Team Valvoline EMGO Suzuki got off to a strong start at Mid-Ohio on Friday. Recent testing at the 2.4-mile circuit had the team and their tire supplier, Michelin, prepared to perform up to their potential at the undulating and demanding road course.
Vincent Haskovec led the charge, qualifying his slick-shod GSX-R600 on the front row for Saturday’s 60k Formula Xtreme final. Despite spending his session concentrating on his race set-up rather than attempting to set one blindingly fast lap, the hard charging Haskovec pleasantly surprised by ending the session fourth quick at 1:31.025.
Crew Chief Keith Perry remarked, “We’re pleased with fourth place today because we worked on our race set-up the whole time. We went into it thinking we were looking at a second row starting position, and from past experience we knew that second row starts aren’t that bad a deal for Vincent. He got his podium at Brainerd starting from the second row. We were just using the session to get the set-up better, so yes, we’ll take a spot on the front row.”
In Supersport action, both Steve Rapp and Chris Peris ranked solidly in the top ten in the day’s single free practice. Aided by an assortment of new tires from Michelin, Rapp was seventh quickest aboard his 600cc Suzuki with a fast time of 1:31.471 while his young teammate was close behind in ninth at 1:31.919.
“Again, we were trying a lot of things in Supersport,” Perry said. “Michelin has worked hard and came here with seven brand-new rear tires that we’re trying to work through based on the test we had before. We’re still sorting through things and trying to find the right set-up for the best tires. So far, so good.”
Early in the morning, Rapp and Haskovec landed in the top ten in the opening Superstock practice, although the session wasn’t very telling since it was held in damp conditions and saw few riders going all out. Nevertheless, the Californian’s seventh-place performance (1:31.995), along with the Czech native’s eighth (1:32.250) aboard their GSX-R750s was a solid way to kick off the weekend.
“Superstock was almost a wasted session this morning,” Perry admitted of the hour that saw some of the top riders in the class not bother taking to the track due to the damp conditions. “None of the riders or teams seemed to want to stick their neck out or try much of anything with the track conditions. We just used it to get the guys warmed up.”
Saturday will see Haskovec fighting for a podium finish in the Formula Xtreme race while Team Valvoline EMGO Suzuki will also qualify in preparation for Sunday’s Supersport and Superstock finals.