2008 AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course; Honda Super Cycle Weekend presented by Dunlop Tires PICKERINGTON, Ohio - After a thrilling weekend of racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey,...
2008 AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course; Honda Super Cycle Weekend presented by Dunlop Tires
PICKERINGTON, Ohio - After a thrilling weekend of racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. - sharing the spotlight with the stars of the MotoGP World Championship--the AMA Superbike Championship rolls into Lexington, Ohio, August 1-3.
America's premier national road race circuit has visited the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course circuit every year since the series inception in 1983. As in years past, the 2008 Honda Super Cycle Weekend presented by Dunlop Tires stands as one of the top draws on the track's calendar.
Here's a recap of the Laguna round, a look at the rivalries coming into Mid-Ohio and what to expect on the challenging 2.4-mile, 15-turn track.
AMA SUPERBIKE CHAMPIONSHIP PRESENTED BY PARTS UNLIMITED
A New Win Streak in the Offing?
Coming off a decisive victory at Laguna Seca -- the 68th of his AMA Superbike career -- Rockstar Makita Suzuki's Mat Mladin enters Mid-Ohio with two straight victories to his name.
The six-time AMA Superbike champ is hoping to claw his way back into the title fight after teammate and chief rival Ben Spies, the defending title holder, built up an imposing series lead on the strength of a record-setting seven straight wins. Despite Mladin's recent triumphs, Spies currently leads him 411-375 in the overall standings with seven races remaining.
But Mladin and Spies' rivalry has been defined by alternating win streaks. If history is any indication, it may just be the Australian's turn to string together another bushel of wins.
Also in the experienced pilot's corner is the fact that Mladin has won the last three Superbike races at Mid-Ohio and eight over the course of his career, the first coming in 2001.
Spies on the Mend
Ben Spies felt feverish and suffered from nausea after competing in back-to-back MotoGP and AMA Superbike races at the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix and was hospitalized two days later. Instead of simply trying to regroup after losing two races in succession to Mladin, now he's also recovering from minimally invasive laparoscopic appendix surgery performed on Tuesday, July 22.
Before his illness, the Texan performed impressively in wild card MotoGP duty at Laguna Seca, ripping off some of the fastest laps of any rider during the race and claiming an eventual eighth place result in his second-ever Grand Prix ride.
In spite of surgery, Spies is promising to compete at Mid-Ohio in a quest to claim his third-straight AMA Superbike crown.
"I've got a championship to win so I will be at Mid-Ohio," said Spies. "If the race was this weekend I'd be there, that's how important the championship is to me.
"Sometimes in this profession you've got to go out there even when you're not 100 percent," Spies added. "I'm a fast healer and my doctors know my situation and are helping me to get back to health as quickly as possible. We've got a long way to go in the championship and I want to get back to winning races as quick as possible."
Spies is no stranger to competing with injuries. He raced his first two seasons as a pro with a bad knee, before having surgery to correct the problem. In 2006 he won his first AMA Superbike title despite riding with a broken hand late in the season. Earlier this summer Spies won a Superbike race in Elkhart Lake, Wis., setting an all-time AMA Superbike winning streak record, just hours after receiving stitches in his chin.
Hacking Takes Over Third
Monster Energy Kawasaki's Jamie Hacking missed out on a seventh consecutive podium finish by just fractions of a second, but battled his way up to third place in the championship standings, overtaking American Honda's Neil Hodgson by a slim two-point margin (319-317) at Laguna.
Like Spies, Hacking also rode in the MotoGP race. Entered as the oldest-ever MotoGP rookie, 37-year-old Hacking also impressed in his first MotoGP race, charging from 17th to 11th and outpacing the factory Kawasaki team's regular rider, Anthony West, all weekend.
Back on the Box
Aaron Yates passed and then held off Hacking late in the Laguna Seca race to secure Michael Jordan Motor Sports-Suzuki its first AMA Superbike podium of 2008.
The Georgian has certainly tasted success at Mid-Ohio in the past, winning three Superbike races at the circuit (one in '97, and two in '00).
Back in the Fray
Brothers Tommy (Rockstar Makita Suzuki) and Roger Hayden (Monster Energy Kawasaki) made their long-awaited returns from injury at Laguna Seca and were immediately on the pace, mixing it up for podium positions before taking respective fifth- and sixth-place finishes.
AMA PRO HONDA OILS SUPERSPORT CHAMPIONSHIP PRESENTED BY SHOEI
Bostrom Continues to Look Unstoppable
Graves Motorsports Yamaha's Ben Bostrom was perfect at Laguna, picking up his fifth win in seven races.
Bostrom led each practice session, took his fourth pole position of the season and added the Laguna Seca AMA Supersport winner's trophy to the ones he already earned at the venue in World Superbike, AMA Superbike, and AMA Formula Xtreme.
Zemke Chasing From Second
Erion Honda's Jake Zemke--the only rider in shouting distance of Bostrom in the championship standings--minimized the damage by finishing a solid second at Laguna Seca. Zemke picked up his sixth-straight podium finish after taking eighth in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway.
