Mar 29, 2002
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<BR><BR>Copyright 2002, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.<BR><BR>By David Swarts<BR><BR>HMC Ducati's Doug Chandler, Kawasaki's Tommy Hayden and Graves Motorsports Yamaha's Damon Buckmaster finished a three-day test at Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca with the fastest Superbike, Supersport and Formula Xtreme lap times, respectively, all on Dunlop race tires.<BR><BR>After lapping consistently in the mid-1:26s all week, Chandler mounted a fresh 587-compound, or "medium", rear Dunlop to his new Ducati 998RS Superbike and turned a 1:25.65. The next fastest riders at the test did 1:26.2s.<BR><BR>"We did what we set out to do," said a smiling Chandler Thursday afternoon. "I didn't want to do anything silly. We've got a long year in front of us. There's no sense getting in a rush trying to get used to this new bike. I took it one day at a time and got more and more comfortable with it. The times actually came easier than I expected. The first day, I didn't expect to be as close to the rest of the guys as we were. I figured in three days we should be pretty close, but to be out front made me think we could go even better yet. It just makes me feel really good about the whole thing."<BR><BR>Kawasaki's Eric Bostrom ended his test on a positive note after clocking a 1:26.2 late Thursday on his ZX-7RR. "When it came down to just riding the thing this weekend, I probably didn't do a good enough job. I had trouble switching from tester-mode to racer-mode. But still, I rode pretty well. It's definitely a job to do 1:26s around here. As an example, last July on Saturday morning I went out and did some low-1:26s. In the afternoon session, I couldn't even do a 1:26, (the track) changed that much." Bostrom won the 2001 AMA Superbike race at Laguna Seca convincingly.<BR><BR>The key to Bostrom's success during the test was finding and fixing a problem with the bike's front end Wednesday night.<BR><BR>Team Blimpie Yoshimura Suzuki's Aaron Yates worked with changes to the internals of his forks and shock to tie for the third-fastest Superbike time Thursday at 1:26.6. "I really wanted to work with the Superbike some," said Yates. "We've been trying all kinds of different things. We had a big plan for the test, and we pretty much got through everything. The Superbike is feeling real good to me now, and I'm pretty happy."<BR><BR>Another Yoshimura rider that was happy, surprisingly happy, was Mat Mladin. After riding about 30 laps on day one of the test, Mladin ended day two early after approximately eight laps, due to pain and stiffness in the left elbow he injured in a Daytona qualifying crash. Although he said that his arm wasn't much better Thursday, Mladin gritted his teeth, put in a full day of painful riding and ended the final day with a best time of 1:26.6.<BR><BR>"I'm just recovering," Mladin said of his effort at Laguna. "It's just been difficult trying to get anything done when you can't ride like you really need to ride hard to get the testing done. It's been a bit of a pain in the butt, but that's the way it goes sometimes. As the old saying goes, ‘You get that on the big jobs.'"<BR><BR>Team Blimpie Yoshimura Suzuki's rider Jamie Hacking finished with a strong lap time of 1:26.8 in only one day of testing on his Superbike with two new crew members. "It went excellent," stated Hacking. "I'm really happy with my lap time. This morning we were stuck in the 1:28.0s, then Boom! We went 1:27.2s right away. I think we can make that step again and drop another half-second easy. Another half-second and we'll be right there with everybody else, right there with the Hondas."<BR><BR>Hacking credited a change in wheel width and rear suspension for his improvement, but said that he still needed more power for better acceleration.