Team Valvoline EMGO Suzuki closed out their Road Atlanta weekend by securing three top-ten finishes. After Vincent Haskovec lost out on a top-five finish in Saturday’s Formula Xtreme final due to an electrical problem, the team was committed to putting in a solid day’s work on Sunday, a goal they accomplished.
After qualifying on the Supersport second row yesterday, Steve Rapp predicted a similar performance in today’s race. He was dead on, finishing in eighth place — exactly where he qualified. For much of the race, the Californian looked set on outdoing his forecast, but electrical problems prevented him from tapping the full potential of his Michelin-shod GSX-R600 the entire 60K distance.
Crew Chief Keith Perry commented, “I felt like we made progress this weekend and the bike was good. Unfortunately, electrical gremlins crept up, and I think Steve proved he was capable of beating all but the top factory guys. We know we still need to make further progress to run with the factory guys on a regular basis, but one thing at a time. We need to learn from it and go forward.”
Canadian up-and-comer Chris Peris also finished exactly where he started from in the Supersport race — thirteenth.
Perry was encouraged by Peris’ performance at an unfamiliar track. “Chris is doing well. He had never raced here before and did a nice job. He’s learning what he needs from the bike, and we’re learning what to give him. It takes some time, but that’s how it works.”
In the Superstock final, Haskovec and Rapp were able to better their qualifying showings aboard their GSX-R750s, just as they had hoped. Despite an abundance of high speed sections that frequently gave riders armed with 1000cc machines an advantage around the 2.54-mile track, Haskovec improved from the twelfth spot on the grid to finish ninth, while Rapp climbed from fifteenth to tenth.
Perry admitted, “It’s a horsepower track. Both guys knew we would be scraping for whatever positions we could get. We made the decision to stick with the 750 early in the year, knowing we would suffer in some places. The guys rode very hard and the race turned out about how we anticipated it would, with Steve and Vincent moving forward.”
The team crew chief continued, reflecting on the weekend and looking ahead to the season finale in Virginia. “Again, we made progress. With the FX bike, we have closed the gap quite a bit on the two factory bikes in the class. We’re not here for third, we want to win. Everybody seems to be conceding this whole thing to the factory bikes in Formula Xtreme, but we look forward to the challenge of taking them on. Our bike has improved over the course of the year and we are looking forward to proving it at Virginia. We’ll go there and give it everything we’ve got.”
Team Valvoline EMGO Suzuki will be back in action September 17-19 at Virginia International Raceway.