The green flag has waved to officially start the fourth annual AMA Pro SunTrust Moto-GT 8 Hours At Daytona and Josh Hayes (No. 13 Westby Racing Yamaha YZF-R6) and Martin Cardenas (No. 18 Team Roadracingworld.com Suzuki GSX-R600) immediately began a battle for the lead that could very well be waged for entirety of the eight-hour endurance race that runs from 1 – 9 p.m. ET.
Pole-sitter Hayes led the race’s first two laps from the start but Cardenas swept by in the run through the Daytona International Speedway tri-oval on Lap 3 to lead for the first time. The duo went on to swap the lead in the opening laps and minutes of the race before Hayes opened up to a slight lead just before the 30 minute mark.
Hayes will share the No. 13 Westby Yamaha with Jeff Wood and regular riders Dane Westby and Dustin Meador while Cardenas partners with two-time 8 Hours At Daytona winner Chris Ulrich and Jason DiSalvo.
"Martin (Cardenas) is going to do two stints and then I’m going to do two," said DiSalvo, who finished third in last March’s Daytona 200. "My strategy is to try to be consistent and just put my laps in there. We’re not sure who’s going to be on the No. 13 bike when I’m out there. Just going to keep plugging away, hopefully we pick up a little bit of time with our pit stops and I can go out there with a little bit of a gap and just nurse it along during my hour, hour and 10 minutes on the bike. Just keep it steady."
In GT2, the No. 38 Touring Sport DucShop Ducati PS1000LE of Frank Shockley, Dario Marchetti and Brian Stokes has led every lap in the race’s opening hour after starting from the pole. The No. 38 had qualified second but the No. 23 KRM Racing by Motocorse Ducati PS1000LE was moved to the back of the GT2 field after failing post-qualifying technical inspection on Friday. Barrett Long had put the No. 23 on the provisional GT2 pole but the Ducati was found to exceed the allowable horsepower limits for the class. The time was disallowed and the No. 23 was moved to the back of the field along with the No. 26 and No. 17 Team MIM/Repsol Suzuki SV650 entries that were penalized for failing to report to technical inspection.
Friday night rain showers brought the coolest temperatures central Florida has seen in weeks and race-day conditions are a sunny 70 degrees with only minimal wind. No rain is in the forecast.
While the weather is nearly perfect, the opening minutes of the race have been far from that for several competitors. All three of Team HurtByAccident.com’s motorcycles have encountered problems, including the No. 64 Ducati PS1000LE of Robert Fisher that slowed with electrical problems on the pace lap just before the race start. The No. 69 TeamHurtByAccident.com Suzuki GSX-R600, with Russ Wikle onboard, threw a chain in Turn 1 on the opening race lap. Both bikes were being repaired behind the pit wall when word came that Tomas Puerta on the No. 59 TeamHurtByAccident.com Ducati PS1000LE lowsided on course. Puerta was uninjured but the No. 59 was later retired. The No. 69 has continued well down in the order but the No. 64 has yet to take the green flag.
Another expected GT1 contender that has yet to complete a lap in the race’s first 45 minutes was the No. 20 El Rey Beer for Kings Ducati 848 of Calvin Martinez that encountered mechanical problems. The No. 20 won the SunTrust Moto-GT season-opening race at Daytona last March.
Jay Springsteen also continued after a minor spill on the No. 9 Pair-A-Nines Kawasaki EX650 team at the 45-minute mark. The No. 9 was riding just behind the No. 23 when the Ducati momentarily stalled as it ran out of fuel and Springsteen went down to avoid contact. Springsteen was uninjured and returned to the pits where Taylor Knapp continued on the minimally damaged Kawasaki in the top five. The No. 23 also continued after refueling.