AMA Pro Racing tire test concludes

Riders practice racing under the lights at Daytona

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Dec. 08, 2008
The AMA Pro Racing and Dunlop Tire tests concluded Dec. 7 at Daytona International Speedway, and riders are already looking forward to the March 6 Daytona 200.

The season-opening Daytona 200 will, for the very first time, be held at night and teams took part in a pair of three-hour sessions under the lights at DIS to prepare for the race.

“It was really fun at night,” says Yamaha factory racer Ben Bostrom. “The bike seems to run good on the crisp air, which is kind of cool. More than that, you get a special feeling under the lights, you feel more like a rock concert … like big time.”

Bostrom will compete in the 2009 AMA Pro American Superbike Championship on Yamaha’s new YZF-R1 but he will also race in the Daytona 200 on a Graves Yamaha YZF-R6. His new American Superbike teammate Josh Hayes will also take part in the evening race. Hayes was the first across the line in the 2008 Daytona 200 but was disqualified after a post-race inspection.

“You just have to learn some new marks,” says Hayes about adjusting to night racing. “You can’t see the crowd and you can't see the grandstands or anything like that. It is quite a bit different in that respect.”

The first night testing session took place Dec. 5. AMA Pro Racing and DIS officials received some input from riders and made some adjustments to the lighting before the second session on Dec. 6.

“It was a really cool experience to ride at night,” says Erion Racing’s Jake Zemke, after riding a Honda CBR600RR in the first evening session. “It was something I haven’t done since I was a little kid racing dirt tracks, although it is a little bit different running around Daytona on the banking at nighttime than it is going around a quarter-mile dirt track. It was quite a different experience. It was really cool.”

“Cool” might be the operative word. LeoVince Ducati rider Larry Pegram says the lower evening temperatures mean cooler tires which will make for a more exciting race.

“It was a pretty neat deal,” says Pegram, who will switch to the Ducati 1098R after racing last season on a 848 in the Formula Xtreme class. “I couldn’t believe how bright it was, for one thing, and it is going to enhance the racing because the tires will stay cooler. Everybody can pretty much go full-go the entire time.”

Ironically, the final test session on Sunday provided the coolest temperatures for the weekend. Riders hit the track at 9 a.m. with the temperature measured in the high 40s.

The cool conditions may have caused some trouble for a pair of riders. Zemke lost grip at the front while making the right turn of the “Bus Stop” chicane and crashed. Graves Yamaha rider Tommy Aquino also low-sided at the same turn minutes later.

“I just lost the front in the chicane. I turned into the left and as soon as I went to the right, I just lost the front,” says Zemke. “Then Tommy Aquino went out and he did the same thing in the next couple of laps in the same spot. As cold as it was this morning, the track temperatures were really low."

Neither rider was injured but Zemke’s crash cut his weekend short. Aquino, the reigning AMA Road Race Rookie of the Year was able to continue with the test.

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