MONTEREY, Calif. (July 13) — GEICO Honda rider Chris Ulrich represented his sponsor well in its first international motorcycle race, the FIM World Superbike Championship, GEICO Motorcycle U.S. Round, Sunday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, logging finishes of 17th and 19th in an international field of 27 elite riders.
Teammate Jake Zemke of Paso Robles, Calif., also put in a solid effort at his home race, taking ninth place in the AMA Pro Daytona SportBike race. It was Zemke’s fifth top-10 result in six starts this year aboard his GEICO Motorcycle Honda CBR600RR.
“This was a really cool experience,” Ulrich said. “There’s not many people that get to race at this level and I thank GEICO and Pirelli for allowing me this opportunity. We raced as hard as we could, given the differences between what we run domestically to what these guys run on an international level, and in that second race we came darn close to earning points in a world championship. That’s something even fewer people can say they’ve done.
“If we get the chance to do this again, and I think we will next year, we’ll build a specific motor that can run against these guys. It’s humbling to see the talent level in World Superbike and it has motivated me to dig deeper as a rider.”
Starting in the No. 26 grid position in both races, Ulrich ran clean lines and was able to stay out of trouble, including two crashes in the second race that caused red-flag stoppages.
In between the two World Superbike races, Zemke had his chance to shine. Staring in the third row after qualifying eighth, Zemke survived the initial shakeout at the start of the race and found himself in a third pack of riders all vying for eighth place. Eventually, Zemke and rider Blake Young paired off and battled for the spot for the remaining 20 laps, with Young managing to stay ahead of Zemke at the finish.
“There were areas of the track were I was definitely faster than Blake, and if I had been able to get around him I would have been at least half a second quicker on the lap times,” Zemke said. “But whenever we got to an area when we were wide open he would put a little gap back on me.
“We seem to be in this same zone every race. We are getting incrementally better each time out, but it takes a while to see a change because you literally make gains in hundredths or even thousandths of a second. You don’t suddenly find five horses (horsepower); you find like half a horse or a third of a horse. We’ll keep after it.”
Zemke and Ulrich race again next weekend at the AMA Pro event at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.