2009 AMA Pro Road Racing Heads to Road Atlanta
This Weekend’s Event Features Dual American Superbike and Daytona SportBike Races.
Round 3 of the 2009 AMA Pro Road Racing Series will be held at the legendary Road Atlanta road course this weekend where the AMA Pro Suzuki Superbike Showdown will feature a full slate of six races in a packed weekend of AMA Pro motorcycle road racing action on the 2.55-mile road course.
The Road Atlanta AMA Pro Road Racing races will be the 2009 season’s first on a natural road course after a pair of opening rounds on the superspeedway road courses at Daytona International Speedway (Daytona 200 Week by Honda, March 4 – 6) and Auto Club Speedway (Suzuki AMA Pro Superbike Challenge, March 20 – 22). Road Atlanta has a long history of top-tier AMA Pro Road Racing competition and well over 120 entries from four different classes will add to the legacy this weekend.
AMA Pro National Guard American Superbike presented by Parts Unlimited and AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL will co-headline the weekend card, with each division running dual Saturday and Sunday races. The weekend also features the emerging 16 to 21-year-old riders of the AMA Pro SuperSport presented by Shoei division and the team-based competition of AMA Pro SunTrust Moto-GT.
Flag-to-flag coverage of the four featured Road Atlanta races as well as SuperSport and SunTrust Moto-GT highlights will be showcased on the new AMA Pro Prime Time show on SPEED in four consecutive episodes starting next Saturday, April 11. AMA Pro Prime Time airs every Saturday on SPEED at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT) and this Saturday’s show will feature complete coverage of the recent American Superbike and Daytona SportBike Sunday finals from Auto Club Speedway.
Class points leader Mat Mladin (No. 7 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX- R1000) and fellow top American Superbike competitors Josh Hayes (No. 4 Yamaha Motor Corp. USA Yamaha R1) and Georgia-native Geoff May (No. 54 National Guard Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000) all won races at Road Atlanta last year and return this weekend determined to continue their victorious ways.
Winning is all Mladin has done in the year’s first two event weekends and he brings a perfect early-season record to Road Atlanta after taking the victory in the Daytona round of American Superbike and sweeping both races at Auto Club. He was also on the pole at both events and remains the clear favorite heading to Road Atlanta where he has won 12 American Superbike races since 2001. His most recent AMA Pro win at the track came in the first of 2008’s dual races on Saturday with then teammate Ben Spies taking the Sunday final.
This year, Mladin teams with Tommy Hayden (No. 22 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000) and up-and-coming rider Blake Young (No. 79 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000). Hayden has been the only rider who has been able to challenge Mladin in each of the opening races and he is second in the American Superbike Championship with no finish lower than third in the year’s first three races. Young also came out swinging with a fifth-place finish in the Daytona opener and backed it up with two more competitive finishes at Auto Club, including a strong recovery in race two after overcoming a race-start penalty.
The hopes of Road Atlanta area fans ride with May and his Jordan Suzuki teammate Aaron Yates (No. 23 Brand Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000), another Georgia native. May, who finished a season-best third in race one at Auto Club two weeks ago, won the 2008 Superstock race at Road Atlanta. Yates also stood on the top step of the victory podium and won Road Atlanta American Superbike races in 2003 and 2005.
Hayes actually won two races at Road Atlanta last year – AMA Pro SuperSport and Formula Xtreme – and the victories are part of an impressive tally of five wins on the Georgia road course since 2006 that is matched only by Mladin. This year his focus is exclusively on American Superbike and he joins teammate Ben Bostrom (No. 2 Yamaha Motor Corp. USA Yamaha R1) in leading Yamaha’s effort against several potent Suzuki, Honda, Ducati and Buell teams.
Jake Holden (No. 100 Corona Extra Honda CBR1000RR) replaced injured rider Neil Hodgson at Auto Club and has been asked back by the Corona team this weekend. A former full-time rider for Corona, Holden celebrated his return with a solid fourth-place finish in race one at Auto Club after dueling with Yamaha’s Hayes and Bostrom. Holden’s own No. 59 Holden Racing Honda CBR1000RR was ridden by Aaron Gobert at Auto Club but the Australian is entered at Road Atlanta on his own No. 96 AGR Inc. Honda CBR1000RR.
