Team Valvoline EMGO Suzuki’s Steve Rapp concluded the 2003 Superstock season at Barber Motorsports Park with another top five finish on Saturday, but it could have been much more.
Rapp stalked the race leaders from a close distance for much of the race and made his move into the runner-up position on lap 11 of 17. Unfortunately, just as the two-time ’03 race winner was looking for a way past to claim his third victory of the year on the Michelin-shod GSX-R750, the race was red flagged on lap 14 due to a fallen bike that was laying on the track.
The race was restarted for a five-lap sprint race, and while the 30-year-old quickly moved back into the top three, he suffered a frightening near-highside and dropped a couple of positions in the process. A fantastic save allowed Rapp to hold on for his seventh top five Superstock result of the year.
“Obviously, we were going really well in the first part of the race,” said Rapp. “Perhaps if not for the red flag, we might have been able to win this thing. The Michelin tires were very good over long runs. In the second leg we were going well, too, but we had a little bad luck there. The electric shifter cut out and came back on when I was full throttle and almost threw me off. I don’t now how it looked on the monitors but it felt pretty spectacular.”
Despite not participating in three Superstock rounds, Rapp ended the season ranked sixth in the championship and proved his competitiveness as one of the best riders in the class. “We had a good year and I’d like to thank the team for working so hard. We’ve got some momentum and I can’t wait to prepare for next season,” Rapp said.
Meanwhile, Chris Ulrich ended his year with his ninth top-15 placing of the season. Unlike his more veteran teammate, Ulrich was able to capitalize on the restart, picking up three positions in the final four laps.
“We had a good race out there, scrapping with some of the same rivals we’ve had all year, then the shoulder started bothering me again after around nine laps,” Ulrich said. “After the re-start, I lost a couple of positions when another rider and I bumped, but it was a fun race.”
Ulrich finished his championship campaign just outside the top 10, in eleventh place despite being plagued with an injured shoulder the entire season.