The 2012 AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike season kicks off this weekend from the high banks of Daytona International Speedway, with 47 competitors entered to take part in the 71st running of the historic Daytona 200.
America’s longest-running endurance motorcycle road race, the Daytona 200 was first held on the shores of Daytona Beach in 1937. Today, the 200-mile, 57-lap race pits man against machine in a demanding battle on the 3.51-mile traditional motorcycle course at the famed speedway.
Practice and qualifying for this year’s event will be held on Thursday, March 15 and Friday, March 16, with the start of the race scheduled for Saturday, March 17 at 1 p.m. EDT.
In last year’s contest, fortune was looking down upon Jason DiSalvo as the always-impressive Team Latus crew persevered during a red-flag situation to repair the No. 40 Ducati 848 and get the Batavia, N.Y. native back in the show for the race’s final laps.
DiSalvo didn’t disappoint, earning victory as the sun began to set on the high banks. For 2012, DiSalvo returns with the same team and a different brand to begin his 2012 AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike title fight. Paying homage an American motorcycle racing legend, DiSalvo’s helmet, leathers and Team Latus Motors Racing Triumph Daytona 675 will feature a one-off design scheme for Daytona in the style of the classic, championship-winning No. 9 Triumph Triple ridden by the late Gary Nixon.
Grid positions for the Daytona 200 will be determined by the combined results of two timed qualifying sessions scheduled for Friday, March 16 at 8:45 a.m. and later that same day at 1:10 p.m.
The Datyona 200 Pole Award, and the accompanying Rolex Daytona Cosmograph, will be given to the pole position winner at noon on Saturday, March 17 during opening ceremonies for the 71st running of the historic 57-lap, 200-mile race.
Jake Zemke, winner of the 2006 Daytona 200 and of last year’s Pole Award, will also be back at Daytona on a new brand. The Californian led the majority of the 2011 Daytona 200 before finishing the race in third and has joined forces with Ducshop to compete aboard the No. 98 Ducshop Racing Ducati 848 in the 2012 season. Italian Dario Marchetti will compete aboard the team’s No. 23 Ducshop Racing Ducati 848 entry.
The importance of the team component to success in the Daytona 200 is often underestimated. As the only event on the calendar that requires pit stops, with all of the intricacies of quick tire changes and safe refueling, it’s easy to overlook the fact that the race is often decided by just fractions of a second – last year DiSalvo had an official margin of victory of just 0.029 seconds over Vesrah Suzuki’s Cory West.
West will be looking to improve by one position this year and top the podium on the No. 57 Riders Discount Vesrah Suzuki GSX-R600, racing with and against new teammate and GoPro Daytona SportBike rookie Benny Solis (No. 35 Riders Discount Vesrah Suzuki Team Suzuki GSX-R600) for the duration of the season.
Following a successful bid in AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike, 2010 AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike Champion Martin Cardenas returns to the class aboard the No. 36 GEICO Suzuki GSX-R600. Cardenas’ last result in the Daytona 200 came in 2009, when he finished ninth. That ninth place finish isn’t indicative of the Colombian’s innate ability however, which becomes apparent when noting the 17 victories he earned over three years in the top tiers of AMA Pro Road Racing competition, including a rare maiden victory in his debut National Guard SuperBike season last year.
Dane Westby, riding the No. 5 M4 Broaster Chicken Suzuki GSX-R600, poses an equally-significant threat and both riders’ teams stem from the same racing DNA, well-known for being some of the paddock’s most experienced endurance racing teams.
Another team with a strong history in endurance racing is Graves Yamaha. This year, the team’s impressive two-rider stable of debut-race winners includes Cameron Beaubier (No. 6 Yamaha Extended Service, Graves, Yamaha YZF-R6) and Garrett Gerloff (No. 8 Yamaha Extended Service, Graves, Yamaha YZF-R6).
Beaubier is no stranger to victory at Daytona, having earned a victory in his first AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport race in the 2010 season, and Gerloff’s Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport debut race likewise ended in victory at New Jersey Motorsports Park last year.
The recently-created RoadRace Factory Red Bull Team also has a solid two-rider GoPro Daytona SportBike roster which is sure to be at the front when the checkers fall. JD Beach (No. 95 RoadRace Factory/Red Bull Yamaha YZF-R6) led two laps of last year’s contest and finished the race in fourth, and the 2008 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup Champion has been training hard in the offseason with new teammate Jake Gagne (No. 123 RoadRace Factory/Red Bull Yamaha YZF-R6). Gagne is a GoPro Daytona SportBike rookie whose accolades also include a Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup Championship, earned two years after Beach in 2010.
