SONOMA, Calif. (May 5) — GEICO Motorcycle rider Jake Zemke was staring at a podium finish in the Arai Pacific Nationals, the second round of the GEICO Motorcycle Superbike Shootout, when the unthinkable happened Sunday at Sonoma Raceway.
Zemke’s Honda slipped out from under him, and while trying to regain control Zemke was clipped from behind. Three riders, including Joe Roberts and Benny Solis Jr., tumbled off the track and out of the SportBike race.
“It was unfortunate for the GEICO Motorcycle team,” Zemke said. “We were definitely looking at the podium this weekend. I guess we’ll just have to roll on to Utah and Miller Motorsports Park, take that momentum, and go forward.”
SuperBike teammate Chris Ulrich is looking forward to the race at Miller as well after making significant progress in Sonoma. Ulrich had a wild race, starting eighth before getting pinched in Turn 1 on the start and slipping back to 12th.
Ulrich, however, had one of the fastest bikes in the race, gaining two spots on the second lap and one more on Lap 4 and was eighth five laps into the 20-lap event. He was closing on seventh place with seven laps remaining when a tire issue slowed his progress.
“We were marching forward,” Ulrich said. “I got to eighth and was closing on seventh and sixth, and then one lap in Turn 4, all of a sudden the back comes around on decel, and I was like, ‘Uh, oh.’ ”
The rear tire got progressively worse on the right side, so all Ulrich could do was ride out a 10th-place finish.
“Overall, I was happy with my performance in the race,” Ulrich said. “We moved up, we made progress, we went faster. We got the bike finally working a lot better for me this morning and bested my qualifying time by about a second. That’s always pleasant to do in the race.
“With the SuperBike class, when you unload with no data it’s always tough. We’ll move on to Miller and we have data from Miller, so that’s a positive.”
Zemke made a solid start to his SportBike race, challenging for the lead on the opening lap before settling into second. He remained third past the halfway point while battling with Roberts and Solis.
“We had made some changes to the bike and kind of took a little bit of a gamble going into the race,” Zemke said. “We’re always trying to make things better, but we actually took a half-step backwards with the bike setup. It was a very small change, just a little tweak to try and make things better, and it probably made it a little bit worse. But we were still able to run competitive times.”
Heading uphill into the right-hand Turn 3A, Zemke’s bike started to slide.
“The rear end of the bike just broke around, broke traction really fast,” Zemke said. “It was a bit unexpected and I was in the process of saving that, and at the same time I believe Joe and Benny had both lost the front end of their bikes. I’m not sure if there might have been something on the track or if they might’ve been reacting to what they were seeing happening in front of them.
“I thought I just about had mine saved, and then all of a sudden the rear end of my bike just shot out from underneath me and threw me over the high side. I think one of the bikes behind me must’ve gotten into my bike. It sent me for a bit of a flip, and one of the bikes ended up hitting me in the helmet and I ended up down in the wall. It was an interesting ride.”
Zemke’s bike was banged up and so was he but otherwise he was fine.
“Yeah, a little beat up, a little bit sore, but all in all we’ll live to do it again at the next one. It’ll be all right. We’ll definitely be looking for that podium at Miller.”