MOTO-ST: Road America - Aprilia USA Team spotlight

Best Yet to Come from Aprilia USA Team as They Look for Their First SunTrust MOTO-ST Series Win at Road America DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- According to rider Ty Howard, the No. 6 Aprilia USA team hasn't yet hit its stride in the SunTrust MOTO-ST...

Best Yet to Come from Aprilia USA Team as They Look for Their First SunTrust MOTO-ST Series Win at Road America

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- According to rider Ty Howard, the No. 6 Aprilia USA team hasn't yet hit its stride in the SunTrust MOTO-ST Series. And that is bad news for its rivals.

Heading into Round 4 of this year's SunTrust MOTO-ST Series at Road America July 7-8, the No. 6 Aprilia leads the Team standings in the Buell Motorcycle Company SuperSport Twins class with 99 points, and Howard and teammate Troy Green share first place in the Rider point standings with 87.

But the Texas duo has yet to cross the finish line first, despite being among the fastest on-track combinations every time out.

"The first half has gone really good," said Howard, from Weatherford, Tex. "The biggest thing was we wanted to see an improvement from the team at every round and I think that's been the case. We've had teething problems at each race, but to come out of it all with the points lead is really exciting. We feel we should have won all three."

The No. 6 Aprilia Tuono 1000R actually did pick up the win in the season opening Daytona USA 300 at Daytona International Speedway March 3, but on that occasion it was handled by Italian guest riders Giancarlo De Matteis and Federico Aliverti. Howard and Green were on the sister No. 5 Tuono and lost time early on due to a problem with their dry break refueling system. They eventually finished eighth.

Howard and Green were on the No. 6 bike for round 2, the Homestead 500K at Homestead-Miami Speedway April 14 but settled for second place after a race long duel with the winning No. 18 Suzuki SV1000S of Chris Ulrich and Michael Barnes. The Aprilia team didn't have a system in place to make a quick change of its front Pirelli tire, and had to run the entire race on the same front.

Two weeks later at Virginia International Raceway Howard and Green were again in the thick of the lead battle with the No. 46 San Jose BMW R1200 of Brian Parriott and Nate Kern. Howard, however, lost a lap in the pits during a safety car period and Green admitted he was not at his best on the daunting VIR road circuit. The pair settled for second place as the team of the No. 46 San Jose BMW took home their first victory in the 2007 season.

"I struggled a little bit," said Green, who lives in Dallas. "I had never raced on the track before. I was a little bummed out. I was turning slower lap times in the race than I had during practice. It was a really physical track and I think I backed off a little too much. We knew Ty would be faster and we had planned on him riding three stints anyway. It was amazing that he was able to do that, because that was the most physical track I've been to."

The Aprilia USA team's success has been all the more impressive given its lack of endurance road racing experience. Howard and Green have both competed in endurance events extensively, but the team, run by Johnstown, Ohio's Lloyd Brothers Motorsports, has a background in flat track racing.

"They came to Daytona with really limited experience of modern road racing and zero experience of endurance road racing," Green said. "It's a steep learning curve, but they're smart guys. The biggest thing has just been getting everybody up to speed and we've been getting better every weekend. If we can keep the momentum going, hopefully we're going to win a couple."

"They're very professional in all they do," Howard said of the squad. "All the pieces have just been falling together. Troy has been really good too. He's an endurance racer but he's also an engineer, and he's helped design our quick change stuff."

"That's my contribution to the team," Green joked. "I figure if I can save the team about 20 seconds changing tires on a pit stop, it makes my almost as fast as Ty."

And even though Howard and Green both have extensive endurance racing experience, they've had very little time on twin-cylinder motorcycles like the Aprilia Tuono 1000R. Howard had never even ridden a twin before the Daytona season opener.

"Ty and I were joking on the way to Daytona that I was the one with the experience of riding a twin," Green said. "And all my experience was two stints on a 748 Ducati back in 2001 or 2002. So it's all new to both of us, and there are little things to get used to. It's definitely a fun motorcycle to ride."

Both riders are looking forward to the classic 4.0-mile Road America track, and both Howard and Green have ridden there previously.

"It'll be nice to not have to go out in the first session and figure out where the track goes," Green said.

Howard thinks the Aprilia will fare well against its chief championship rivals at Road America, the San Jose BMW and the No. 32 Vallely Racing Suzuki SV1000S that are tied for second in the Team point standings, 15 points behind the No. 6 Aprilia.

"The bike has a really good handling chassis," Howard said. "The engine doesn't have the hump out of the corners like our rivals, but through fourth, fifth and sixth gear we seem to have the speed. I think it's a very aerodynamic bike. It's a heavy bike, and we can't get onto the brakes as late as the others, and that's a disadvantage. But we'll have something for them at Road America."

In addition to the MOTO-ST 500K At Road America, the SunTrust MOTO-ST Series will also include the Iowa Speedway 500K at Iowa Speedway July 12-13, 2007 and the 8 Hours At Daytona Finale, October 19-20 at Daytona International Speedway.

-credit: garra

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Series Other bike
Drivers Michael Barnes , Brian Parriott , Chris Ulrich