The fourth annual AMA Pro SunTrust Moto-GT 8 Hours At Daytona hit the halfway mark at 5 p.m. ET and the No. 13 Westby Racing Yamaha YZF-R6 and the No. 18 Team Roadracingworld.com Suzuki GSX-R600 continue to wage a tight and intense battle for the overall and GT1 class victory on the 3.55-mile Daytona International Speedway (DIS) road course.
As they have from the drop of the green flag at 1 p.m. ET, the No. 13 Yamaha and No. 18 Suzuki have repeatedly swapped the race lead back and forth and have collectively proven to be the class of the field. Dustin Meador was up front on the No. 13 Yamaha when the clock hit the halfway mark but Martin Cardenas remained in hot pursuit on the No. 18 Suzuki. The leaders have completed 124 laps so far in the red-flag free race, a full three laps ahead of the third place No. 49 Touring Sport Ducshop Ducati 848 of Ryan Elleby, Hawk Mazzotta and Matt Lynn.
Meador is sharing the No. 13 with Dane Westby, Jeff Wood and top AMA Pro American Superbike rider Josh Hayes, who won the pole Friday on the Yamaha. The riders have combined to lead 57 laps, 10 less than Cardenas and his No. 18 teammates Chris Ulrich and Jason DiSalvo who have led a race-high 67 laps.
"It is all pretty even and we both have good crews and good riders on the teams," Meador said. "Right now it is just about turning real consistent laps and not making any mistakes. So far each team has incurred some penalties in the pits for speeding, so we just need to watch that and we will be okay."
Ulrich is the only rider in the race who has finished on the overall podium in each of the three previous 8 Hours At Daytona, including being on the winning Team Roadracingworld.com effort each of the last two years.
"I am not surprised to see the 13 do well," Ulrich said. "Josh Hayes rode for Team Hammer back in the 90s and he is one of the best endurance racing guys to come out of our team. I am not surprised at his pace and he won seven American Superbike races this year. He’s a good competitor but no matter what, they have put together a good team and all of the guys are a very like size."
Ulrich is nearly a foot taller than the shorter DiSalvo while Cardenas falls somewhere in the middle of the two when it comes to height.
"We are struggling with our size difference," Ulrich said. "I am on the bottom and Jason can’t press the forks hard enough so we are actually going to change some stuff on the fly to help Jason. Martin is also doing a fantastic job for us and I just got on the bike to give those two a rest. We know how to win this race but I made a pit speed mistake and caught us a ride through penalty. We have had a few more penalties than the 13 but we are getting better mileage by as much as three or four laps."
In GT2, the No. 38 Touring Sport DucShop Ducati PS1000LE of team owner/rider Frank Shockley, Dario Marchetti and Brian Stokes has led every lap since the race start. The team’s championship-leading No. 77 Ducati PS1000LE of Pete Friedland, Brad Phillips and Corey Rech has trailed its sister bike in second for the majority of the race, but hasn’t been able to shake the persistent No. 9 Pair-A-Nines Kawasaki EX650 that runs in third. Jay Springsteen recovered from an early race spill and joined teammates Scott Ryan and Taylor Knapp in putting the No. 9 back in winning contention while also maintaining a remote chance at the GT2 Championship.
"In GT2 we are running one and two, which is really exciting, but of course there is a long way to go," Shockley said. "And our GT1 bike is running well, we are in third, which is not bad for a last minute effort. So right now we are really happy with how things are going and we just have to keep it clean and together until the end. It is all going to plan, but as we have seen in the past, all that could all go out the door really quick."
Notable retirements include both the No. 59 and No. 64 TeamHurtByAccident.com Ducati PS1000LE machines, the No. 20 El Rey Beer for Kings Ducati 848, the No. 10 East Coast Powersports Suzuki SV650 and the No. 37 Old Pros Racing Triumph Daytona 675.