Team Hammer enjoyed a spectacular opening to the 2016 MotoAmerica AMA/FIM North American Road Racing Championship season at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, securing the 139th podium of its storied history.
Adding to that excitement was the fact that it was taken by series newcomer, Valentin Debise on the M4 SportbikeTrackGear.com Suzuki GSX-R600. Frenchman Debise instantly signaled his intent to be a serious player in this year’s Supersport title fight by kicking off his MotoAmerica career with an impressive third-place result.
The former Moto2, World Endurance and World Supersport competitor clung onto the battle for the lead just long enough to stretch out a sizable gap over the fight for fourth. That early padding ultimately proved invaluable as Debise narrowly fought off a competitor’s late attempt to steal away the spot.
“My race went well,” 23-year-old Debise said. “I knew the front two guys were really fast and I tried to push hard and stay with them in the beginning. After they got away, I just focused on myself and my bike. I tried to manage the gap behind me and just post steady lap times. The last three laps were quite difficult as the rear tire went away, but I managed it the best I could and finished the job on the final lap.”
M4 SportbikeTrackGear.com Suzuki teammate Cameron Petersen also opened his ’16 campaign in solid fashion, picking up a sixth-place finish. After qualifying one spot behind Debise in fourth, the South African was embroiled in a spirited battle for that same position for much of the contest. In the end, he missed out on a top-five finish by less than two tenths of a second, despite clocking an even faster lap time in the race than his qualifying time.
The team’s 17-year-old rookie Xavier Zayat was a wild card entry in the weekend’s Supersport race with the Superstock 600 championship not slated to start until next weekend at Road Atlanta. The rising star picked up some valuable seat time on his M4 SportbikeTrackGear.com Suzuki GSX-R600 in Texas. He qualified eighth on the grid — second among STK600 regulars — but did not finish the race, pulling in and telling his crew that he did not feel comfortable on the cold-tearing rear tire.
Meanwhile, M4 MedAge Suzuki’s Chris Ulrich registered a pair of points-paying finishes in this year’s deep and talented combined Superstock/Superstock 1000 field.
Ulrich put his Superbike spec GSX-R1000 on the outside of Row 5, qualifying 15th overall. He backed that up with a 13th-place ride on Saturday and a 15th-place finish on Sunday.
Those performances have the Californian fifth when compared against his fellow Superbike class competitors after the season-opening races.
There will be no time to rest and reflect for Team Hammer. Round 2 of the 2016 MotoAmerica season takes place next weekend, April 15-17, at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia.