Team Valvoline EMGO Suzuki fought through a trying day at Laguna Seca on Saturday. Even a top-five race result picked up in the afternoon left the team wanting for more.
Not having the opportunity to test at the 2.2-mile circuit prior to the weekend due to a disagreement between the tire manufacturers made things difficult to begin with — a situation further magnified by the very limited amount of track time available during the combined AMA/World Superbike weekend.
Despite the disadvantage, Vincent Haskovec put himself in position to claim a podium finish in the Formula Xtreme race. Haskovec was third and charging on a rider with machine difficulties. Unfortunately, a questionable red flag stopped the contest and a lengthy stoppage followed, allowing two factory frontrunners who were facing mechanical problems to reenter the fray after getting their machines fixed and mounting tires better suited for the shortened 9-lap dash to the flag.
The Czech Republic native didn’t have any softer tires to switch to for the restart but fought valiantly to finish fifth.
“I really feel I was robbed of a podium,” said Haskovec. “I thought I was going to get second place — third place at the worst. I do not agree with the rule that says teams can work on the bikes during a red flag. My guys worked really hard all weekend since we weren’t allowed to test here, and I was riding like a maniac to get where I was in the first part of the race. I don’t feel it was fair. I think that if it isn’t safe for us to race, we should park the bikes until it is, then restart the race when it is safe. Also, it isn’t fair to the privateers, who need to buy extra wheels and tires in these type of situations.”
Crew Chief Keith Perry was also disappointed with the situation. “The Formula Xtreme race was personally frustrating. It’s hard to describe. The race left a bad taste in my mouth the way everything happened. Still, the Michelins worked great and we barely missed out on fourth. We need just a little more acceleration, and if we can find that, we have a package that can compete at the front.”
The day’s Superstock race was also disappointing with an unusual conclusion. Haskovec and teammate Steve Rapp battled side-grip issues throughout the entire 60K affair, but rode well enough to battle over a top ten position.
Rapp crossed the line to start the final lap in tenth, but slowed when he mistook the white flag for the checkered flag. Haskovec went by, but was unable to claim a top-ten result himself, lacking sufficient traction to hold off another rider for the spot.
Haskovec finished eleventh with Rapp once spot further back in twelfth.
A discouraged Rapp commented, “When Vincent went by, I thought he was still riding hard because he was upset. Then another rider went by too, and I figured out what was going on. I was having such a hard time riding the bike I made the mistake. I just saw a flag waving. That’s the first time I’ve ever done that in all my years of racing.”
Team Crew Chief Keith Perry remarked, “In Superstock we really suffered not being here since last year. We’ve had very little track time this weekend. Mechanical problems, a crash, and an abbreviated schedule have all made the weekend a difficult one for us. I feel like we missed out by a least one more session, and we got what we got. Everyone tried really hard, and I can’t fault that.”
Team Valvoline EMGO Suzuki still has one more event left on the weekend — Sunday’s 17-lap Supersport race. Chris Peris continued to show improvement on his GSX-R600 as he picked up the nuances of the Northern California track; the Canadian finished Saturday’s only Supersport session in ninth at 1:30.617. Rapp was just behind in tenth at 1:30.809.