For Immediate Release – September 5, 2004
Mladin one step closer to fifth AMA Superbike Championship; Duhamel clinches Formula Xtreme title
Braselton, GA – The 10th stop on the AMA’s (American Motorcyclist Association) 11-venue 2004 Superbike road racing series brought out the best in the four racing series’ competitors at Road Atlanta on September 3-5 in Braselton, Georgia. Early predictions of rain and wind, courtesy of Hurricane Frances, did not materialize and the weekend weather was warm and humid with highs in the mid-80s. When the racing was over, Honda Racing’s Miguel Duhamel had won the Formula Xtreme Championship, Yoshimura Suzuki’s Ben Spies continued his late-season surge in the Superstock series, Kawasaki Road Racing’s Roger Lee Hayden snagged his fourth Supersport victory of the season, and Yoshimura Suzuki’s Mat Mladin swept the Superbike doubleheader in his quest for an unprecedented fifth AMA Superbike title.
Road Atlanta is dominated by right-hand turns that generate significant heat in the right side of the motorcycle’s rear tire. This condition adversely affects traction and accelerates tire wear and is most apparent at the end of the back straight approaching turn 10. Notably, this is one place on the track where many passes take place. To cope with the track’s demands, Dunlop brought nearly 1800 tires for the factory teams and support riders in the Superbike, Superstock, Supersport and Formula Xtreme classes. The factory Superbike teams had five front and five rear tire compound selections from which to choose. Rear tire selections included a new generation multi-compound design intended to maximize turning and straight-line traction and stability.
Saturday’s first race crowned the season’s first champion as Honda Racing’s Miguel Duhamel wrapped up the Formula Xtreme title on his CBR600RR, crossing the finish line just .210 seconds ahead of Erion Honda’s Jake Zemke. Duhamel’s sixth Formula Xtreme victory of the season and seventh career AMA title came on the last lap, where he passed Zemke at the end of the back straight. Zemke countered as the pair worked through the chicane and the two nearly touched under the Suzuki Bridge coming into the final turn. “We had a really tough battle at the end there,” said Duhamel. “My hat’s off to Jake, he ran a really great race, gave me plenty of room, I tried to do the same.” Of his championship, Duhamel said, “Every race win was earned, it was a really tough championship. I’m just really happy to be a part of the Honda team. The CBR600RR won the championship and my guys worked really hard. We had a tough year against Jake for sure and I’m just really happy to be here.” Following Zemke across the finish line was HMC Ducati’s Doug Chandler followed by Suzuki’s Jason Pridmore. Duhamel captured the title with 358 points; it was his 79th AMA road racing victory. Zemke follows with 307 points and third is held by Erion Honda’s Alex Gobert (254), who pulled over on lap nine with mechanical problems and did not finish the race.
The weekend’s first Superbike race win went to the series leader, Yoshimura Suzuki’s Mat Mladin, with a .400-second victory over Miguel Duhamel. Mladin was dominant in practice and qualifying on his GSX-R1000, breaking his own lap record with a qualifying time of 1:22.065. “Dunlop has been working hard,” said Mladin. “They brought a tire here that they’ve been testing for the past few months… they’ve got it to the point where I’ve really started liking the tire. Fortunately, it’s a new generation tire, and it’s a good tire. It’s doing a good job for us.” The race was marred by a red-flag after Attack Kawasaki’s Josh Hayes high-sided on lap seven, forcing a restart. Mladin, who was leading at the time, wasted no time after the restart and passed Duhamel and Yoshimura Suzuki teammate Aaron Yates on lap eight. He never relinquished the lead despite the pursuit of Duhamel on his CBR1000RR, who nearly overtook Mladin on the last turn as the pair worked around lapped riders. “It was a good win, I’ve got to thank all my guys,” said Mladin. “I’ve got to thank Suzuki especially. It was a hard race today, but I think if they hadn’t done their homework, it might not have been possible today.” Third across the line was Honda Racing’s Ben Bostrom, followed by Erion Honda’s Zemke, who entered the weekend second in the points standings. Yates was fifth, followed by Hooters Suzuki’s John Haner. Haner’s teammate Eric Wood took eighth and Suzuki’s Shawn Higbee was ninth as riders using Dunlop tires took eight of the top 10 positions. Entering Sunday’s second Superbike race, Mladin extended his series to 495 points, followed by Zemke with 463 and Duhamel with 445.
