Team Valvoline EMGO Suzuki racers Steve Rapp and Vincent Haskovec completed a three-day test at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday. The test gave the team valuable track time to test new motorcycles and allowed the riders to evaluate tires for Michelin.
Steve Rapp rode a new 2004 Suzuki GSX-R600 at the test. The veteran, a two-time winner in 2003 for the team, was impressed with the new Supersport machine even though the bike had a completely stock engine due to the recent arrival of the new machine. “The new GSX-R600 is really something, a huge improvement on last year’s version,” Rapp said. “The bike stops like a Superbike due to the improved brakes and the engine works through the rev range quicker than before, plus has a higher rpm limit. Handling is very stable as well.”
Rapp enters his second year with the team and is coming off a successful season. “It’s great to be back,” he said. “The way it worked out, I haven’t been with the same team for two years in a row in a while. Here, the team is very professional, like a full factory team with all the resources. I have a lot of confidence in (Crew Chief) Keith Perry and the crew. Winning those races this past season was a great feeling and I hope we can do it again in 2004.”
New rider Vincent Haskovec made his debut with the team in Daytona. His enthusiasm and infectious personality fit well with his skills as a racer. “Vincent will strengthen the team this year,” Rapp said. “He’s a lot like me. Both of us came up the hard way, club racing and earning whatever we got the hard way. I enjoyed racing with him as a rival this past season in the Superstock class and will enjoy having him as a teammate, especially when it comes to having help evaluating the Michelin tires.”
“I got a good feel for everything, how the bike, the team and the tires work. I was quite pleased,” Hasvovec said.
Vincent is among the first to ride an Formula Xtreme bike since the class has moved to smaller displacement machines and allows Superbike-style modifications for the 2004 season. “Nobody knows how far you can take it, how far you can go. So it will be exciting. The one I rode this weekend was an ’03 project bike built with the new rules in mind, so the final version will be a little different. That bike is gonna be a lot of fun to ride, that’s for sure,” Vincent said. “A little bike like that is nimble, with 16.5 inch tires and Superbike brakes. I can’t wait to ride it again.”
At Michelin’s request, the riders also spent time on the GSX-R1000, evaluating both slicks and treaded tires. “It’s a missile,” said Haskovec. “That bike is unbelievably fast here (at Daytona). Riding by myself, I went 180 miles per hour on the radar gun. By myself! When I got a draft from Steve, I went 182.5. On a 600, this Daytona track has spots where you can conserve your energy because you are just wide open on the throttle, but on the GSX-R1000 there is no time. That bike makes this place like Fontana or Colorado.”