SONOMA, Calif. (May 3) — Jake Zemke and the GEICO Motorcycle Honda team hope to build on a solid start to the Arai Pacific Nationals, the second round of the GEICO Motorcycle Superbike Shootout.
Zemke qualified third in the Dynojet Pro SportBike class on Saturday at Sonoma Raceway and will start from the front row in Sunday’s race.
“It’s always good to start from the front row,” Zemke said. “The race is always different than qualifying, but we’ll take the front row for now. We’re definitely looking for a little bit more out of the bike.”
Zemke’s best lap in qualifying was 1 minute, 39.878 seconds and for a time he was atop the SportBike class during the session. That performance came after he was second in practice, though his lap times were much quicker in qualifying.
“We’ve been making adjustments all weekend,” Zemke said. “I think we’re getting closer, for sure. The bike is working really well through the corners, and we’re trying to get that last little bit out of it. We’ll make a couple more changes in the morning to try a couple different things and get us ready for the race.”
Zemke finished third in the first Shootout race last weekend in Fontana, Calif., but hopes to race up front this weekend.
“The goal is to actually be in the race this week, as opposed to last weekend,” Zemke said. “It was a bit of a lonely race last weekend, so we want to get up there and mix it up with the boys this week.”
Zemke’s teammate, Chris Ulrich, hopes to mix it up with the RaceFuelZ SuperBike front-runners, but Ulrich admits he has some work to do for Sunday’s race. He was ninth in qualifying after getting acclimated to racing his GEICO Honda for the first time in Sonoma.
Ulrich took advantage of some extra track time through some classes of the American Federation of Motorcyclists, the sanctioning body for this event.
“We’re just working through everything,” Ulrich said. “It’s the first time here on the CBR1000RR, and sometimes life isn’t that easy when you unload with no data. It’s a good thing we had a few AFM races and practices to go through, so we’re a little farther ahead than we would’ve been.
“Still, not that satisfied, not happy at all, to be honest with you. We need to try to clean some things up for tomorrow and improve. I have faith in my crew and myself that we’ll improve in the race.”
Ulrich and his team improved his lap times throughout practice and hope to continue that trend Sunday.
“We made a substantial amount of progress from the start to the finish, so that was good,” Ulrich said. “It’s not enough, of course, so we need more steps. I think there’s a little bit of time in me, a little bit of time in the bike, and if we get those two together and talking to each other, we’ll be better off tomorrow in the race.”
Both riders have practice Sunday morning before the race, where final adjustments are made to make the bikes as fast as possible.
“Sonoma is probably the most physically demanding track we go to all year,” Zemke said. “There’s not one spot on this racetrack where you get to relax and rest at all. It’s pretty constant, back and forth, with elevation changes and everything else. There are some really hard braking areas, and it definitely keeps you on your toes.
“I’ve done enough races here to know that a good bike setup will definitely pay dividends at the end of the race. If you can get through the race a little bit easier than the rest of the guys, it’ll definitely pay off in the end.”