Yoshimura Suzuki’s Josh Herrin putting in the work during the recent test at Thunderhill. Photo by Brian J. Nelson

When most of us envision Josh Herrin staring at a computer screen, we figure he’s battling someone in Black Ops 4, not looking at overlays showing him how his throttle traces compare with those of his Yoshimura Suzuki teammate Toni Elias. But we’d be wrong. Although he still likes his video games, Josh Herrin 2.0 (or is it 3.0) is all business when it comes to his preparation for the 2019 MotoAmerica Series.

“This was the first time in my life that I’ve actually sat down and understood the electronics,” Herrin admitted after the recent test at Thunderhill Raceway Park. “So, I’ve been working with Ammar Bazzaz and Scott Crawford, who’s my new data guy. I’ve actually learned now to use the electronics so well that we can come in from practice and, as soon as the data is downloaded, I can go to the folder, pull up the lap, pull up Toni’s (Elias) lap if I want, and set the graphs how I want. So, say I want my grip, which would be my throttle traces, my brake pressures, my TC, my lean angle… Certain things like that. I’ve now gotten to the point where I can use the software myself and set it up. Obviously, I can’t do Scott’s job. I’m not saying that, but I can at least get it up and look at it myself and understand it.”

Why the turnaround? What’s changed in Herrin’s life? Call it the opportunity for a fresh start.

“When I signed the deal with Yosh, I told myself, ‘I’m going to turn over a new leaf.’ Richard (Stanboli, the owner of Attack Performance) taught me a lot. I learned a lot in Moto2. I learned a lot by not having what these guys had for so many years. So, I’m really going to take advantage of what I have now. I’ve been studying (Mat) Mladin (the seven-time AMA Superbike Champion) a lot, talking to the guys on the team about Mladin. I know (Josh) Hayes used to do that a lot. And I got to study Hayes for a long period of time. So, I think with the electronics, if I can understand it enough to do that stuff, then whenever they show me things on the data, I’m going to understand it completely because I know how to run the program now.”

A rider wanting to learn things while at the racetrack is nothing new. A rider willing to go to the race shop to work on educating himself… well, that’s almost unheard of.

“I’ve been spending two or three hours, maybe even four hours, each day going over that,” Herrin said. “Every time we come back from a test or anything, I’ve been going into the shop and looking at data with them and going over stuff. So, I’ve really kind of made it into a job now, where before it was fun. It’s obviously still fun – I get to ride motorcycles for a living – but I’ve really tried to take it more seriously and make it a job. I think that’s helping us a lot.”

At the recent test at Thunderhill Raceway Park, Herrin was able to see where he measured up against three-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier. Although it didn’t turn out as planned, he learned.

“I think Cameron came out of the pits like right at the same time as me, or maybe a little bit before me,” Herrin said. “At first I was like, ‘I don’t want to ride with him right now. I don’t feel like I’m ready to go faster than him, so I don’t want to show my cards yet.’ But then I was like, ‘you know what? It would be good for me to kind of see where that bike is stronger because I rode against the Suzukis last year and in my whole career, but I haven’t ridden the Suzuki against the Yamahas yet.’ So I really felt like it would be valuable for me to see what that difference is. So, he (Beaubier) followed me for two laps, passed me. I passed him back. It felt like a race to me. It just got the blood flowing and my heart rate was up. He passed me back. He probably pulled four-tenths of a second or something, which I kind of expected because he’s fast at that track. I’ve always struggled there but I felt pretty confident. I was like, ‘All right, I can hang onto him.’ He pulled a little bit, but I was able to sit back and kind of study him and see where the Suzuki struggles to the Yamaha. Before, Toni (Elias) rode so different than me that it was pretty hard to understand exactly what that bike did differently, but now that I was able to follow a Yamaha, and not only a Yamaha but follow Cameron (Beaubier) and really study him and see what exactly it does better, what it does worse. I think that really helped us. I got two laps behind him and we were able to come in and really dissect everything and learn a lot from it.

“I think that the test went great. The first time I went there I was I think nine-tenths or a second off of Toni (Elias), and this time I was three-tenths off of him. So, for a track that I don’t like – and I like it, but it’s one of those tracks where I’ve never gone fast there, so I didn’t like it because of that reason… I was pretty pumped on the way that the test went. We tried a bunch of new things with the bike and everything went forward. We didn’t go backwards at all. I feel like I’ve, like I talked about earlier, just turning over that leaf. Because I’ve been taking it so much more seriously. I understand the bike so much better and I understand just the feedback aspect of it when I come into the pits and I talk to the crew. It’s so much easier to me now to really be accurate with my feedback.”

So far, Herrin and Elias are working well together. And Herrin says it will pay dividends.

“Me and Toni are setting the bike up exactly the same, which is such a good thing for a team because then it just speeds up the process of the development so fast,” Herrin explained. “We can get the parts from Yosh Japan so much quicker. It just makes me a lot more confident going into the season.”

Herrin left Thunderhill happy. Well…

“So I couldn’t have been any happier,” he said. “The only way I would have been happier is if I had pulled away from Cam (Beaubier), but I kind of had a feeling that wasn’t going to happen. I felt like to him it was a little bit of because of me doing the trash-talking on Instagram, he had to shove it to me at the test. I was like, ‘all right, don’t be a pussy. Just take the punch and go, because at the end of the day you’re going to learn a lot from it.’ It was fun, though. I think it was good for us to get out there and kind of race with each other. I think everyone in the pits was watching thinking something was going to happen. It was exciting though just to get that almost like a race going. It felt like we were starting the season. So I was pumped with it.”