HMC Ducati Previews Pike's Peak

Brent Avis
by Brent Avis
Situated high in Colorado's Rocky Mountains, Pikes Peak Racewaywill host round five of the AMA Superbike Championships and theclass' first single-race weekend since Daytona. A mere 1.31 mileslong, Pikes Peak is the shortest track on the AMA road racing schedule-- half the size of most other tracks, with lap times under aminute.

The high altitude here, almost 5,800 feet above sea level, will restrictthe performance of the engines but the fast, flowing layout of the trackpromises high speed action. Like all speedway ovals, Pikes Peak includessections of banking in its road racing track, notably the front and backstraightaways...

The run off the front straight banking onto the flatsurface of the first corner is never smooth. This is amplified by a dip,which can disrupt the bike's stability. But once you get into thesecond turn the fun begins. The layout seems to suit riders with a dirttrack history. The long left-hander, from turn one to the in-field bends,reminds Doug Chandler of running a mile flat track, but it causes concernfor the HMC Ducati technicians. The long bend has some negative camberand the combination can be rough on tires. Riders will be conscious topreserve their tires, being banked over on the left hand side for solong. Dunlop has a single compound tire made specifically for thistrack.

As the riders head into the infield bends the action will heat up. Theycan take a variety of lines to pass a competitor, especially into thetight and tricky hairpin. Riders must hug the inside of the bend, pickingup the bike at the last minute and getting hard on the gas to give them agood drive into the esses. This section doesn't have a lot oftraction so the bikes will be moving around a lot. Unfortunatelyspectator viewing in this area is limited as it's all infield butthis will be where a lot of the action will take place. It is the lastplace riders can make a pass before the esses, then it will befollow-the-leader until they get onto the front straightaway. Slipstreaming won't happen until they get further around to the backstraightaway where they'll be carrying more speed. And being alittle over a mile long, Pikes Peak doesn't have much of astraightaway.

The race is an astonishing 48 laps, which, for the riders, seems to takeforever. As the bikes are rarely upright the riders get very littleopportunity to rest, making it one of the more demanding races of theseason. The short distance makes it a relatively easy track for bikeset-up and technicians will focus mainly on getting the bike turning inturn two and through the esses plus creating a bike that will conserveits tires. Most of the data taken from races so far this season will beirrelevant at Pikes Peak. Only Fontana offers some similarities.

Rider fitness will play a key part as the high altitude will not onlyreduce oxygen to the engine, it will reduce oxygen to the lungs. DougChandler left for Colorado last Friday to begin acclimatizing himselfwith the thin air. He won there in '99 and is looking forward to agood result on Sunday.

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