A Preview From Sears Point

Brent Avis
by Brent Avis
Round three of the AMA Superbike Championship at Sears Point this weekendis the first of an almost uninterrupted series of back-to-back racesright up until August 9 when the Championship ends in Virginia. After afour week race break, the teams begin a stint of races every two weeks -- barring one round -- for the remaining eight rounds. The HMCDucati Team head to Sears Point confident of a good result after lastround's performance when Doug Chandler finished just shy of thepodium, and a successful test at Atlanta two weeks ago...

Sears Point Raceway has recently undergone remodeling, beginning with theresurfacing of a number of the higher speed corners, modifying the roadcircuit to eliminate the drag strip, fixing a water seepage problem andincreasing the run-off areas in certain corners. The planned $50 millionupgrade to the Californian raceway is still on-going and many of thediscussed modifications will not be complete by the first of the doubleheader races on Saturday, but Doug Chandler feels that what Sears hasaccomplished so far has greatly improved the safety and rider enjoymentof the racetrack.

The layout of the course is tight and twisty, featuring predominantlyright-hand corners with plenty of crests and elevation changes andvarying degrees of negative and positive camber. It's theleft-hander called the Carousel that is going to keep riders andtechnicians on their toes. Not only is it the longest corner of thetrack, it's the most difficult to master. But once you have workedit out, the rest of the track is smooth sailing.

If the bike can handlethe elevation change of the Carousel it should work well on most othercorners and if the rider finds the right line, they've setthemselves up to get on the throttle hard.

Even though the repaved sections should improve lap times, it will causea problem with bike set-up and tires. The varying differences between thenew and older surfaces will require a well balanced bike and the‘green’ asphalt will have sharp edges until a suitable amountof rubber is laid, by both cars and bikes, to smooth the surface. Sinceits repaving there have been race schools and Nascar testing but from histime at Sears, the weekend after the Fontana race, Chandler felt it wouldcause additional tire wear.

To counteract these problems, HMC Ducati's technicians will focustheir attention on the forks and shock, opening up the valving andletting the oil flow more freely. Loosening the compression dampening andopening the compression will make the bike work off rebound. This is aset-up they have already accomplished at the mid-April Atlanta test,under similar track conditions.

It's hard to imagine that Sears Point is the first road-race trackthat Doug Chandler ever rode on. It's a track he's alwaysbeen fond of and boasts some very good results at, but so far no win.This weekend may just change that.

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Brent Avis
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