Saturday morning brought rain and a green track. The rain was over by 8am, but the track remained wet for most of morning warmup and qualifications, although the racing line dried fairly quickly. The biggest problem for the riders wasn’t the wet track, it was the greenness of the track, especially off the racing line. Today’s events included the two-hour MotoGT enduro, and Race 1 for the American Superbike and Daytona Sportbike.
In auto racing, a two-hour event is considered routine, but in motorcycle racing where the rider is just providing the steering, but also the ballast and a fair bit of the suspension, two-hours can be grueling. Around the 1-hr mark, the teams brought their bikes into the pits to change riders, refuel, and in some cases change tires. Like in many sports car series, in MotoGT there were well funded, well equipped teams, and there were some family-owned privateers running on a shoestring. One team was so small, two riders and one mechanic, the riders doubled as the refueler and aided with the maintenance. In the end, it was the #13 Westly Racing bike piloted by Dane Westby Dustin Meador. Odd thing about this bike is that they were sporting the light-blue and orange Gulf Oil colors, but as far as I could tell, they had no affiliation with Gulf. Hopefully, Gulf doesn’t get too bent out of shape about it, because the bike looked fantastic, and the team is representing it well. The #13 bike swapped the lead in the early parts of the race with the #27, but Westby had pace to spare and in the later stages of the race, they had enough of a gap to pit, take fuel, switch riders, and still exit the pits in P1. It was a dominant performance by both riders.
American Superbike – Race 1
Race 1 of the top class, American Superbike, was highlighted by a dominant performance, similar to what was seen in the MotoGT race. Larry Pergram on the #72 Ducati started from pole and ran away from the field. In races like this, some fans may complain about how its boring to see no contention for the lead. I pity those fans. Watching Pergram that day was simply beautiful. He was smooth and precise on his Ducati, and it was a thrill to see someone master machine and track so well. For those who wished to see passing, they needed to look no farther than to the #22 Suzuki of Tommy Hayden, brother of MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden. Tommy, didn’t put in the best qualifying effort, slotting up in P7 at the start, but he fought hard and clawed his way up to P4 by the end. Good job, Tommy.
Daytona Sportbike – Race 1
Off road misadventures punctuated the openning of Race 1 for the Daytona Superbike class. There were multiple incidents during the warmup lap that resulted in the race being red flagged before it even got started. Once the race did get underway and people settled down, there was a fantastic battle for the lead. Danny Eslick on his #9 Buell struggled to take the lead from Martin Cardenas on his #36 Suzuki. Eslick did finally manage to make the pass and make it stick, but a late-race battle was not to be as Cardenas lost his bike on the south side of the track allowing Eslick to cruise to an easy victory. The Daytona Sportbike class was certainly the most populated class, and the most hotly contested. We’ll see more of the riders can keep their bikes under them during the warmup lap on Sunday for Race 2.