The AMA series swings back into action this weekend at Daytona International Speedway with Eric Bostrom prepared to do battle in the 63rd running of the Daytona 200 aboard the factory-supported Parts Unlimited Ducati Austin 999. Las Vegas resident Bostrom, who has four US National titles to his name, finished seventh overall in the 2003 AMA Superbike championship but would surely have finished higher had a pile-up during the opening lap of the Laguna Seca World Superbike race not cut his season short with an injury.
Having tested at Daytona on the 999 in early December 2003 and again at the start of this year, Bostrom has shown tremendous progress and promise on the Ducati twin. During the January test session, Bostrom set a personal best lap time at Daytona with a 1.47.90 - only a handful of riders have dipped below the 1.48 mark.
The Parts Unlimited Ducati Austin team is the first factory-supported Ducati effort since 1994 to make a run for the AMA title. Michelin has also thrown its weight behind the effort by providing the team with the same tires that were available to World Superbike teams. "I'm really excited about having the chance to run up front at Daytona," said Bostrom. "The tests we've done on Michelins confirmed what we're capable of and there's no reason why we can't be in the hunt."
Tom Bodenbach, Parts Unlimited Ducati Austin's team manager, feels ready for the challenge ahead of them. "We gained a lot of experience from running this event the past couple of years. This year, with the factory's support, we know Eric can be a front-runner. The team's pretty excited about having a chance to put Ducati into the Daytona history books."
"Bike Week" is a 10-day motorcycle festival that has been a tradition in Daytona Beach since January 24, 1937 when the inaugural running of the Daytona 200 was held. In the beginning the race was a much shorter and simpler affair: 3.2 miles on a mix of hard-pack sand and pavement. Because of the beach section, starting times for the event were dictated by the local tide tables.
In 1961, the event moved to Daytona International Speedway. There were concerns that the motorcycles would not be able to sustain the speeds needed to deal with the 31-degree banking in the turns of the 2.5 mile trioval, so a two-mile course using the infield and a part of the front stretch became the motorcycle racers' circuit. Over the years minor changes to the infield were made, with today's track at 3.56 miles.