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Birmingham: Formula Xtreme preview

AMA LOCKHART-PHILLIPS USA FORMULA XTREME TITLE WIDE OPEN Graves Yamaha's Hacking heads up Repsol Superstock coming into Barber PICKERINGTON, Ohio (April 19, 2006) -- The AMA Lockhart-Phillips USA Formula Xtreme Series has been the domain of ...

AMA LOCKHART-PHILLIPS USA FORMULA XTREME TITLE WIDE OPEN
Graves Yamaha's Hacking heads up Repsol Superstock coming into Barber

PICKERINGTON, Ohio (April 19, 2006) -- The AMA Lockhart-Phillips USA Formula Xtreme Series has been the domain of factory Honda rider Miguel Duhamel over the last couple of years, but now that the two-time champ has moved on to concentrate on AMA Superbike it leaves the class wide open. Honda has dominated Formula Xtreme and hopes to keep that going with Erion Honda riders Josh Hayes and Aaron Gobert, but Yamaha has thrown its hat in the ring with a potent pair of riders in Jason DiSalvo and Eric Bostrom. This weekend, April 21-23, at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. the battle for the championship gets back underway after an early season break.

Honda's Jake Zemke won the opening round of the series, the Daytona 200, last month, but Zemke, like his teammate Duhamel, is not contesting the rest of Formula Xtreme schedule. That leaves Erion Honda's Hayes as the de facto leader of the championship coming into this weekend's event.

Hayes is no stranger to Formula Xtreme or leading a championship series. The Gulfport, Miss., native has contested Formula Xtreme on and off since 1998. He knows how to win championships, having earned the AMA Superstock title in 2003. Hayes is rebuilding his life after losing his home to Hurricane Katrina last year. He sees his opportunity with Erion Honda in the Formula Xtreme Series as a new beginning. He also likes the idea of being somewhat of an underdog in the class.

"With Yamaha coming in with such a strong effort I think a lot of people sort of forgot that Honda is still in the class," Hayes said. "I'm very happy with the team and our bike and I think we have a very good chance of keeping the Formula Xtreme championship in the Honda camp. I think maybe we came in under the radar before the season started, but after our Daytona performance I know we are going to be sort of a target. It could be an interesting season-long battle for the championship. I see it as a great opportunity for me to win another AMA championship."

Hot on the heels of Hayes in the standings are the factory Yamaha riders of Jason DiSalvo and Eric Bostrom. Yamaha has been a leading manufacturer in Formula Xtreme in past seasons, but 2006 marks the return of the factory Yamaha team for the first time in three years. Yamaha sees Formula Xtreme as a perfect showcase for its redesigned R6 and putting DiSalvo and Bostrom in the class shows just how serious they are about winning its first Formula Xtreme title. DiSalvo is considered one of the top up-and-coming riders in America and Bostrom is a former champion of the class.

Barber's Formula Xtreme will mark the return of two-time Formula Xtreme champ Kurtis Roberts. Roberts tested at Barber with the M4 EMGO Suzuki squad as a possible temporary replacement for the injured Michael Barnes. Barnes is recovering from his Daytona knee injury quicker than expected and hopes to race at Barber. Roberts is going to race for the team in any case. The addition of Roberts to the mix will bring a depth of talent to the class not seen for several years.

In the Repsol Lubricants Superstock Series a healthy Jamie Hacking is a dangerous Jamie Hacking, so say some of his main competitors. After suffering injuries over the last few seasons Hacking is healthy and ready to go coming into the Barber Superstock race. Hacking earned a breakthrough victory in the Superstock final at Daytona International Speedway last month. It marked the first pro victory for Hacking at Daytona and was a major milestone in the Graves Yamaha rider's career.

The last time Hacking had a similar breakthrough was in 2003 when he finally won the Supersport race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., a track that prior to that had been a nightmare for him. Hacking went on to win the Pro Honda Supersport title that year and he hopes the Daytona breakthrough is a precursor to another championship run.

"You can't get off to a better start than I had at Daytona," said Hacking, who also won the Barber Superstock race in 2004. "Hopefully I can stay healthy this season and make a strong run at the championship. The class is loaded with talent so it's going to be a battle, but I know my team is ready for the challenge."

Hacking's teammate Jason DiSalvo finished a very close second at Daytona and is hoping to even the score at Barber.

Defending Repsol Lubricants Superstock champion Aaron Yates injured his shoulder in pre-season testing and was a question mark on whether or not he was even going to be able to ride in the season opener last month. But instead of sitting out the race, Yates gritted his teeth and rode with the broken shoulder and it paid off richly with a solid third-place finish.

"That was important to get through Daytona and come out with some points," Yates said. "I guess I was a little surprised at how well I did there and now I'm not that far behind in the championship and I feel like I still have a good shot at defending the title."

Other riders high in the standings coming into Barber include M4 EMGO Suzuki's Geoff May, who is ranked fourth; Erion Honda's Josh Hayes; Attack Kawasaki's Damon Buckmaster and Roadracingworld.com Suzuki's Robertino Pietri, the Venezuelan who surprised a lot of people with his strong seventh-place showing at Daytona.

The Pro Honda Oils Supersport race is part of Barber Motorsports Park's Honda Superbike Classic that runs from April 21-23. The Barber Formula Xtreme final will be televised nationally on SPEED at 3 p.m. EST on Tuesday, April 25.

To obtain tickets for the Honda Superbike Classic call 800-240-2300 or visit the website www.barbermotorsports.com.

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Series AMA
Drivers Kurtis Roberts , Jamie Hacking , Geoff May , Aaron Yates , Eric Bostrom , Damon Buckmaster , Jake Zemke , Aaron Gobert , Michael Barnes , Robertino Pietri , Josh Hayes
Teams HART