Team Valvoline EMGO Suzuki were back on track on Friday following a month long break in the AMA roadracing calendar. This weekend sees the team attacking the challenging Road Atlanta road course for the tenth venue on the eleven-stop schedule.
Vincent Haskovec was quickly on the pace around the same 2.54-mile track that saw him earn his first career AMA road race victory in dramatic fashion last season. Underlining his skill on the 12-turn course, the Czech Republic-native qualified his Michelin-shod GSX-R600 into the third slot on front row for Saturday’s Formula Xtreme contest despite a practice crash and electrical problems that caused him and his crew a few headaches on the day.
While his impressive time of 1:27.229 has made Vincent a popular pick by the pundits to take third behind only the factory Hondas tomorrow, he has his sights set even higher. With the memory of last season’s last-corner triumph still fresh in his mind, only another Road Atlanta victory would be completely satisfying.
“I’m happy with third place so far,” Haskovec said after qualifying. “Last year was incredible, but I have to say the conditions were a bit strange and everything came together for me. This year it’s going to be a little bit different because now I’m racing against the top-notch factory guys as opposed to mostly support riders — this is a little bit higher level of racing.”
“If we can challenge them, I will be very happy,” he continued. “I’ll be going for it hard, you can bet on it.”
Besides a busy day in FX, Team Valvoline EMGO Suzuki also took part in single, hour-long free practice sessions in the Superstock and Supersport classes.
Continuing with the strategy of using agile and more tire-friendly GSX-R750s against the fire-breathing 1000s, Haskovec and his teammate, Steve Rapp, ranked eleventh and thirteenth on the Superstock timesheets, respectively. Haskovec’s best lap was a 1:27.010, while the Californian clocked a 1:28.496; both men earned spots in Saturday’s ‘fast’ group in the split qualifying procedure due to their efforts.
Rapp and third Team Valvoline EMGO Suzuki rider Chris Peris did the same during the Supersport free practice. Rapp ran 10th quick on Friday aboard his GSX-R600 at 1:29.426, while the young Canadian struggled a bit down in 21st (1:32.052), but was still fast enough to rank in the top half of the 43-man field.