LTD Racing’s Huntley Nash (No. 75 LTD Racing Yamaha YZF-R6) earned two Top 10s last year and now has a full season of GoPro Daytona SportBike under his belt. Beginning at Daytona, LTD Racing’s second Yamaha will be piloted by 2011 SuperSport West Champion and GoPro Daytona SportBike rookie David Gaviria (No. 700 LTD Racing Yamaha YZF-R6). Gaviria’s last-lap victory in 2011’s SuperSport Race 2 at Daytona is a clear indication of the Colombian’s riding skill and LTD Racing’s two-rider force will be one to be reckoned with in 2012.
Another SuperSport West Champion will be back at Daytona in 2012, with 2010 SuperSport West Champion Joey Pascarella slotted to ride the No. 52 Project 1 Atlanta Yamaha YZF-R6. The combination of Project 1 Atlanta and Pascarella is sure to be fast; The Project 1 Atlanta Yamaha earned pole position and led 25 laps of last year’s contest with Zemke at the controls and Pascarella has already demonstrated his winning ways at Daytona with a 2010 victory in SuperSport Race 2.
Tommy Aquino (No. 827 SGA Racing/Yamaha Champions Riding School Yamaha YZF-R6), who finished third in the 2011 AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike Rider Championship, will be racing in the Daytona 200 round of AMA Pro Road Racing before heading overseas to race in the CEV Moto2 Spanish National Championship for Wilmax Racing. Aquino’s teammate on the SGA Racing squad is Robertino Pietri (No. 16 Katra/SGA Racing Yamaha YZF-R6), who returns to full-time AMA Pro Road Racing competition following two seasons of racing in the Moto2 Championship.
Yamaha will be well represented at Daytona, with 28 of the 47 GoPro Daytona SportBike riders entered on the Yamaha YZF-R6. The most recent Yamaha added to the fold is the No. 50 Meen Motorsports Racing entry, which combines the riding talent Bobby Fong with some of the industry’s best tuners.
The largest team entered in this year’s contest, Triple Crown Industries will host a four-rider lineup consisting of Paul Allison (No. 20 Triple Crown Industries Yamaha YZF-R6), Michael Barnes (No. 34 Triple Crown Industries Yamaha YZF-R6), Austin Dehaven (No. 56 Triple Crown Industries Yamaha YZF-R6) and Sam Rozynski (No. 175 Triple Crown Industries Yamaha YZF-R6). Allison finished 10th in last year’s DAYTONA® 200.
Fan-favorite Melissa Paris recently inked a deal that will see her competing aboard the No. 13 Sea Miracle Yamaha Racing Yamaha YZF-R6 during the 2012 AMA Pro Road Racing season. Paris, the wife of two-time, reigning AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike Champion Josh Hayes, holds the record for the highest finish for a female rider in the 71-year history of the Daytona 200 with her 2009 finish of 21st place.
The bar was raised for the Daytona 200 mileage record in 2011 and both the current record holder and one of his only close contenders will be at it again in 2012. Heading into last year’s contest, Ricky Orlando (No. 12 Ricky Orlando Racing Kawasaki ZX-6R) was nine miles behind Rick Shaw’s record of 3,728 miles but finished the race on top with 3,857 miles. 1989 Daytona 200 winner John Ashmead (No. 37 Peter Brady Racing Kawasaki ZX-6R) now sits in third place with 3,679 miles, and is still mathematically within reach of claiming the record for his own if the chips fall in his favor this weekend.
The Daytona 200 will be televised in a same-day delay broadcast on SPEED, scheduled for Saturday, March 17, 2012 at 2:30 p.m. EDT (11:30 a.m. PDT). The SPEED on-air team for AMA Pro Road Racing will include veteran motorcycle broadcaster Leigh Diffey providing play-by-play, with AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Scott Russell joining him in the booth for analysis. Longtime SPEED reporter and host Greg White will provide reports from the pits.
AMA Pro Fan Walk sessions will take place on two occasions over the race weekend, during which fans will be able to circulate on pit lane to visit with their favorite riders and teams from AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike, AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike, AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport and the AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 Series.
There will be a host of additional fan-specific activities and events during the Daytona 200 Week at Daytona International Speedway, including demo rides, vendor offerings at the Daytona Motorcycle Marketplace and live entertainment, games and bikini contests at Thunder Alley. Another experience not to miss is the seventh-annual “Spring Dash Around Daytona” – the chance to take two laps around Daytona International Speedway’s 3.56-mile road course on Saturday, March 17 immediately after the Daytona 200.