with the motorcycle and the team. Like I said, I had come to grips with never racing professionally ever again, and to have this opportunity, it’s kind of like being able to go back to high school with the knowledge you know now.
Are you going to run your signature number 99 on the Omega Moto Superbike?
GM: Yes. Same 99 that people associate with me.
And, you’re going to wear your Arai signature helmet, the same design?
GM: Yep, absolutely.
Thanks for your time, Geoff. See you in Utah.
GM: I can’t wait. See you soon.