Ducati’s Larry Pegram (No. 72 Foremost Insurance/Pegram Racing Ducati 1098R) led three laps in the Daytona opener and finished fourth. Pegram then recovered from a spill in Saturday’s first race at Auto Club to take the third and final podium spot in the Sunday final. Pegram will lead the Ducati camp at Road Atlanta where he will be joined by sixth-place Daytona 200 finisher and Daytona SportBike regular Barrett Long (No. 29 Longevity Racing Ducati 1098R) who will also run in the American Superbike class.
A total of 29 entries are set for the AMA Pro American Superbike opener and the weekend’s first round kicks off Saturday’s racing schedule at 1:30 p.m. local time. Race number two goes down at 4 p.m. on Sunday and closes the 2009 Suzuki Superbike Showdown weekend. Both American Superbike races will be 20 laps for 50 miles.
Big Daytona SportBike Field
As it has been all season long, the AMA Pro Daytona SportBike entry is the biggest of the four classes racing at Road Atlanta this weekend. A total of 53 Daytona SportBikes are heading to Georgia and the size of the field is complemented by a diverse line up of motorcycles and riders from around the world.
Bostrom won the season-opening Daytona 200 from the pole in a one-off Daytona SportBike race where young talent Danny Eslick (No. 9 Bruce Rossmeyer’s Daytona Racing/RMR Buell 1125R) served notice he and the Buell team would be a force to be reckoned with in 2009. They proved it at Auto Club where Eslick and Buell – like Mladin and Suzuki in American Superbike – swept both races. Eslick teams with veteran race winner Michael Barnes (No. 34 GEICO Powersports/RMR Buell 1125R).
Eslick’s biggest challenge at Auto Club came from Daytona SportBike points leader Jamie Hacking (No. 88 Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) who has taken the early championship lead on the strength of two second-place finishes at Auto Club and a fourth-place showing at Daytona, where he ran as high as fourth. Hacking has raced and won at Road Atlanta in every top category and could score his sixth career victory on the Georgia track this weekend. He also benefits from the return of teammate Roger Hayden (No. 95 Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) – Tommy Hayden’s youngest brother – who is making his first start of the 2009 season. Young Argentinean rider Leandro Mercado (No. 92 Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) filled in capably in Hayden’s absence and a third Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki has been entered for him at Road Atlanta.
Hayes joined Bostrom in Yamaha’s four-rider effort in the Daytona 200, but the team’s full-season Daytona SportBike riders have proven they can carry their weight as well. Josh Herrin (No. 8 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) and 16-year-old teammate Tommy Aquino (No. 6 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) have been competitive in both qualifying and races this season. Herrin finished second to Bostrom at Daytona while Aquino qualified a strong fourth at Auto Club in single-bike Superpole qualifying.
Another team to emerge as a front-of-the-pack force in the year’s opening races is Team M4 Suzuki and lead riders Jason DiSalvo (No. 40 Team M4 Suzuki GSX-R600) and the equally quick Martin Cardenas (No. 36 Team M4 Suzuki GSX-R600). Each rider scored a third-place showing at Auto Club and DiSalvo earned his by just edging Cardenas at the line in the Sunday final. DiSalvo also finished third in the season-opening Daytona 200.
Jake Zemke (No. 1x Erion Racing Honda CBR600RR) finished 11th in the Daytona 200 but returned to racing with the leaders at Auto Club. He and Canadian teammate Chris Peris (No. 10 Erion Racing Honda CBR600RR) will once again be Honda’s flagship Daytona SportBike team at Road Atlanta.
Other notables include double-duty rider Long (No. 29 Paradigm Racing Yamaha YZF-R6), Chaz Davies (No. 57 Factory Aprilia /Millennium Technologies Team Aprilia RSV), Steve Rapp (No. 48 Bazzaz/Pat Clark Motorsports Yamaha R6), Dane Westby (No. 213 Westby Racing/Kneedraggers.com Yamaha YZF-R6) and dozens more.