The second day of racing opened with a blistering Superstock competition that featured the industry’s up-and-coming road racing stars. Yoshimura Suzuki’s Ben Spies was the eventual winner with a 2.223-second victory on his GSX-R1000 over Graves Motorsports Yamaha’s Aaron Gobert, capping an exciting four-way battle for the lead that left no motorsports fan disappointed. Eleven laps of the 15-lap race produced a see-saw battle between Gobert, riding a YZF-R1, teammate Jason Disalvo and Kawasaki Road Racing’s Tommy Lee Hayden aboard a ZX-10R. Spies, coming off a strong finish at Mid-Ohio, seemed destined to remain relegated to fifth position. On lap 11, however, he made his charge to the front, breaking away from the pack with apparent ease. “My whole goal was to get the holeshot and check out, or to sit back and follow and save my tire,” said Spies. “The pace was pretty quick, it was just fast enough where I could stay back there without using my tire up. I was real strong on the brakes into (turn) 10 and I passed everybody for second and the next lap for first and then I put my head down.” Gobert and Hayden have been dueling for the lead in the hotly-contested series as Yamaha’s Jamie Hacking has watched his points lead evaporate following a Mid-Ohio testing injury on June 30. Gobert’s last-lap pass of Hayden for second gives him the series lead with 293 points and just one race remaining, while Hayden is now tied with Hacking (who finished sixth) with 288. Fourth went to Kawasaki’s Roger Lee Hayden, who slipped past Disalvo after the Yamaha rider ran off the track while attempting a last-lap pass on Tommy Hayden in turn 10. Suzuki’s John Haner took seventh as Dunlop-shod competitors took the first seven of the top 10 positions.
If a more exciting race could be had, it occurred in the 600cc Supersport competition as Gobert, both Haydens, Disalvo, and Spies set off on a torrid pace that saw numerous lead changes. On lap 13 of the 15-lap event, Kawasaki’s Roger Lee Hayden took the lead on his ZX-6RR and battled with older brother Tommy to the last, grabbing his third win in as many weeks and his fourth victory of the season by a scant .103 seconds. “The race went pretty good from the start,” said the younger Hayden. “I never really had to work because if I’d lose a little bit here and there I could always just make it up real quick. Once again my bike is the fastest bike out there. No matter how far back I got, I could make it up on the straightaway, I could reel them in.” Yamaha’s Disalvo and Gobert were third and fourth on their YZF-R6s, followed by Suzuki’s Spies on his GSX-R600 in fifth, Yamaha’s Damon Buckmaster in sixth, Corona Suzuki’s Ben Attard in seventh and Suzuki’s Danny Eslick in 10th. Overall, Dunlop riders won eight of the top 10 positions. With one race to go, Kawasaki Road Racing is assured of a championship at the hands of a Hayden; Tommy Hayden leads brother Roger Lee, 327 to 316, in series points. Spies and Gobert are tied for third with 255 points apiece.
Superbike race two was a convincing victory for Yoshimura Suzuki’s Mat Mladin. Mladin started off in third place and methodically worked his way past Honda’s Duhamel and Bostrom, then built an insurmountable lead to finish 3.953 seconds ahead of Duhamel. “The weekend was good for us,” said Mladin. “I wanted to get to the traffic first, because I know what it’s like if you don’t, and I pushed hard to make sure I could get there first. I was able to surprise most of them, we got lucky in that department. It was a good race, we had to work hard all weekend, we’ve done a good job this week.” Honda’s Ben Bostrom finished third and Mladin’s nearest rival in the points chase, Zemke, soldiered home to a fourth place finish as he struggled all weekend to stay at the front with the leaders. Kawasaki’s Josh Hayes took fifth, followed by Suzuki’s John Haner in sixth. Teammate Eric Wood finished ninth and Corona Suzuki’s Marty Craggill was eighth as Dunlop-supported riders took eight of the top 10 positions. By sweeping both races at Road Atlanta, Mladin’s record-setting 31st and 32nd career victories give him a 42-point lead (532 to 490) over Zemke, with just two races remaining. Duhamel is third with 477 points.
The final stop for Dunlop and the 2004 AMA road racing tour will be at Virginia International Raceway in Alton, Virginia, September 17-19, featuring a doubleheader round of Superbike action.