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by John Ulrich
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Aprilia U.S.A. spokesmen have confirmed that they will back two independent race teams in 2001, one being Pennsylvania-based Blackmans Cycle and the other being Arizona-based Buona Fortuna Racing, a new team formed by 2000 Aprilia Cup Challenge Champion Aaron Clarke and Crew Chief Gary Stiles with secondary sponsorship from Pro Italia. Aprilia officials have stressed that the two teams are independent operations and are not factory efforts, and that the support provided by Aprilia USA consists of bikes and parts with a limited cash contribution.
Stiles and Bill Himmelsbach, the Crew Chief for Blackmans Cycle, attended the Aprilia RSV Mille and Aprilia RSV Mille R press intro at Miami-Dade International Speedway in Homestead, Florida on Tuesday, January 16. The two teams will both use RSV Mille R models to compaign in the Formula USA Unlimited Superbike Series.
Blackmans' primary rider will be Mike Himmelsbach, with Chris Carr also riding a Blackmans bike at Daytona and Vincent Haskovec riding a Blackmans bike at Formula USA events after Daytona. The Buona Fortuna machine will be ridden by Clarke, who credits much of his 2000 success to working with Stiles.
Blackmans Cycle spells its name without an apostrophe even though the original founder was Leon Blackman, who started the business in 1956. The company is owned by Kathy Blackman-Bickford, widow of Gary Blackman, who ran the business from 1976 until he died in a plane crash in 1997. Gary and Kathy Blackman's son, Mark, works in the parts department at Blackmans, which sells Aprilia, Ducati, Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, BMW and Triumph. Kris Bickford, the Blackmans Cycle Race Team Manager, is married to Kathy Blackman-Bickford.