Team Valvoline EMGO Suzuki entered the second round of the 2004 AMA championship campaign at California Speedway with a bold new strategy. Looking to find an advantage in a unique race package, the team came armed with Suzuki GSX-R750s to run in Superstock, a class that allows for a maximum displacement of 1000ccs.
The awesome power of the new breed of firebreathing 1000s can have a downside in the form of tire wear and handling. The team is hoping to leverage the added maneuverability and more tire friendly characteristics of the smaller but still very powerful 750s.
The move will also rely heavily on the talents of riders Steve Rapp and Vincent Haskovec as they take on the role of giant killers.
Team Crew Chief Keith Perry said, “We’re going to try it. We feel that at the majority of the tracks, the 750 may be a little easier on tires and allow the riders to ride more aggressively. It’s still early with this bike, and I don’t feel like we are where we want to be it yet. But we went ahead and committed to it, and we’re going stay the course. It might make it tougher early on, but we’re going to see if we can make it pay off in the long run.
“We’ll have to see in a couple races how the bike is performing at the end of the races, where we feel like it should have the greatest advantage,” Perry said. “Time will tell. We’re rolling the dice, and we’ll see how it goes.”
Haskovec showed the promise of the new bike early on. He ranked in the top ten in the Friday morning Superstock practice with a best time of 1:29.853. A morning fall resulted in an injured thumb, making progress difficult. Vincent still managed to rank in the top 15 in the afternoon.
Rapp improved during the day, ending up 13th best with a 1:29.595. The Californian expects the 750 to progress with additional time.
He commented, “We rode the Suzuki GSX-R750 in Superstock today, and it was pretty good considering it was our first time with it on track here. There’s still a lot of work to be done. We need time to dial it in, and we still need to try some of the different Michelin tires with it.”
Haskovec, Rapp, and young teammate Chris Peris also took to the 2.3-mile circuit on their GSX-R600s on Friday — Rapp and Peris in Supersport and Haskovec in Formula Xtreme.
Rapp finished the day ninth best on a tightly packed Supersport leaderboard with an impressive time of 1:30.883. Peris was close behind in 12th (1:31.446).
Haskovec put in a gritty performance, ignoring the pain of his injured thumb to qualifying on the second row for Saturday’s 17-lap Formula Xtreme race. He’ll start from the sixth spot on the grid after posting a 1:29.777 aboard his Michelin slick-shod GSX-R600.