Author: site admin
Category: AMA Superbikes
An old wedding adage starts with the phrase “Something old, something new…”. Well, it isn’t exactly nuptials but the joining of the AMA and the reconfigured Daytona circuit has a few folks celebrating tonight. It was an exciting first day of racing at Daytona with some qualifying sessions sprang on the teams with little notice, some fast laps put in today including a last gasp stunner, a few shows of dominance, a surprise winner in one race and a disappointing DNF in another. An excellent way to start the season…
First, the AMA reversed yesterday’s decision about griding the Superstock and Supersport races by last year’s finishing order. Instead, they decided to use this morning’s practice sessions as a qualifying session. This change caught some of the teams by surprise but ultimately it made the grid fairer for everyone. A good call by the AMA in my opinion.
Supersport qualifying was first up this morning on a track still damp from yesterday’s rain. Things were further complicated because there wasn’t time to split the Supersport field into two separate sessions, so the whole swarm of them where sent out at once. Getting a clean lap became the secret to pole, rather than bike setup or tire choice. In the end, it was a case of “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. Tommy Hayden was slated to be on pole due to his winning last season’s championship and when things went back to a qualifying setup he bested all comers to retain that pole position with a 1:43.511 lap time. Ben Spies, Jamie Hacking and Jason Disalvo filled out the front row, though only Spies was on the same second as Hayden with a 1;43.905. The rest of the grid was surprisingly similar to yesterday’s grid based on 2004 results, with only a single row change forward or backwards for those affected.
Next up was the Superstock qualifying session which, unlike the Supersport situation, made for a drastic turn-around from yesterday’s list which featured a front two rows filled with Yamahas and Kawasakis. When the checkered flag few on the Superstock session, it was Suzuki that came out the big winner. Aaron Yates threw down blazing 1:39.667 lap time which bested even teammate Ben Spies fastest *Superbike* practice time from yesterday. Only Yamaha’s Jason Disalvo could stay near Yates with a 1:39.910 while the rest of the grid was nearly a second off the pole time. Yates is back… Another big winner in the qualifying session was Jason Pridmore. He finished 11th in last year’s Superstock class but pulled out a front row starting position during qualifying. M4 Suzuki teammates Vincent Haskovec and Geoff May leaped forward from 12th and 17th based on 2004 results to 7th and 8th based on this morning’s qualifying. The changes swept through the privateer ranks as well. Lee Acree was able to jump from 24th to 12th while Brent George and Jason Perez also jumped into the top 15.
Yates was also back on the bike immediately after Superstock qualifying to lay down some fast times on his Superbike. However, qualifying was all about Mat Mladin as he smashed the field, nearly a second faster than anyone else. As Ben Spies predicted yesterday, the Superbike qualifying times were into the 1:38s as Mladin blitzed the clocks with a 1:38.232. Spies stayed true to his word with a 1:38.963 to grab second. Neil Hodgson showed he is quickly adapting to the new tracks with a 1:39.884 to head a group which included the final spot on the front row taken by Aaron Yates. The second row had a surprise since Geoff May put his bike into fifth. Miguel Duhamel, Jake Zemke and Josh Hayes filled out the second row. A few other factory or factory supported riders were expected to be on the second row but ended up further back: Eric Bostrom (9th) and Kurtis Roberts (13th). However, Mladin had them all covered with his blazing lap time, so they’ll all have to step up come race day no matter what their starting position.
The final qualifying session was the Formula Xtreme bikes trying to sort out their positions for the Daytona 200 on Saturday. As expected, the factory Honda’s dominated FX. The best news from this qualifying time is that the pole sitter was able to better the Supersport bike’s times which prevented the embarrassment of having the Superbike spec 600s getting spanked by a less modified bike. The big drama wasn’t in the time but in how pole was determined. Jake Zemke appeared to have pole set with a 1:42.599 but Miguel Duhamel went out with just a few seconds left and threw down a flying 1:42.593 which just pipped Zemke and earned him the pole sitter’s Rolex. High drama and it was caught on TV in the pre-Superstock race coverage so hopefully that will get a few more people interested in qualifying. The rest of the grid was made up of third place Josh Hayes and forth place Kurtis Roberts. The rest of the grid was 1.5+ seconds behind pole, so the factory Hondas have a definite advantage for the race Saturday.
With qualifying out of the way, it was time for the first AMA race of the weekend as the Superstock bikes lined up for their 13 lap final. Now in yesterday’s blog entry and in an article I wrote for Roadracer X magazine’s web site, I predicted that the factory Yamaha and Kawasaki bikes would dominate Superstock. Oppps… from the time the green flag flew, it was obvious that the Suzukis were the bikes to beat. Yates, Pridmore, Disalvo, Hacking and Haskovec shot off from the rest of the pack with Yates and Pridmore swapping the lead over the first few laps. Reigning champ and nice guy Aaron Gobert had a mechanical DNF and wouldn’t factor into the race. Also obvious was that Yates has some serious power as he pulled away from Pridmore exiting the chicane nearly ever lap. This despite Pridmore’s bike supposedly being built to the same spec as Yates’ GSXR by Yoshimura. Hmmm…. It appeared that the two Yamahas were struggling to hold the speed of the Suzukis and eventually Haskovec moved past them and then, with a few laps to go, railed around Pridmore and Yates to take the lead. At the same time, Hacking and Disalvo succumbed to the pressure with both temporarily running off track and dropping out of the draft. On the last lap it seemed like Yates was in the catbird seat being behind Haskovec but the Czech rider was able to up the pace and actually pull away from Y
Yates’ rocket ship. Pridmore couldn’t gain anything, despite Yates tires sliding around, so the finishing order was Haskovec, Yates and Pridmore. This was definitely an upset having Haskovec, riding for the factory supported M4 Suzuki team on Pirelli tires, besting the favorites of the factory Yamahas, the factory Kawasakis and even the factory Suzukis. The highlight of the entire day was seeing the enthusiastic Haskovec’s podium interview which so plainly showed his joy. After years of pre-planned podium speeches, it is great to hear an underdog having an opportunity to express his happiness. This was the “something new”.
The second and final race of the day was the 22 lap Supersport final. Some of the riders had already ridden two qualifying seessions and a race so far today, so this was an endurance race as much as a sprint race. As it was, Tommy Hayden got the jump off the line which was good since there was almost a turn one pile-up. I’ve always felt that Jamie Hacking and Jason Disalvo were “rough” racers that tend to push other riders around. It was ironic, then, that the two of them seemed to lean on each other going into turn one which almost caused an accident. Meanwhile Ben Spies pulled an amazing move around the outside which had me puckering up in my chair. Spies then went to the front with Hayden and Hacking in pursuit. After a few laps, Hayden and Hacking upped the pace and Spies started drifting backwards. Rog Hayden, riding injured after a couple of accidents, started to move forward passing Gobert, Disalvo and Spies to move into third. The Hayden brothers and Hacking pulled out a gap to break the pack but then Tommy had the the field covered power-wise and upped the pace yet again. Rog passed Hacking and appeared to go with Tommy, leaving Hacking for a lonely third. With one lap to go Rog’s bike let go almost putting him on the ground while Tommy rode another perfect lap to win Daytona with a 3+ second break-away, something very rarely seen in the recent history of Supersport racing at the Speedway. Rog’s DNF was heart-breaking as he had ridden such a great race especially considering how beat up he was. Tommy Hayden, the 2004 Supersport champ, showed he and his ZX-6RR are the bikes to beat again this year making this news “something old”.
A toast: Congrats to the winners, condolences to the losers and good luck to those with races yet to be run.
[image from the SpeedTV web site.]