RAPP IS STILL CONFIDENT IN AMA FORMULA XTREME
Jordan Suzuki now a true Superstock contender with Yates
PICKERINGTON, Ohio (April 25, 2007) Steve Rapp won't be able to sneak up on anyone this year after scoring the biggest victory of his career in the Daytona 200 in March. The Attack Kawasaki rider from Manhattan Beach, Calif., comes to round three of the Lockhart-Phillips USA Formula Xtreme Series presented by HMR the series leader, still brimming with confidence from his opening round victory.
Rapp didn't seem overly concerned that defending Formula Xtreme champ Josh Hayes romped to a six-second victory on the Erion Honda last week at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. Rapp still holds the top spot in the rankings, but Hayes closed the gap and now sits just three points back.
"I know Josh is going to be tough, but I don't worry too much about the race last week at Barber," Rapp said. "When Ben [Rapp's teammate Ben Attard] crashed in front of me that allowed Josh to get away. I still feel like I've got what it takes to win the championship. I'm going to Fontana with a positive attitude. I think we'll be fine."
Hayes was thrilled to win and pull almost even with Rapp in the standings after barely avoiding disaster at Daytona when his bike and the other factory Hondas experienced problems in the Daytona 200 opener.
"It's a great way to get the season turned back in the right direction," Hayes said. "Honda has given me such a great bike this year. I felt so comfortable at Barber. It gets me excited to try to do it all over again at Fontana and the rest of the season."
Another rider showing tremendous progress is Australian Aaron Gobert, also riding for Erion Honda. Gobert turned in a perfect last lap last week in Alabama and made a brilliant pass on Rapp to score second, giving his team a one-two finish. It marked Gobert's first podium since the race at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah last summer.
"I had surgery on my wrist this off-season and it's made all the difference in the world," Gobert said. "I could hardly even reach for the front brake in the races last year. Now that I'm fully fit it's time for me to step up and show what I'm capable of."
Gobert had no points coming out of the season opener after his bike's problems, but his second in Alabama has moved him inside the top-10 in the standings. He will be looking to progress even higher in the standings at Fontana.
Georgian Ryan Elleby is third in the standings with a pair of top-10 finishes in the first two rounds on the Rockwall Honda. Formula Xtreme front-runner Michael Barnes had clutch issues with his M4 EMGO Suzuki on the start of the race last week. Barnes pitted for an adjustment then rejoined the race to fight his way back to 15th. He comes to Fontana ranked fourth. Privateer Joshua Day from Orlando, Fla., is a very solid fifth in the series. The Floridian rides a Yamaha sponsored by Blown Away Racing and Hank Lowrey Electric.
Jordan Suzuki hoped for big things when it hired former factory rider Aaron Yates. The hire paid off big in only the second race of the season. Yates scored the very first victory for the team when he won the AMA Superstock final at Barber last weekend. It was sheer jubilation for the team, who is in its fourth season in the series.
"It feels good to be the rider to finally give this team a victory," Yates said after winning last week. "I had a good feeling about this season. Everyone on the team is so hungry to win and work so hard to get to where we need to be. This is the first step. We've got to keep it going from here."
Not only did Yates win the race, he tied Yoshimura Suzuki's Ben Spies for the series lead. The tiebreaker comes this weekend in Fontana. The second Jordan Suzuki rider, Jake Holden, was second at Barber, so the team seems to have made that breakthrough to be able to compete head to head with the factory teams in the series.
Graves Yamaha's Ben Bostrom is doing his best at breaking up the Suzuki stranglehold on the class. Bostrom is a close third, just four points out of the series lead, coming to Fontana. "I've just got to put my head down and get up their with those Suzuki boys," Bostrom said. "I'm approaching Fontana the same way I have all year. Yamaha's given me a great bike with the R1 and I'm going to ride aggressive and hopefully it will be our turn to get a win."
M4 EMGO Suzuki's Geoff May and Matsushima Suzuki's Danny Eslick are both very much in the Superstock championship hunt. The two run fourth and fifth respectively in the series and a good race at California Speedway could easily move them up in the standings.
The Lockhart-Phillips USA Formula Xtreme Series presented by HMR and AMA Superstock Series races are part of the AMA Suzuki Superbike Challenge at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif., on April 27-29. The Formula Xtreme and Supersport races will be shown on SPEED on Sunday, May 6 at 2:00 pm Eastern.
Tickets for the AMA Suzuki Superbike Challenge are available online at www.californiaspeedway.com Admission is free for ages 12 and under with a paid adult General Admission.