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Dunlop Motorcycle Tires race report: Mladin collects Superbike victory, Zemke takes first Daytona 200 win
Daytona, FL -- March 11, 2006 -- Daytona International Speedway (DIS) delivered excitement and drama today as the first round of the AMA Superbike Series concluded Bike Week with a hotly contested Superbike event and a controversial late-race caution in the Daytona 200 that left the top five riders in disarray with just 10 of 68 laps remaining. Yoshimura Suzuki’s six-time AMA Superbike champ Mat Mladin and teammate Ben Spies dueled throughout the Superbike event, with Mladin eventually taking the win with a last-second draft pass at the flag; his margin of victory was just .032 seconds. Honda Racing’s Jake Zemke won his first-ever Daytona 200, surviving the charge of Erion Racing’s Josh Hayes by a slim margin of 1.561 seconds.
Dunlop arrived at Daytona with more than 2600 tires and 24 engineers, service technicians and tire-fitters to support five manufacturers--Ducati, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha--and their seven support teams: Erion Racing, Rockwall Honda, Attack Kawasaki, Jordon Motorsports, Matsushima Racing, Mladin Motorsports and Graves Motorsports. Collectively the teams represent the series’ top 24 riders, including 10 who compete in Superbike, 12 in Superstock, seven in Supersport and 10 in Formula Xtreme.
The surface at DIS places greater demands on motorcycle racing tires that any other racing venue in the world. The elimination of the west banking on the AMA circuit in 2005 was a positive step toward reducing tire temperatures, but the track--always known to generate a lot of wear and heat in the left portion of the rear tire--added more infield turns, most of them lefts, so wear on the left side of the tread is still evident. In addition, last May the track was repaved from turn one through the new infield section, increasing available traction and subsequently wear. For the Superbike competition, Dunlop brought two front and five rear tire compounds from which the teams could select. For the Formula Xtreme class, there were one front and five rear compound options offered.
The day’s first race was the Superbike event and Mladin enjoyed the pole position after setting a track record of 1:37.075 on Thursday. He rocketed into the lead at the start of the race on his Suzuki GSX-R1000, followed closely by Spies. With Spies nipping at Mladin’s heals throughout the race and a pack of riders--Honda's Racing’s Miguel Duhamel, Kawasaki Road Racing’s Tommy Hayden and Roger Lee Hayden and Parts Unlimited Ducati's Neil Hodgson--scrapping with each other just a few seconds behind, fans enjoyed a dogfight that lasted to the last lap. Following Mladin’s draft pass of Spies for the win, Duhamel crossed the line 5.1 seconds later to fill out the podium. “This race could have gone either way when it's that close,” said Mladin. “So it's good to win it, but you know, it's Daytona. Let's move on and get to the next races where the draft and these things don't come into play as much. And then let the championship play out.” It was a victorious race for Dunlop, whose riders collected all of the top 10 finishing positions.
The 65th running of the Daytona 200 was the weekend’s feature event and it played out as a battle of wits, determination, and strategy. Dominated in qualifying by 600cc four-cylinder machines, five-time winner Duhamel put his Honda CBR600RR on the pole with a record-setting qualifying time of 1.40.928. The early laps featured a back-and-forth battle between Duhamel, Yamaha Racing’s Jason Disalvo and Eric Bostrom and Duhamel’s teammate Zemke. Following the first set of pit stops for fuel and tires, Duhamel built a lead of as much as 12 seconds when, on lap 44, he high-sided violently exiting turn one, allowing Zemke to take the lead. Duhamel miraculously collected himself and the bike and managed to re-enter the race in fifth place. Zemke rode a determined race and avoided trouble, only to see his lead shrink to nothing when the pace car entered the course to slow the field as an accident was cleared. Confusion among race officials parked Zemke, Disalvo, Bostrom and Erion’s Hayes deep in the field while fourth and fifth place holders Duhamel and Bostrom were at the head of the column. When the green flag came out for the last 10 laps, the race leaders were mired in a large group of lapped riders while Duhamel and Bostrom had effectively lost any chance of improving their position. To his credit, Zemke masterfully worked through the field of lappers, holding off Hayes’ late-race charge; Disalvo was third in his first Daytona 200. “Everybody knows about the Daytona 200,”said Zemke. “It’s something, as a kid, that you always look at the names on the list of the winners and it’s a Who’s Who list. I am proud to put my name up there.” Dunlop was also victorious; its riders took the first six positions and eight of the top 10.
Next stop for Dunlop and the AMA Superbike road racing tour is the Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama, April 21-23. Round two also features a doubleheader for the Superbike series.
About Dunlop Tires
Dunlop Tires is the largest supplier of original equipment and replacement motorcycle tires in the U.S. and the only manufacturer of motorcycle tires in North America. With North American operations headquartered in Buffalo, NY, Dunlop has been making and selling high-quality tires in the U.S. since 1923. For more information, please visit www.dunlopmotorcycle.com.