Wisconsin Team has High Hopes for SunTrust MOTO-ST Series Debut DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Despite going into this weekend's SunTrust MOTO-ST Series event at Road America with a new motorcycle and inexperienced road racers, KTM HMC team owner...
Wisconsin Team has High Hopes for SunTrust MOTO-ST Series Debut
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Despite going into this weekend's SunTrust MOTO-ST Series event at Road America with a new motorcycle and inexperienced road racers, KTM HMC team owner Mitch Hansen is full of optimism.
Hansen's squad will give KTM's Super Duke R its series debut in the Buell Motorcycle Company SuperSport Twins (SST) class in the Road America 500K with 21-year-olds Troy Herfoss and Chris Fillmore handling the riding.
"I'm very excited about doing it," Hansen says. "We have two kids who are very, very talented riders, even though they're raw in road racing. We've been getting quite a bit of track time with the bike and I'm very optimistic about this weekend."
Although Hansen has a strong road racing background, more recently HMC has been running KTM's program in the AMA Supermoto Championship with Herfoss and Fillmore riding. Supermoto is a combination of dirt track and road racing in which riders and motorcycles must display considerable versatility.
HMC is based in Cato, Wis., just south of Green Bay, making the Road America event something of a home race for the team.
Hansen started his operation in 1975, mainly in motocross, but he got into road racing in the early 1990s. His team won the AMA Pro Thunder Championship in 1999 with Shawn Conrad riding a Ducati, and in 2001 and '02 HMC ran a Ducati Superbike team. The team has been affiliated with KTM since 2003.
The SunTrust MOTO-ST Series program with the 990cc Super Duke R is seen as a development program not only for the bike, but also KTM's growing road race program and young riders Herfoss and Fillmore.
Although its background is primarily in off-road motorcycles, KTM has recently been developing more road-going bikes. The Austrian company recently launched its RC8 in the European Superstock Championship with an eye to taking the model into international Superbike competition as early as 2009.
"KTM is coming out with some very, very nice street products," Hansen points out. "Kurt Nicol, the North American race director, had this idea of developing the Super Duke R and the riders at the same time, so hopefully we can have these kids ready for 2009. I think they're going at it a little bit differently, but I think it's a great idea."
Hansen feels the SunTrust MOTO-ST Series is an excellent proving ground for both the Super Duke R and the riders.
"The bike fits into the series perfectly," he says, "and since this is an endurance series, there will be a lot of track time for the guys. It all kind of fell together for us.
"The strength of the Super Duke is its torque. I know all twins have good torque, but this bike is very strong in that area. It also handles very well. I see it being capable of winning races here and there.
"We haven't got our bodywork ready for it yet, so we'll be running it at Road America as more of a naked bike. But that's not the worst thing; that's the way it's sold."
The bike made its Canadian debut in late May in the national Thunder series, which has a class structure similar to the SunTrust MOTO-ST Series. Riders Erick Beausejour and Michael Leon finished fourth and seventh, respectively, in the season opener.
Despite their lack of road racing experience Herfoss and Fillmore have shown plenty of promise. A native of Goulburn, Australia, Herfoss won a pair of Australian dirt track championships in 2004 and was the 2006 Australian Supermoto Champion. Last year he finished third in the AMA Supermoto Championship.
Herfoss joins fellow dirt track racers Henry Wiles and James Rispoli in making the transition to road racing through the SunTrust MOTO-ST Series.
Fillmore finished third in the AMA Supermoto Championship in 2005 and '06, and was fourth last season. The Pontiac, Mich. rider scored a Supermoto race win at Road America in 2006. He started road racing last year in a number of regional series.
"Chris seemed to always be in the top five," Hansen says. "We did some Masters of the Mountain races at Miller [Motorsport Park, in Utah] with Troy last year and he got on the podium there. He also did a bit of road racing back home in Australia over the winter.
"The big advantage they have is they're both so good on the brakes, which comes from Supermoto. Now it's just a matter of getting their corner speeds up."
The KTM HMC team hasn't committed to the remainder of the SunTrust MOTO-ST Series, as its priority remains with the AMA Supermoto Championship. It also looks after the equipment for the AMA Red Bull U.S. Rookies Cup, a starter series for young riders on KTM RC 125 road race bikes that runs as part of the AMA Superbike Series.
"We have six full time technicians and nine fly-in guys for the Rookies Cup," Hansen says. "It's a lot of work but it's a lot of fun too. I love working with the young kids."
These are clearly busy times for Hansen and his team, but there is much to be optimistic about.
"There is so much going on right now," Hansen says. "But I'm excited to be working with these guys."