AMA

Formula Xtreme California Speedway preview

Lockhart Phillips Formula Xtreme kicks off at California Speedway PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- The 2002 AMA Lockhart Phillips Formula Xtreme Series gets under way on Sunday, April 7, at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Formula Xtreme has grown ...

Lockhart Phillips Formula Xtreme kicks off at California Speedway

PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- The 2002 AMA Lockhart Phillips Formula Xtreme Series gets under way on Sunday, April 7, at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Formula Xtreme has grown steadily each year since its inception in 1997, and this season promises to be one of the best ever.

Honda owned the Formula Xtreme class for its first four years, but that changed last season when both Suzuki and Yamaha stepped up to halt the Honda juggernaut. John Hopkins and the Valvoline EMGO Suzuki team came away with the big prize, winning the 2001 championship. Graves Motorsports Yamaha's Damon Buckmaster led the series points chase the entire year until the penultimate round when his bike suffered a mechanical problem and he limped to the finish in 19th place. Hopkins and Buckmaster went into the final round last year tied in points and it was Hopkins finishing ahead of "Bucky" to earn the title by a single point.

Hopkins was hired by Red Bull Yamaha to contest the Moto Grand Prix World Championships leaving the No. 1 plate vacated. Buckmaster, again riding for Yamaha, is eager to make up for losing what he felt was his title this year. But the Australian will face an even deeper field this season.

While Hopkins is racing overseas, Valvoline EMGO Suzuki looks strong again this year with veterans Tom Kipp and Josh Hayes. Kipp was called out of semi-retirement last year to fill in for the injured Jason Pridmore on the Attack Suzuki team. Kipp showed little rust as the Ohioan went out and earned two podium finishes, including a victory at Mid-Ohio.

Kipp is a three-time AMA 750 Supersport (now called Superstock) champion and brings a wealth of experience to the team. Hayes finished with four podium finishes in the Formula Xtreme last year and was ranked fifth in the final standings. The Mississippi rider is hoping a reunion with Valvoline EMGO Suzuki (the team he began his pro career with) will help him get back on the winning track.

Perhaps the favorite to win the 2002 Formula Xtreme title is 12-year pro Jason Pridmore on the Attack Suzuki. Pridmore, a former AMA 750 Supersport champ, looked to be the rider to beat in last year's championship before he broke his leg while leading the Road Atlanta round. Pridmore was able to return to the series and was victorious in his comeback race at Pikes Peak International Raceway last August. If Pridmore can stay healthy he will certainly be a top contender. Attack Suzuki is going with a combination of experience and youth. Pridmore's teammate is 17-year-old Ben Spies out of Longview, Texas. Spies is considered one of the most promising riders in AMA Pro Racing. He earned the prestigious AMA Horizon Award in 2000 as the AMA's leading amateur racer and went on to record his first national win last year at Pikes Peak in the 750 Supersport class.

New to the series this year is Corona Extra Suzuki. The AMA championship winning team will be formidable with former Superbike riders Jordan Szoke and Steve Rapp.

Honda is bringing a new, more powerful CBR to the series this year in hopes of competing with the powerful Suzuki GSXR1000s and Yamaha's R1. The company that won an astounding 34 out of 38 Formula Xtreme races in the first four years of the series, managed only one win last year with Jake Zemke at Brainerd, Minn. Honda is counting on its new CBR954RR and a combination of experienced and young and eager riders to get it back to winning on a regular basis.

Four-time class champion Erion Honda brings Mike Hale back to AMA Pro Racing fulltime for the first time in seven years. Hale left the U.S. series after 1995 to pursue the World Superbike and later the Moto GP championships. Hale left America a 22-year-old up-and-comer and returns to motorcycle racing after three years in auto racing. He is now 29 but could still pass for a high schooler and is ready to make up for lost time. Hale will be teamed with Roger Lee Hayden, the youngest of the three racing Hayden's. Hayden, 18, was ranked eighth in Formula Xtreme last year.

Erion's satellite squad Bruce Transportation will feature Jake Zemke and Alex Gobert, like Hayden just 18 and youngest of the three racing brothers. Zemke and Gobert will sport the distinctive yellow and black colors of Bruce Transportation on their CBR954RRs. Zemke is a proven winner in the class and Gobert is… well he's a Gobert, which means he has a great racing pedigree.

It's unclear when Alex's older brother Aaron, who rides FX for Graves Yamaha, is expected to return to the series. Aaron was seriously injured in an accident at Daytona last month, but is making a quick recovery and hopes to return to the circuit as soon as allowed by his doctors. For ticket information of the Yamaha Superbike Challenge contact California Speedway at (800) 944-7223 or visit the website at www.californiaspeedway.com.

AMA Pro Racing is the leading sanctioning body for professional motorcycle sport in the United States. For more information about AMA Pro Racing, visit www.amaproracing.com.

-ama-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series AMA
Drivers Steve Rapp , Jordan Szoke , Joshua Hayes , John Hopkins , Tom Kipp , Damon Buckmaster , Jake Zemke , Roger Lee Hayden , Ben Spies , Alex Gobert , Jason Pridmore