Team M4 EMGO Suzuki displayed tremendous form in the opening action of the 2005 AMA roadracing season on Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway. Showing impressive speed in all four classes, they served notice to their rivals that the new-look squad will be a force to be reckoned with before rainfall brought about an early end to the day.
Even while getting used to working with several new technical partners, the team played heavily near the top of the charts in the season’s opening practice sessions. Squad newcomer Geoff May showed his potential early, finishing up the morning Superstock practice ranked third. The Georgian made his way around the revised 2.95-mile Daytona circuit aboard his GSX-R1000 with a best time of 1:41.742 despite cold and slick morning conditions.
Vincent Haskovec was not far behind his new teammate on the charts; the Czech-born racer ended the Superstock session seventh best with a fast lap of 1:43.166 on his Pirelli-shod GSX-R.
May followed up his Superstock performance by setting the ninth best time aboard his GSX-R600 in the Supersport practice. He then topped that by running seventh fastest in the Superbike free session. While using the Superbike practice to experiment with suspension settings, May put in a 1:42.011, which put him well ahead of several factory Superbike stars, including the polesitter for last year’s Daytona 200.
Haskovec finished a rain-shortened Formula Xtreme practice in sixth at 1:45.291. Unfortunately, the rainfall did not let up, forcing the afternoon’s schedule to be scrapped. As a result, the grid positions for Thursday’s 13-lap Superstock race and 22-lap Supersport race will be set based on the final 2004 point standings and order of entry.
The turn of fate will cost Team M4 Suzuki greatly. Instead of fighting for front row starting spots, Haskovec will open the Superstock final from the outside of row three in twelfth, while May will be on the inside of row five in seventeenth. May was hit even harder in the Supersport class. As a result of not competing in the class last season, he’ll start from 42nd.
Despite the twist, the team is ready for the challenge. Although last weekend’s practice and race sessions were not especially lengthy ones, the decision to run at Daytona last weekend in Formula USA competition looks to at least give the riders some track time.
Speaking about an exciting and frustrating opening day, Team M4 EMGO Suzuki Crew Chief Keith Perry said, “It looks good that we had the time that we got Saturday and Sunday. We’re ready to go — everybody is running well. Geoff ran really, really strong this morning in the practice session, and we we’re preparing to earn a spot on the front row in qualifying. Looks like we’re not going to have that opportunity. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.
He continued, commenting on May’s 7th best showing in the Superbike session. “We used that to test a couple of shock settings. Working with the Öhlins guys this weekend has been really nice. We’ve really made some good progress and the riders are happy. We’re ready to show the product.”
In addition to Öhlins, the team is also getting accustomed to other major changes to their racebikes, including a brand-new GSX-R1000 from Suzuki, new title sponsor M4 exhaust, and a change to Pirelli tires. The short amount of time available to dial the new machinery in just makes the team’s solid start to the season all the more remarkable.
Perry remarked, “We changed every which way our bike was hooked to the ground –tires, shocks, everything. That’s been quite a challenge. To start off the year with so many new things, that’s a lot of unknowns that you’re not comfortable with until you get some time with it. We came here with no base settings whatsoever and have established something pretty quickly. That’s makes us feel pretty good.”
The Supersport and Superstock races will be held on Thursday afternoon. Vincent Haskovec will race the Daytona 200 on Saturday.