Five Questions: Doug Polen, AMA And World Superbike Champion

Doug Polen Dunlop Lap of Honor VIR action

Doug Polen made two quick laps on an ex-Graves Motorsports Yamaha YZF-R6 at VIR. The 54-year-old said the last time he rode a 600cc sportbike was “a couple decades ago.”

How did you learn about the Dunlop Lap of Honor at VIRginia International Raceway?

Michael Jackson from Dunlop called me. We worked together when I was racing. He said, “Hey, we’ve got this Lap of Honor for past champions. We have a bike that we use for testing. You could ride it at VIR. Would you be interested?” Absolutely. I’m going to be there, anyway.

The bike was a Graves Yamaha YZF-R6—easy turning and fast. Last time I rode a 600 was a couple decades ago. I did two laps, and it was fun. It was like tying my shoe again.

The first lap on new tires is always a little dodgy. Lap two you’re up to 80 percent. Three you’re at 95. Four you’re at 100. You bring it to that point and the tires come along with you.

Doug Polen VIR autograph line

Still wearing his leathers in noon-day heat, Polen patiently accommodated a long line of autograph seekers at VIR.

When I came in after my second lap, I had to make my way through a lot of people. Many of those people came over to get an autograph. I kept thinking, “Wow, that’s a long line.”

The Dunlop folks were like, “We don’t want you to wear out your hand.” I said, “Don’t worry about it. It’s no problem.” Everybody was absolutely fantastic.

Have you raced at VIR?

Yes, in 2008. We were on a Ducati 848 in the Moto-ST endurance series. It was us against the Aprilia guys the whole year. They had a lot of support, and with the way the rules were, we were limited by what we could do to the bike. The Ducati needed some offset changes to make it competitive. It was tough; we were always a little behind.

Most of the time, I rode the entire race. I was seven or eight seconds faster than my partner. We were losing too much ground, and there wasn’t anything in the rules against going the whole way with just one rider change. It was good fun.

Do you miss the competition?

Anybody who says they don’t miss it is not telling the truth. When you go out and ride, you say to yourself, “Okay, if I’m on the same bike as everybody else, I should be able to go just as fast.”

When you do better, you think, “Okay!” So it’s kind of a barometer. That’s one of the things I’ll always miss. You want to compare yourself to everybody else.

The way the rules are nowadays, with spec tires and the things you can do to a Superbike, the rider makes more of a difference than in the past. That’s the part I miss.

Doug Polen Superbike Podium VIR

Polen was also on hand to pass out trophies at VIR, here after Superbike Race 1 to winner Josh Hayes, second-place Cameron Beaubier and, in third, Roger Hayden.

Of all the motorcycles you raced during your career, which one felt most like an extension of you?

For me, the Ducati 888 was probably the best bike I ever rode. It always did what I wanted it to do. Yes, I had a lot of tuning tools available to me, a truckload of tires and things like that, which helped a lot. Out of all the bikes I’ve ridden, that was the one.

In 1997, I rode a factory GSX-R750 for the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team in France. We won the World Endurance Championship. Those guys were really dialed in, and they had their stuff working well. The harder I rode the bike, the faster I went.

What does your 1on1 program offer younger riders who want to become successful racers?

The main thing I bring to riders—young or old, it doesn’t matter—is an understanding of what you need to accomplish and keep in check to progress through your riding experience.

You need to understand what really makes a difference. If you spend a lot of time on something that doesn’t make much of difference, you’re wasting your time.

If I can get them on the right path, and keep them there, then they’re going to do a whole lot better. They’ll get where they want to go a lot faster.

Doug Polen Dunlop Lap of Honor VIR action

Doug Polen made two quick laps on an ex-Graves Motorsports Yamaha YZF-R6 at VIR. The 54-year-old said the last time he rode a 600cc sportbike was “a couple decades ago.”

How did you learn about the Dunlop Lap of Honor at VIRginia International Raceway?

Michael Jackson from Dunlop called me. We worked together when I was racing. He said, “Hey, we’ve got this Lap of Honor for past champions. We have a bike that we use for testing. You could ride it at VIR. Would you be interested?” Absolutely. I’m going to be there, anyway.

The bike was a Graves Yamaha YZF-R6—easy turning and fast. Last time I rode a 600 was a couple decades ago. I did two laps, and it was fun. It was like tying my shoe again.

The first lap on new tires is always a little dodgy. Lap two you’re up to 80 percent. Three you’re at 95. Four you’re at 100. You bring it to that point and the tires come along with you.

Doug Polen VIR autograph line

Still wearing his leathers in noon-day heat, Polen patiently accommodated a long line of autograph seekers at VIR.

When I came in after my second lap, I had to make my way through a lot of people. Many of those people came over to get an autograph. I kept thinking, “Wow, that’s a long line.”

The Dunlop folks were like, “We don’t want you to wear out your hand.” I said, “Don’t worry about it. It’s no problem.” Everybody was absolutely fantastic.

Have you raced at VIR?

Yes, in 2008. We were on a Ducati 848 in the Moto-ST endurance series. It was us against the Aprilia guys the whole year. They had a lot of support, and with the way the rules were, we were limited by what we could do to the bike. The Ducati needed some offset changes to make it competitive. It was tough; we were always a little behind.

Most of the time, I rode the entire race. I was seven or eight seconds faster than my partner. We were losing too much ground, and there wasn’t anything in the rules against going the whole way with just one rider change. It was good fun.

Do you miss the competition?

Anybody who says they don’t miss it is not telling the truth. When you go out and ride, you say to yourself, “Okay, if I’m on the same bike as everybody else, I should be able to go just as fast.”

When you do better, you think, “Okay!” So it’s kind of a barometer. That’s one of the things I’ll always miss. You want to compare yourself to everybody else.

The way the rules are nowadays, with spec tires and the things you can do to a Superbike, the rider makes more of a difference than in the past. That’s the part I miss.

Doug Polen Superbike Podium VIR

Polen was also on hand to pass out trophies at VIR, here after Superbike Race 1 to winner Josh Hayes, second-place Cameron Beaubier and, in third, Roger Hayden.

Of all the motorcycles you raced during your career, which one felt most like an extension of you?

For me, the Ducati 888 was probably the best bike I ever rode. It always did what I wanted it to do. Yes, I had a lot of tuning tools available to me, a truckload of tires and things like that, which helped a lot. Out of all the bikes I’ve ridden, that was the one.

In 1997, I rode a factory GSX-R750 for the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team in France. We won the World Endurance Championship. Those guys were really dialed in, and they had their stuff working well. The harder I rode the bike, the faster I went.

What does your 1on1 program offer younger riders who want to become successful racers?

The main thing I bring to riders—young or old, it doesn’t matter—is an understanding of what you need to accomplish and keep in check to progress through your riding experience.

You need to understand what really makes a difference. If you spend a lot of time on something that doesn’t make much of difference, you’re wasting your time.

If I can get them on the right path, and keep them there, then they’re going to do a whole lot better. They’ll get where they want to go a lot faster.