News 17 Apr 2010

AMA SBK: Zemke and Aquino lead first Atlanta qualifying

On a perfect Georgia day, a time set by a rider who was almost unbeatable was beaten and a streak continued after the first round of AMA Pro National Guard American SuperBike qualifying for the Suzuki SuperBike Showdown at the classic Road Atlanta race track.

Jake Zemke, once again riding his No. 54 National Guard Jordan Suzuki continued the Jordan team’s dominance in qualifying by posting a superb qualifying lap of 1:25.166. This tops the exceptional lap of 1:25.281 set last year by seven-time AMA Pro National Guard American SuperBike champion Mat Mladin.

A number of riders threatened but just when it counted, Zemke laid down a sensational lap to continue the qualifying streak set by his downed teammate Aaron Yates, who took pole position at each of the previous races in the 2010 season.

Yates, still recovering from his unfortunate injuries at Auto Club Speedway, is at the track in spirit as he recovers at his Milledgeville, GA home. Blake Young on his No. 79 Rockstar Makita Suzuki set the early pace in practice and then also in qualifying as he tried to carry the flag for the Yoshimura team that Mladin accomplished so much with.

Midway through qualifying, a resurgent Josh Hayes on his No. 4 Team Graves Yamaha jumped to the top of the charts for part of the 50-minute session and then Young’s Rockstar Makita Suzuki teammate, Tommy Hayden jumped him and Hayes both to wind up second quick with a very strong 1:25.447.

The first four riders were the only ones to dip into the 1:25 second range. Ben Bostrom on his Pat Clark Motorsports Yamaha took fifth as he rounds into the form everyone expected going into the season just ahead of 2010 Auto Club Speedway race winner Larry Pegram, who so nearly put his Foremost Insurance Ducati in victory lane in the second race in California.

An impressive Taylor Knapp was also quick from the start of practice here at Road Atlanta and backed it up with a solid seventh place in qualifying. Next up was John Hopkins who is coming off surgery on his right wrist and is recovering but still rode his M4 Monster Energy Suzuki to a respectable eighth place.

Ninth was Tray Batey, who showed his hasn’t lost any of his speed as he returns to AMA Pro Racing action with the Vesrah Suzuki team. Tenth was Brett McCormick, who is in his first race substituting for Aaron Yates on the No. 23 Brand Jordan Suzuki. Riding well within himself, the team was very pleased with McCormick’s first day as he adjusts to the new team environment.

Twenty American SuperBikes took to the track at the classic 2.56-mile, twelve turn road course and AMA Pro National Guard American SuperBike final qualifying and race one of two will take place Saturday, April 17th.

Team Graves Yamaha rider Tommy Aquino has had a number of unfortunate setbacks in the early part of the 2010 AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL season but he hasn’t let it dampen his or his team’s spirits and today, he showed why he is one of the most highly regarded riders in the sport by putting his Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6 on provisional pole position with a time of 1:29.497 for the Road Atlanta AMA Pro Daytona SportBike doubleheader race weekend.

Showing the strength of Team Graves Yamaha, Daytona 200 and Daytona SportBike points leader Josh Herrin showed good speed right off the bat during the morning practice and continued the trend with a solid second position running. Third up was Martin Cardenas, who captured his first AMA Pro Racing win here last year on his M4 Monster Energy Suzuki.

Local team Project 1 Atlanta Yamaha gave the Georgia fans something to cheer about (as did Dublin, GA’s Herrin) as Clinton Seller jumped up the time sheets on his 17th lap of the 50 minute qualifying session to take fourth. Fifth was Seller’s Project 1 Atlanta Yamaha teammate Dane Westby, followed by Steve Rapp, who continues his strong 2010 form on his Team Latus Motors Racing Ducati.

Vesrah Suzuki rider Cory West was next up in seventh ahead of Daytona 200 pole sitter Danny Eslick riding his GEICO Powersports Richie Morris Racing Suzuki. Also continuing his steady progression up the charts is DNA Energy Drink CNR Motorsports Ducati rider Bobby Fong, who ran quick in practice but slipped to ninth in qualifying.

Rounding out the top ten was Chris Fillmore on the second Vesrah Suzuki. Local favorite and Gainesville rider Geoff May also had a solid day on his GMR Suzuki, finishing up 12th.

Aquino, who likes the flow and rhythm of the 2.56-mile Road Atlanta permanent road course looks forward to tomorrow’s final qualifying session and race one of two on this double header Road Atlanta Suzuki SuperBike Showdown weekend.