We spoke to rising star Hayden Schultz about his career and future aspirations.
Like so many motorcycle road racers, Hayden Schultz got his start early. However, had he been a few years older when he started it might not have happened the way it did.
Growing up riding in the dirt, and hitting the jumps, led Hayden to fall in love with the sport. However, he got hooked on speed by the age of 12 and switched to road racing. After an impressive 2022 season that saw him finish in 6th place, just outside the top 5, and take home top honours in the opening round at Daytona, Schultz is back to contest the MotoAmerica Twins Cup in 2023.
Tell me a little bit about how you got into racing. Did your parents or older siblings race?
I am the first racer in my family! I am the oldest of my siblings and my parents were not racers. Not long after I first started riding, I went to the local motocross track and started racing.
When did you start riding motorcycles?
My Dad went to our local dealership looking to buy me a 4-wheeler. At the time I was only 4 years old and you had to be 6 years old to ride a 4-wheeler. At 4 years old I learned to ride at some land we had, and it took off from there.
What was the first bike you learn to ride on?
It was a Yamaha PW50 with training wheels.
What was the bike you first raced on?
After learning to ride on the PW50 we took that same bike to the motocross track and lined up to race.
Where was your first race held?
My first race was in Pea Ridge, Arkansas. I still remember that race, primarily because I couldn’t make it up all the jumps and rolled backwards down the face of a jump.
What was it about racing that appealed to you/got you hooked?
Initially when I raced motocross as a kid the thrill of jumping sucked me in. Once I was introduced to the asphalt it was the speed. The adrenaline rush was unlike anything I had experienced, and I found it to come more naturally for me than motocross
You’ve been very competitive in the Twin Cup series, what’s it going to take to win the championship?
I’ve been fortunate to have a good team behind me that has given me the opportunity to run at the front consistently. Winning the championship comes down to consistency and minimizing mistakes throughout the season. We were able to finish on the podium as much or more than anyone last year but I made mistakes in races that really hurt our championship hunt. 3 DNFs from crashes in races and a self-inflicted penalty that took away a race win really add up. It was uncharacteristic of me and I feel if I can clean that up then we can be in the mix for the title.
What areas you feel you want/need to improve upon?
For me, it is just about cleaning up my mistakes. I know I have the machine and the ability to fight for wins every weekend. I just need to find a better balance between aggression and being smooth.
What will be the biggest challenges for you as a rider in MotoAmerica?
I think the biggest challenge for me is balancing everything. The Cycle Tech team members and I all have full-time jobs outside of racing. We also wear multiple hats within the team to make sure we are prepared come race time. Between all this, my team and I are very busy on race weekends and balancing everything can be tough at times. I’m incredibly grateful to have Gene Burcham, Gary Jeffries, and Ron “Dink” Glidden behind me. Without them I wouldn’t make it on the grid and certainly couldn’t be as competitive as we’ve been.
How does the R-7 stack up against the competition, specifically the Aprilia bikes?
MotoAmerica has had a tough task balancing bikes that are very different. So far the measures they have taken to balance the different brands has been great. The Aprilia and Yamaha have to be ridden differently and have their own strengths and weaknesses. Regarding Twins Cup spec bikes, I prefer the Yamaha, but both are capable of winning as we’ve seen this past year.
What does it mean to have a team like Cycle Tech behind you?
It’s incredible to have them behind me. I’m endlessly thankful that Gene, Gary, Dink, and everyone behind me continue to support me. Year after year they give me an opportunity to race a competitive bike and give me a great program. They are incredibly talented individuals and people would be shocked if they knew what we accomplish on such a tight budget.
Will we see you in the Supersport series at some point?
I’ve been wanting to move up to the Supersport series for a couple of years but the opportunities to do so haven’t been something I could quite manage financially. I want to move up after this season but it just comes down to what makes sense. If an opportunity for the Cycle Tech program to move up and show what we can do at higher levels becomes available, then that would be ideal.
Favourite track to race on so far?
I am a big fan of Pittsburgh International Race Complex and The Ridge. Both of those tracks are technical and play into some of my strengths. The elevation changes and flowing sections make for a lot of fun and reward smooth riding.
Ultimate goals in the sport? MotoGP, WSBK?
I would love to race in MotoGP or WSBK but those opportunities don’t seem to be something I foresee happening. As far as racers go, I’m getting older. I’ll be 26 this year and I’m finally getting opportunities to show what I can do. Truthfully my goal at this point is to have a season where I can put all my efforts into racing just to see what I can do. I’ve always either been in school or working a full-time job so I could afford to race. I would love to have an opportunity where I could train full-time and put all my effort into racing. If that happens that would be fantastic but if not, then I’ll still be working my hardest to grid up win some races.
Any racing heroes growing up?
Growing up I raced motocross and first was a huge Ricky Carmichael fan. Once I started road racing, I was a big Rossi guy and always looked up to him.
Biggest influence on your career to date?
That is tough, I’ve had different people influence me in different ways. One was Josh Hayes because he represented someone that had to work hard for his opportunities and once he had those chances he made the most of them. Now having the chance to get to know Josh some has been really cool. Kyle Wyman was another influence of mine. I rode with his program when I was 16 when he first ventured into team ownership. Since then, he grew it into a successful superbike program and accomplished a lot as a team owner/rider. I’ve been running my own program for most of my career and know how hard it is even at the Twins Cup level. Seeing him manage a superbike program shows that it can be done.
Any advice to other young riders wanting to get into racing?
Have fun. Racing is supposed to be fun and it can quickly start to feel like a job if you let it. We go racing because we love it. Enjoy every moment and learn every chance you get. You can learn a lot on and off the track through racing.
Featured images – Brian J. Nelson