Bitter Pill to Swallow Attack Kawasaki's Steve Rapp's 21st place in the championship standings doesn't tell the whole story. Rapp won at Road America and finished third at Laguna Seca but was disqualified in both races following the post-race technical inspection.
His disappointment at Laguna Seca saw Matsushima Performance Suzuki's Danny Eslick elevated to third, his second top three Supersport finish of the season, the first coming at Infineon Raceway.
Defending class champion Roger Hayden focused solely on the Superbike class in his return to action at Laguna Seca. However, should he return to Supersport duty in Ohio, he will be a man to watch. While the '07 Supersport race was rained out, he won Supersport races at Mid-Ohio in '04, '05, and '06.
AMA FORMULA XTREME
Back From Extended Vacation
The AMA Formula Xtreme class will compete for the first time in nearly two months after taking the Laguna Seca weekend off.
Jake Zemke is in control, leading second-ranked Steve Rapp by 32 points (202-170). However, Zemke had a four-race win streak snapped last time out when Aaron Gobert gave Rockwall Honda its first-ever AMA win in difficult, wet and dry conditions at Road America.
Hayes Still Looking for His First of '08
Erion Honda's two-time defending class champion, Josh Hayes, fourth in the point standings, has yet to scoop up a win in '08 after claiming 11 combined victories in 2007.
Hayes has shown more speed than luck this season but Mid-Ohio has been a strong circuit for him in recent trips, winning the last two FX races at the track, including his epic battle with Eric Bostrom for the title at the 2006 season finale.
AMA SUPERSTOCK SERIES PRESENTED BY DYNOJET
Like Formula Xtreme, the AMA Superstock class sat out at Laguna Seca. In addition, the Superstock race was rained out at Mid-Ohio in '07, so the upcoming race will mark a long-anticipated return to action in more ways than one.
Consistent Yates the Man to Catch
Jordan Suzuki's Aaron Yates holds a convincing championship advantage (203 to Corona Extra Honda Racing rider Jake Holden's 181) thanks to either winning or finishing as the runner-up in each of the six races this season. However, after winning the first two, the Georgian has been 'relegated' to second in each of the last four.
Yates won the Superstock race at Mid-Ohio in 2005. Team Roadracingworld.com Suzuki's Chris Ulrich (2002) is the only other former Mid-Ohio Superstock race winner in the field. He currently sits seventh in points.
New Stars and Firsts
While Yates and Holden took a pair of wins a piece in the first four races, the last two have seen first-time class winners. At Miller Motorsports Park, Yates' Jordan Suzuki teammate, Geoff May, claimed the first AMA race win of his career, while Team M4 EMGO Suzuki's Blake Young did the same a week later at Road America. Ulrich's teammate, Robertino Pietri, claimed the first AMA podium of his career, also at Road America.
RED BULL AMA U.S. ROOKIES CUP
The Red Bull AMA U.S. Rookies Cup will also see their series race at Mid-Ohio. Twenty-three of the fastest teenage racers in North and South America and the Caribbean will have their 50 kilometer race on Sunday.
Each of the Rookies Cup races have been exciting battles for the win with numerous lead changes along the way. Four of the five races ended with the victor less than one second ahead of the next competitor. The closest was the first Laguna race, which saw an exciting climax with the winner's margin of victory just 0.0008 seconds according to the AMA's photo finish equipment. Even the Sonoma race -- the lone contest to have a margin of victory of greater than one second -- saw a three-rider pack fight for the lead before a crash took out two of the three riders in the lead pack. The Mid-Ohio race promises to be another tight, close event, with the circuit's layout considered ideal for the 125 cc KTM race machines.
North Hollywood, California's Benny Solis, Jr., has won four of the five races in 2008 and leads the points, but he's been pushed in each of his wins by Leandro Mercado of Argentina. Mercado won the other race at Road America when he earned a photo finish triumph over Jake Gagne of Ramona, California. Solis and Mercado have developed a serious on-track rivalry so far this year, one that has been complicated in the races by Hayden Gillim of Owensboro, Ky., who has joined them at the front. Not content to leave those three to have their way in the series for 13-to-16 year-olds, Tomas Puerta of Colombia has led races and challenged for wins as well.
Another factor in the Mid-Ohio Rookies Cup race is the points battle for the Red Bull Riders Cup. The top ten riders in the season's points will take on their European counterparts later this year at Indianapolis and Valencia.
COVERAGE ON SPEED
The AMA Superbike and Pro Honda Oils Supersport races from Mid-Ohio will enjoy same-day television coverage on SPEED.
Saturday's Superbike final will be shown at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Sunday's final will air at 6:00 p.m. Eastern, immediately following the Supersport race, which will be shown starting at 5:00 p.m. Eastern.
The Formula Xtreme and Superstock races will be shown on Tuesday, August 5 at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.
Tickets for the Honda Super Cycle Weekend presented by Dunlop Tires can be obtained online by visiting store.midohio.com/c-2-tickets.aspx or by calling 1-800-MID-OHIO.