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Daytona: Formula Xtreme season opener preview

Buell joins the fray at Daytona with two factory-backed teams PICKERINGTON, Ohio (February 26, 2004) -- The revamped Lockhart Phillips USA Formula Xtreme Series will debut at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday, March 4. The bikes are...

Buell joins the fray at Daytona with two factory-backed teams

PICKERINGTON, Ohio (February 26, 2004) -- The revamped Lockhart Phillips USA Formula Xtreme Series will debut at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday, March 4. The bikes are changed, but the competition promises to be just as intense. Honda is making a big push in the new Formula Xtreme Series with Miguel Duhamel leaving the Supersport class to concentrate on this series. Honda ruled Formula Xtreme in the late 1990s and is hoping to win back the title this year. It will face tough competition from defending series champ Suzuki and strong factory-backed efforts from Yamaha and newcomer Buell.

Miguel Duhamel, Jason Pridmore, Pascal Picotte and Jimmy Moore are all former AMA road racing champions entered in AMA Formula Xtreme this year. Duhamel is easily the biggest name among the riders in the class. The Montreal native, who now calls Las Vegas home, is the winningest rider in both AMA Superbike and AMA Supersport racing. Now Duhamel will try to add a third championship title to his collection. He saw promise with Honda's new CBR600RR-based Formula Xtreme bike in pre-season testing.

"The bike is lighter and it has a little bit of a GP attitude," Duhamel said. "It's so light and maneuverable and the braking is like a GP bike."

Honda sees the new Formula Xtreme Series as an excellent place to showcase its 600cc sport bikes. The company envisions the technology it will gain in Formula Xtreme will trickle down to its street bikes. Duhamel will be joined by teammate Jake Zemke. Many experts feel that Zemke, now entering his eighth season of AMA Pro road racing, is entering the peak of his career and is equally favored as Duhamel for the Formula Xtreme title. Zemke was a perennial frontrunner in the old Formula Xtreme class. Rising star Alex Gobert will be the other factory Honda rider in the series.

Former AMA Superbike and current AMA Red Bull Supermoto champ Ben Bostrom is entered in the class for Daytona only.

No Limit Motorsports Suzuki will field a pair of AMA champs in Pridmore and Moore. Pridmore is the 2002 AMA Formula Xtreme Champion and Moore, a two-time AMA Supersport titleholder. Both Pridmore and Moore are known for being consistent top finishers and that could be the key in a new class with untested machinery. "The Honda's are favored for sure," admitted Pridmore. "But a lot of things can happen in the course of a long season."

Suzuki will also have Team Valvoline EMGO Suzuki's Vincent Haskovec. A native of the Czech Republic, Haskovec has earned the reputation as one of the hardest working riders in the AMA series. He's excited about joining one of the leading teams in the series and will be running Michelin tires against a predominantly Dunlop-shod field. Haskovec has tested the Formula Xtreme bike at Daytona, which could give him a leg up on the other Suzuki riders at the Speedway.

Oklahoman Danny Eslick is coming to road racing from the flat track ranks and will ride a Suzuki for Millennium Technologies Suzuki -- the same team that Shawn Higbee rode with to become the top privateer in AMA Superbike last year.

Yamaha will be well represented in Formula Xtreme at Daytona. Topping the Yamaha roster is Yamaha Canada's Pascal Picotte, the 2003 Canadian Superbike Champion. Picotte has a long history of winning in the AMA series, but it's been nearly six years since his last AMA victory. Look for Picotte to be a man on a mission at Daytona this year. Perry Melneciuc makes the move from 250 Grand Prix racing to Formula Xtreme on a Mach 1-EMA Yamaha. The up-and-coming HAS/Shogun squad will field Heath Small on a Yamaha and former Loudon AMA Supersport winner Scott Greenwood is slated to ride a Yamaha for Argo Cycles.

Perhaps the most intriguing entries in Formula Xtreme at Daytona are the Buells. Hal's Performance Advantage Buell will field Mike Ciccotto, a Floridian who has a long history at Daytona and is always a fan favorite. The same can be said of Michael Barnes, who will ride for Kosco Harley-Davidson/Buell at Daytona. Barnes won the AMA Supersport race at Daytona way back in October of 1989, and is still considered one of the fastest riders in the Sunshine State. Both Ciccotto and Barnes will be trying to become the first Buell riders to win a Formula Xtreme event and will be riding Buell's revolutionary Firebolt XB12R.

AMA Lockhart Phillips USA Formula Xtreme final gets underway with live coverage on SPEED Channel at 4 p.m. Eastern on Thursday. For additional information on the race contact Daytona International Speedway at (386) 253-7223 or visit the website www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com.

For immediate post-race results, points, live transponder scoring, in-depth series and rider information, regular columnists and much more, log onto www.USSuperbike.com, the official website of the AMA Chevrolet Superbike Championship.

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Series AMA
Drivers Miguel Duhamel , Jake Zemke , Pascal Picotte , Alex Gobert , Jason Pridmore , Michael Barnes , Shawn Higbee , Scott Greenwood , Ben Bostrom , Danny Eslick