SONOMA, Calif. (April 4, 2000) - The modified road course at Sears Point Raceway received a big thumbs-up during a two-day test session in preparation for the Progressive Motorcycle Insurance AMA Superbike Challenge, May 5-7.

Riders from Vance & Hines Ducati, Kawasaki and Yamaha were pleased with the specific changes made to Turns 5 and 11, which are designed to increase rider safety on the 12-turn, 2.32-mile road course.

Turn 11 was shortened by two-tenths of a mile, giving riders nearly 300 feet of run-off room, as compared to less than 20 feet prior. The re-configured Turn 11 will also eliminate the chicane at Turn 12. The second safety enhancement came at Turn 5, where there is now more than 100 feet of run-off room, as compared to 20 feet a year ago.

Both upgrades were made under the guidance of three-time Superbike champion Doug Chandler, who participated in the two-day session. Chandler enters the second round of the AMA Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike Championship Series at Sears Point in third place.

"I think this is going to be a lot safer and it shouldn't affect the racing that much," he said. "There's more room now at Turn 11 so that if we lose it we won't run into a barrier wall. They also eliminated that chicane (at Turn 12) and that was another key."

Other riders were in agreement:

"This is much safer for sure," said Vance & Hines rider Steve Rapp, who was raised in nearby Lafayette and has raced at Sears Point for years. "I think Sears Point has shown a commitment to making this a safer place for the riders and that's a good thing."

"What they've done is make this a better place," said Yamaha's Tommy Hayden. "It's good to see a track spend the money to make it safer. There's a lot more run-off for us now and that's important."

Riders also said the changes wouldn't deter the exciting on-track action.

"I don't think it's going to change much as far as the racing goes," Rapp said. "There's gong to be passing and everything else that goes on here. The changes will just make it safer."

Other riders who participated in the session were Troy Bayliss (Vance & Hines) and Eric Bostrom (Kawasaki).

The Superbike weekend will culminate Sonomafest 2000, presented by Cruise America. It's a 10-day bonanza for motorcycle enthusiasts, beginning with AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days West (April 28-30) and ending with the Superbikes. Sonomafest was co-founded five years ago by Sears Point and Cycle World Magazine.