Daytona Bike Week
M4 Suzuki’s Martin Cardenas demonstrated his potential to become a major force in AMA Superbike competition in 2011, fighting with the leaders deep into Saturday’s contest at Daytona International Raceway.
The reigning Daytona SportBike champion diced with the front runners for 13 of the race’s 15 laps, repeatedly battling and overtaking the class’ established stars.
Grip issues finally forced the Colombian to back off his attack, but he still managed to claim an impressive fourth-place result despite admitting that he’s still fine-tuning his riding style to suit the powerful M4 Suzuki GSX-R1000.
Martin Cardenas (Suzuki GSX-R 1000) says: "Today was much better. We found some things with the setup that helped me a lot. We were able to be right there with the front group for most of the race and that’s pretty good — I’m happy.
"The last few laps, the tires weren’t hooking up very much so I had a couple of big slides and scary moments. I lost contact with the lead pack and that was it. But that’s okay, I’m happy with the race.
"We need more time on the bike. We need to get the bike set-up a little better, which will be crucial. I think we’re going to do some testing during the break and I hope to be in even better shape for the next round."
Teammate Chris Ulrich found himself in a deep hole to climb out of early, dropping to 18th position on the race’s second lap.
Ulrich steadily worked his way forward, however, and ultimately made his way up to 11th position by the time he reached the checkered flag, falling just three tenths of a second short of his second top-ten result of the weekend.
Meanwhile, M4 Suzuki had a wild afternoon in a most unusual running of the Daytona 200. The race was red flagged due to front tire concerns and after an extended delay, shortened and restarted as a 15-lap sprint race to the flag.
Dane Westby ran inside the top ten during the first portion of the race and was even stronger after the stoppage. Meanwhile, Santiago Villa was putting in a consistent day’s work which he carried on into the race’s second half.
Westby was in contention for the win as a seven-rider pack jostled for position on the final lap of the thrilling race. However, Westby’s front brake lever was clipped by another rider as they raced to the checkered flag, sending him over the handlebars and into the path of a third competitor.
Westby was fortunate to escape the spectacular high-speed fall with just a broken thumb.
"After the red flag, I was right there," said Westby. "I figured out something coming onto the banking and that’s what it took. The bike was really good.
"We were running really close going for the checkered flag. No one was going to give anything up and a rider wasn’t quite able to pass me in the draft so he was right alongside me and we were coming together a couple of times.
"I was holding my straight line and he came down into me. Something made contact with the lever and I did a stoppie. I just remember going over the bars and getting up and going to the ambulance."
Westby originally was credited with sixth position but was later dropped to the end of the lead lap for being involved in an incident that brought out another red flag. He was officially credited with a 13th-place finish in Saturday’s 147-mile Daytona 200.
However, Westby’s misfortune worked in Villa’s favor. What originally had been a stellar ride in which the hard-working Colombian matched his previous career AMA best result of 11th place was elevated to his first top ten, as he was ultimately awarded ninth position.
M4 Suzuki will resume their AMA Pro Road Racing actives for the second round of the 2011 season at Infineon Raceway on May 13-15.