After a month-long break, Michael Jordan Motorsports returned to AMA Pro Racing action this past weekend. The picturesque circuit of Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama was the backdrop for Round 4 of the American Superbike Championship and the racing debut of the 2009 Suzuki GSX-R 1000 for both the #23 Jordan Suzuki and #54 National Guard Jordan Suzuki teams.
Despite limited practice time going into the weekend races, the two Michael Jordan Motorsports teams stormed into the top five in Sunday’s Race 2, with Aaron Yates of the #23 Jordan Suzuki team earning a second place finish and Geoff May of the #54 National Guard Jordan Suzuki team finishing fifth.
With the riders and crew working to unlock the set-up mysteries of the all new GSX-Rs and battling challenging weather conditions, the teams’ Saturday results did not measure up to either squad’s potential, with May finishing seventh and Yates, tenth. Both teams worked hard into the night Saturday making changes that made for much improved results in Sunday’s Race 2.
The teams now head into Round 5 at Infineon Raceway May 15-17 with #54 Geoff May third in the American Superbike points race and #23 Aaron Yates having garnered a MJM season-high second place finish.
Aaron Yates, Jordan Suzuki No. 23
Aaron Yates and his #23 crew had a weekend more turbulent than the weather forecast at Barber. Hampered by a red flag during Basic Qualifying that saw the team fail to make Superpole, the #23 team went from a hard-fought tenth place finish on Saturday to a well-run and impressive ride to second place on Sunday. Yates leaves Barber Motorsports Park sitting in seventh place in the American Superbike Championship with 98 points, moving up from the eighth position.
10th PLACE, SATURDAY RACE 1 – Yates started Race 1 from 12th position on the American Superbike grid. After sitting on the grid for an extra hour due to a delay while the track dried, Yates finally took off for the warm-up lap under sunny skies. While waiting for the flag, Yates made some last minute adjustments to his clutch, which resulted in a small miscue on the start, resulting in a Jump Start penalty and forcing the Georgia-based rider to come in for a Ride Through. Upon rejoining the pack, Yates muscled his way through the entire field and made a heroic push for the top 10 as the laps wound down, posting his fastest lap (26.8) on one of the last laps of the race. Yates brought home valuable championship points and a final finishing position of 10th place.
Aaron Yates Speaks…
"My clutch was grabbing funny during the warm-up lap and I was fiddling with it on the grid," said Yates. "I was focused on that and warming it up when I saw the lights come on and I just reacted. I’ve been doing a bit of drag racing lately and think that may have been the cause. After coming in for the Ride Through, I just put my head down and kept reeling guys in. We were happy to get out of this race with a Top 10 and the new 2009 GSX-R is getting better"
2nd PLACE, SUNDAY RACE 2 – Sunday’s Race 2 was an event that everyone in the paddock wasn’t sure was going to happen. With tornadoes touching down in the Birmingham area and a severe thunderstorm hammering the pits, teams scrambled to take down canopies and went running for safety. A few short hours after taking cover in the concrete shelter, Yates and his #23 Jordan Suzuki were gridded up on a mostly dry, but still patchy-wet, racecourse and ready to do business. When the green flag flew, Aaron "Yikes" Yates proved his nickname true, as he blasted up through the field and made some daring passes on the opening lap to slot himself into the front group. Yates soon moved into second position behind race winner Mat Mladin and kept the factory Suzuki honest and within 2 seconds for much of the race. Other than a near-highside coming out of T2, Yates ran a flawless race in the tricky conditions and brought his #23 Jordan Suzuki home in second position, the highest finish in 2009 for Michael Jordan Motorsports.
Aaron Yates Speaks…
"It’s been an up-and-down year for us," said Yates. "We got the ’09 Suzuki a couple of weeks ago, did some riding on it and got a few things sorted out. I’m really feeling good about the bike and it’s running pretty good. It really feels good to get up here, back on the podium and show that the Jordan Suzuki guys are working hard and the new GSX-R1000 is going good."
Geoff May, National Guard Jordan Suzuki No. 54
Geoff May and his #54 National Guard Jordan Suzuki team had a learning weekend on the brand-new 2009 GSX-R 1000 and regained third position in the American Superbike Championship. The team rebounded from a seventh place finish on Saturday to an improved fifth place in Sunday’s match-up. The team concluded Round 4 with 122 championship points and much-needed data on the new Suzuki.
7th PLACE, SATURDAY RACE 1 – May started Race 1 from third position on the grid, but a poor start saw the National Guard Jordan Suzuki rider fall back through the order on the opening laps. May soon regrouped and pushed hard throughout the remainder of the race, bringing his 2009 GSX-R home in seventh position at the finish.
Geoff May Speaks…
"I would like to have finished higher today and know we have the motorcycle to do it," said May. "I didn’t do myself any favors with that start and I had some issues with the set-up as the race progressed. We got some good data today and expect to be higher up in the order tomorrow."
5th PLACE, SUNDAY RACE 2 – When Race 2 finally got underway, after hours of tornado and thunderstorm delays, May and his #54 Suzuki were ready. Getting a good start and putting his National Guard Jordan Suzuki with the front group, May quickly settled into a rhythm. The arrival of the Safety Car at the mid-point of the race caused May to lose his rhythm slightly upon the restart, losing touch with the front group on the restart. May kept his head down and brought his 2009 Suzuki home inside the top five, giving him enough points to move back into third position in the Championship.
Geoff May Speaks…
"Considering we didn’t think we were going to race today, I’m happy to get out of here with third in the points," said May. "The track was really tricky and after the Safety Car I wasn’t able to get back into the early race rhythm I had. I’m glad to get out of here with good championship points and lots of information on the new National Guard Jordan Suzuki GSX-R."
Championship Point Standings (after 7 of 20 races):
1. Mladin, 220 points
2. Hayden, 143
3. May, 122
4. Young, 114
5. Bostrom, 113
6. Hayes, 111
7. Yates, 98
8. Pegram, 94
9. Anthony, 69
10. Knapp, 68
11. Holden, 66
12. Gobert, 55
13. Ulrich, 53
14. Mazzotta, 46
15. Jensen, 40
16. Neil Hodgson, 25
17. Long, 23
18. TIE, Laverty/Elleby, 21
20. Crozier, 15