Friday at Laguna Seca saw Team Valvoline EMGO Suzuki continue a strong midseason charge, qualifying two men on the front three rows for Sunday’s Superstock final. Steve Rapp led the way, claiming the second spot on the grid, while Chris Ulrich continued to show lead-pack speed, qualifying 12th despite a minor crash during practice.
The 30-year-old Rapp led much of the Superstock session, until being bumped a spot late. While the pole position would have been a nice reward for his strong form, Rapp proved last time out at Brainerd International Raceway that he has no problems winning from the second spot on the front row. Running under the old lap record again on Friday, Rapp is firmly in contention to grab his third consecutive Superstock win, despite having a sore shoulder that limited his track time.
“We led much of the session and I think it’s clear we have the speed to run up front again in this race,” Rapp said. “I’m still having some problems with the shoulder and we will have to wait and see how we do in the race. I’ll give it my best effort, of course.” Rapp has won the last two Genuine Suzuki Accessories AMA Superstock races, first at Road America and then at Brainerd.
After the first Supersport practice session was cancelled due to fog, Chris Ulrich fell in Superbike practice but recovered to put himself on the third row of the Superstock grid, then immediately left the track for treatment of his aggravated shoulder by famed orthopedic surgeon Dr. Art Ting and his physical therapist, Tuan Nyugen. Ulrich, who won his first Superstock National here at Laguna Seca two years ago, will look for a good start on Sunday to achieve his goal of a top-five finish. Ulrich and his Michelin-shod Suzuki have made considerable progress the past two events and the second-generation racer is returning to form after a slow, injury-hampered start to 2003.
Meanwhile, young Matt Furtek continued to learn the nuances of the tricky 2.2-mile circuit, a task in no way helped by the morning weather. He qualified 22nd. “I’m still figuring out the fast way to get around here,” the teenager remarked. “The morning session got fogged out, so we didn’t get as much track time as we would have liked.”
Saturday will see Rapp on the big Valvoline EMGO Suzuki GSX-R1000, seeking a podium finish in the 17-lap Formula Xtreme final.