2003 AMA Superbike Preview

Sean Alexander
by Sean Alexander


Pickerington, Ohio; The 62nd running of the Daytona 200 by Arai on Sunday, March 9, at Daytona International Speedway will serve as a milestone in the evolution of the AMA Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike Championship. The 2003 edition of the race will feature a broad mix of motorcycles, including 1000cc four-cylinder machines, 1000cc V-Twins and traditional 750cc four-cylinder superbikes.

All of this a result of new rules put in place by AMA Pro Racing reflecting the changing marketplace and to more closely align the race bikes with the respective street bike versions. The rules should help more teams field competitive superbikes.

The impressive entry list for this year's Daytona 200 is a positive sign that the changes brought about by the new rules will produce a more exciting race. This year marks the first major change in the bikes that race in the Daytona 200 since AMA Superbikes replaced the old AMA Formula One bikes in 1985. Additionally, an international field of riders representing nine countries will be present.

Based on pre-season testing, this year's 200 could be one of the most competitive in years. One of the leading candidates to win this year's race is Yoshimura Suzuki's Mat Mladin. The three-time AMA Superbike Champion was forced to miss last year's race when he crashed and injured his elbow during a pre-Daytona 200 practice session. Prior to last year's race, Mladin was the hottest rider on the high banks since Mr. Daytona himself, five-time winner Scott Russell. The Aussie Mladin won the celebrated race in 2000 and again in 2001. This year, he will ride Yoshimura's new Suzuki GSXR1000 based superbike.

"The bike's working good" a confident Mladin told Roadracing World, after testing in California last month. "Suzuki's done a great job with the new frame and chassis. It steers better than the old 750 and everything. It feels like my 1999-2000 750 more than the (bike) we raced in 2002."

It was Honda rider Nicky Hayden who won both the Daytona 200 and the AMA Superbike title last year. Honda moved Hayden up to contest the World Championship MotoGP circuit. While American Honda lost a great rider in Hayden, it comes to the table this season with former AMA Superbike champions Miguel Duhamel and Ben Bostrom, along with Kurtis Roberts, son of the legendary three-time Daytona 200 winner Kenny Roberts.

Veteran Miguel Duhamel is seeking his fourth victory in the 200. The Montreal native, who now lives in Las Vegas, won his first Daytona 12 years ago, yet feels he has a great shot at winning again in 2003. "I have a proven bike in the Honda RC51 and I have the best crew behind me" said Duhamel, the all-time winningest rider in AMA Superbike history. "The competition for this year's race is shaping up to be the best in years and I'm hoping I can rise to the occasion to keep the Daytona 200 title with Honda"

1998 AMA Superbike champ Ben Bostrom is back racing in America after a successful three-year run in World Superbike. Bostrom was very fast in Daytona tire testing and is a good bet to improve on his previous best Daytona 200 finish of fourth in 1999.

Kurtis Roberts is coming into the prime of his racing career and is poised to become only the second rider to win the Daytona 200 after his father. Don Emde accomplished the feat in 1972, following in the footsteps of his father Floyd who won 24 years earlier. It’s been 19 years since Kurtis' renowned dad, Kenny, won the 200.

Another pre-race favorite to win is Kawasaki's Eric Bostrom, younger brother of Ben. Eric has finished second in the AMA Superbike Championship the last two seasons and is more than ready to discard the title of bridesmaid. Bostrom is hoping to bring back the glory days of Kawasaki at Daytona, when the company won three times with Scott Russell in the early-to-mid 1990s. This will be Bostrom's fourth appearance in the Daytona 200, and he'll be riding one of the old school 750cc-based superbikes, a Kawasaki ZX-7RR. His previous best result was (as you might have guessed) second in 2001.

Ducati is easily the longest-suffering manufacturer in the history of the Daytona 200. Ducatis have raced in the event since 1966, but have never managed to come out on top. The Italian brand came agonizingly close in 1992, when Ducati-mounted Doug Polen was nipped at the finish line by Scott Russell in one of the closest races in the history of the 200. Ducati factory riders Troy Corser (1994) and Carl Fogarty (1995) both finished second, each to Russell, albeit not as close as Polen.

Ducati is pinning its 2003 hopes on AnthonyGobert and Larry Pegram. This will be Gobert's seventh start in the 200. He finished a career-best third last year. For Pegram it will be his 10th Daytona, with his top result of sixth coming in 2001.

If Ducati is the hard-luck manufacturer, then Doug Chandler claims that title among riders.Chandler first raced the classic in 1988. He's finished on the podium four times, including runner-up twice. Now at 37, Chandler realizes his chances of ever winning the biggest motorcycle race in America are quickly fading. He returns for yet another try this year, riding a No Limit Motorsports Honda CBR954RR, one of the new breed of superbikes.

Others to watch in this year's 200 include Yoshimura Suzuki youngster Ben Spies and his veteran teammate Aaron Yates. Suzuki will also have strong entries from the ValvolineEMGO Suzuki squad with Chris Ulrich and Steve Rapp, and Attack Suzuki's Jason Pridmore.

The race will be broadcast live on Speed Channel. The pre-race show begins at 12:30 p.m. Eastern and live flag-to-flag coverage of the Daytona 200 starts at 1:00 p.m.

For immediate post-race results, points, live transponder scoring, in-depth series and rider information, regular columnists and much more, log onto http://www.USSuperbike.com, the official website of the AMA Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike Championship.
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Sean Alexander
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