Birmingham: Round two doubleheader preview

SPIES HOPES FOR VICTORIOUS AMA SUPERBIKE REPLAY AT BARBER DOUBLEHEADER PICKERINGTON, Ohio (April 13, 2007) -- Last year Suzuki's Ben Spies swept the AMA Superbike Championship Doubleheader at Barber Motorsports Park and never looked back. On...


PICKERINGTON, Ohio (April 13, 2007) -- Last year Suzuki's Ben Spies swept the AMA Superbike Championship Doubleheader at Barber Motorsports Park and never looked back. On April 20-22 the AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited returns to Birmingham, Ala., for the 5th annual Honda Superbike Classic, rounds two and three of the 19-race series. Spies, the defending series champ from Longview, Texas, is hoping to duplicate his sweep at Barber of a year ago.

Coming into Barber last year six-time AMA Superbike champion Mat Mladin was the rider to beat. However, Spies surprised a lot of people by winning both rounds on the scenic and challenging 2.3-mile Barber circuit. It not only marked the first two victories of an AMA Superbike record tying six-race winning streak for Spies, it also marked the emergence of Spies as a championship-caliber rider in the series.

Spies returns to Barber this year as the favorite to repeat as AMA Superbike's No. 1 rider, especially considering the tough break experienced by teammate Mladin in the opening round at Daytona International Speedway in March. Mladin, the all-time Barber Superbike wins leader with three previous wins, had a tire go bad at Daytona resulting in a crash. The gritty Australian picked up his damaged machine and rode to 10th-place finish in spite of his bike's front tire continuing to deteriorate.

Spies looks ready for his rematch with a renewed Mladin this year.

"We're confident going to all the tracks this year," said Spies, who could crack into the top-10 on the all-time AMA Superbike wins list at Barber. "I'd like to win all the races, but these guys are speeding up, and everybody's getting closer, which is good. Hopefully I don't have a bad day. If I do have a bad day I hope it's no worse than second or third place. I think this year you've got to be a lot more consistent with all the talent in the class" Second in points coming into Barber Motorsports Park is Honda veteran Miguel Duhamel. In spite of being the oldest factory Superbike rider in the series Duhamel continues to be a leading contender. The Montreal native is still seeking to earn back the AMA Superbike title he last won in 1995. He feels he has a good shot this year.

"Obviously we're here to win, and we came up one short of it (at Daytona), but I'm really proud of the team," Duhamel said after finishing second to Spies at Daytona. "It was definitely a team effort and I think we will get faster. I'm excited about this season."

Duhamel's Honda teammate Jake Zemke is third in the standings. He is hoping Honda can close the margin the Suzuki squad has enjoyed in recent years.

"The Superbike championship this year is going to be really tough," Zemke said. "Right now we still have a little bit of a bridge to gap there to get up to where Ben's at right now. And also Mat. I think it's going to be a very competitive series, especially if we can all step our game up a little bit and catch up with these guys."

One of the surprises at Daytona was the instant competitiveness of the new Yamaha Superbikes. Eric Bostrom led early at Daytona, before his bike had tire issues. Bostrom thinks the Yamaha R1 will continue to improve as the season progresses and he and teammate Jason DiSalvo are aiming to find the podium at Barber.

Monster Kawasaki regulars Jamie Hacking and Roger Lee Hayden had a tough day at the season opener where both crashed out. The two will be looking to make up lost ground at the Barber doubleheader.

Team M4 EMGO Suzuki rider Geoff May turned in a solid fifth-place ride at Daytona. The speedy Georgian appears to be ready to mix it up with the factory riders all season.

Jordan Suzuki is another of the leading independent teams and the squad owned by the basketball superstar Michael Jordan is on the rise with Aaron Yates and Jake Holden. Both are eager to prove their team has what it takes to finish on an AMA Superbike podium.

Corona Extra Honda's James Ellison could be a factor at Barber. The former MotoGP rider from England is a former European champion and insiders say he has the talent to be a podium contender this season. Former Barber Superbike winner Kurtis Roberts is slated to race with NFS Honda along with teammate Doug Chandler, a three-time AMA Superbike Champion.

Eraldo Ferracci is back in AMA Superbike and the exotic MV Agusta F4-1000R will be at Barber with Matt Lynn and Luca Scassa at the controls. The MVs are so stunning they look like they should be in the Barber Museum, but they had a tough time at Daytona. The team is hoping to rebound and overcome teething problems to see progress in Birmingham.

Tickets for the 5th annual Honda Superbike Classic at Barber Motorsports Park can be purchased via the website or you can charge by phone at (205) 327-RACE or 1-800-240-2300.

The Barber Superbike doubleheader will be shown back to back on SPEED, Sunday, April 22 starting at 2:00 pm Eastern. Sunday's race will be aired live.

-credit: ama

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Series AMA
Drivers Kurtis Roberts , Miguel Duhamel , Jamie Hacking , Doug Chandler , Geoff May , Aaron Yates , Eric Bostrom , Jake Zemke , Roger Lee Hayden , Ben Spies , James Ellison , Matt Lynn , Luca Scassa , Jake Holden