Race one for AMA Pro Daytona SportBike will be Saturday at 3 p.m. local time with the weekend’s second race for the division getting the green flag at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. Like American Superbike, both races are 20 laps for 50 miles.
SuperSport East Back To Action
The Daytona 200 by Honda weekend marked the debut of the new AMA Pro SuperSport presented by Shoei class, which is AMA Pro’s showcase of America’s future motorcycle racing stars today. SuperSport is divided into East and West Championships but Road Atlanta will be the first time contenders from the East division will run their own race. The Daytona kick-off was a combined race for both championships while the recent Auto Club round was the first stand- alone race for the West series regulars.
Dustin Dominguez (No. 44 House of Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) is contesting SuperSport East this year but that didn’t stop him from showing up at Auto Club in California and trouncing the competition. A similar winning performance at Road Atlanta would be even more impactful as he could make up for some lost points that came after an early exit from the Daytona opener.
Another rider who left Daytona with minimal points was Josh Day (No. 4 Kerker Racing Yamaha YZF-R6), who was the fastest in practice and qualifying but was taken out in a contact incident early in the race. Like Dominguez, he has what it takes to recover from the early disappointment and score maximum points at Road Atlanta.
Other SuperSport East riders to watch include Daytona runner-up Joey Pascarella (Joey Pascarella Yamaha YZF-R6) and third-place finisher Russ Wikle (No. 5 Roadracingworld.com Suzuki GSX-R600). Wikle teams with Kris Turner (No. 3 Team M4 Suzuki GSX-R600) at M4/Roadracingworld.com.
Fourth-place Daytona finisher Chris Clark (No. 48 Bazzaz/Pat Clark Motorsports Yamaha YZF-R6) is heading to Road Atlanta after also racing at Auto Club while 17-year-old Mercado (No. 92 Leandro Mercado Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) will add to his Daytona SportBike track time with Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki by also running in the SuperSport race.
A proving ground series, SuperSport is reserved strictly for up-and-coming riders between the ages of 16 and 21 who compete on 600cc sport bikes that are only minimally modified from what you will find at your local Suzuki, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Honda or other motorcycle dealerships.
The green flag is scheduled to drop for the only 16-lap (40 miles) SuperSport race of the weekend at 3 p.m. on Sunday.
In related class news, AMA Pro Road Racing announced today that post entries will be accepted for the SuperSport class commencing with the upcoming event at Barber Motorsports Park the first weekend in May. Competitors may file last-minute entries for that event as late as Thursday during at-track registration hours. Similar post entry options will be available at other SuperSport races this season.
SunTrust Moto-GT Returns
Following a one-race absence after a dramatic season-opening event at Daytona, the AMA Pro SunTrust Moto-GT series returns to action at Road Atlanta with a two-hour race that closes the Saturday schedule at 4 p.m. local time. SunTrust Moto-GT It is the only class in AMA Pro Road Racing that features multi-class racing with teams of riders that share a single motorcycle in a race. As a result, SunTrust Moto-GT is the only series in AMA Pro Road Racing that features rider changes and refueling during planned pit stops.
Another distinguishing element is that Moto-GT features two classes of bikes racing at the same time for overall and class honors. The faster GT1 class features a line-up of motorcycles as diverse as Daytona SportBike with top machines from Aprilia, Triumph, Ducati, Kawasaki, Buell and Suzuki all set to do battle. The slightly smaller GT2 class features bikes from Kawasaki, Buell, Suzuki and Ducati.
Daytona GT1 winner Calvin Martinez (No. 20 Wisconsin Racing Ducati 848) and a to-be-named teammate will be looking for a repeat victory at Road Atlanta. On the GT2 front, Hall of Famer Jay Springsteen (No. 9 Pair-A-Nines Kawasaki EX650) leads the Daytona-winning Pair-A-Nines team.