<BR><BR>Yamaha's Anthony Gobert ended his test program with a best lap of 1:27.4 on Thursday. Gobert started on his Supersport bike in the morning before switching to his Superbike before lunch. Gobert crashed unhurt just before the 12:30 p.m. break and then decided that he would sit out the rest of the day.<BR><BR>"Because of the injuries I got from crashing at Daytona, I wasn't able to train really at all leading up to this test," explained Gobert. "I got through the first two days and the first part of this day, but I'm just getting to the point where I'm feeling a bit fatigued. There's really no sense in going out there and risking crashing and an injury or something when I'm not feeling 100%"<BR> <BR>Despite no-one threatening his best Supersport time of 1:29.6, Kawasaki's Tommy Hayden pushed his ZX-6R in the heat of the day Thursday afternoon to turn an even faster 1:28.96, 0.7-second faster than the next Supersport rider at the test. <BR><BR>"The biggest problem here for the 600 is chatter because the fast corners are pretty rough," said the eldest Hayden brother. "It seems like every year, no matter what bike I'm on, I'm fighting that. I feel like we have a pretty good handle on that now."<BR><BR>Hayden's teammate Tony Meiring finished off the 12 sets of Dunlops his crew brought for the test Thursday afternoon preventing him from bettering his 1:31.00 from Thursday morning. "We're getting closer," said the 18-year-old. "We have a couple of things here and there that hurt me. We just need to keep working on it and get it better. We've just got to take our time to get there. We can't rush things, can't get into big messes or anything, gotta stay on two wheels, gotta stay running – that's the way you learn."<BR><BR>After the test of his Yamaha YZF-R6 Superport bike ended with unfinished business Thursday morning, Buckmaster was able to leave Laguna Seca Thursday evening with a smile. Not only did Buckmaster record the fastest Formula Xtreme lap time of the three days, but the 2001 AMA FX class runner-up found a much better set-up than what he used to win last year's Formula Xtreme race at Laguna on his Yamaha YZF-R7 with an F1 engine.<BR><BR>Thursday's best unofficial lap times:<BR><BR>1. Doug Chandler, Ducati 998RS, 1:25.65<BR>2. Eric Bostrom, Kawasaki ZX-7RR, 1:26.27<BR>3. Mat Mladin, Suzuki GSX-R750, 1:26.6<BR>4. Aaron Yates, Suzuki GSX-R750, 1:26.6<BR>5. Jamie Hacking, Suzuki GSX-R750, 1:26.8<BR>6. Anthony Gobert, Yamaha YZF-R7, 1:27.4<BR>7. Damon Buckmaster, Yamaha YZF-R1/R7, 1:27.4<BR>8. Tommy Hayden, Kawasaki ZX-6R, 1:28.9<BR>9. Anthony Gobert, Yamaha YZF-R6, 1:30.2<BR>10. Damon Buckmaster, Yamaha YZF-R6, 1:30.4<BR>11. Tony Meiring, Kawasaki ZX-6R, 1:31.0<BR><BR>Best unofficial lap times of the entire test (as provided by each rider's Crew Chief):<BR><BR>1. Doug Chandler, Ducati 998RS, 1:25.65<BR>2. Nicky Hayden, Honda RC51, 1:26.22<BR>3. Kurtis Roberts, Honda RC51, 1:26.25<BR>4. Eric Bostrom, Kawasaki ZX-7RR, 1:26.27<BR>5. Mat Mladin, Suzuki GSX-R750, 1:26.6<BR>6. Aaron Yates, Suzuki GSX-R750, 1:26.6<BR>7. Anthony Gobert, Yamaha YZF-R7, 1:26.7<BR>8. Jamie Hacking, Suzuki GSX-R750, 1:26.8<BR>9. Miguel Duhamel, Honda RC51, 1:27.1<BR>10. Damon Buckmaster, Yamaha YZF-R1/R7, 1:27.4<BR>11. Jake Zemke, Honda CBR954RR, 1:28.0<BR>12. Roger Lee Hayden, Honda CBR954RR, 1:28.4<BR>13. Tommy Hayden, Kawasaki ZX-6R, 1:28.9<BR>14. Anthony Gobert, Yamaha YZF-R6, 1:29.6<BR>15. Mike Hale, Honda CBR954RR, 1:29.7<BR>16. Jamie Hacking, Suzuki GSX-R600, 1:30.0<BR>17. Aaron Yates, Suzuki GSX-R600, 1:30.0<BR>18. Alex Gobert, Honda CBR954RR, 1:30.1<BR>19. Damon Buckmaster, Yamaha YZF-R6, 1:30.4<BR>20. Mike Hale, Honda CBR600F4i, 1:30.4<BR>21. Tony Meiring, Kawasaki ZX-6R, 1:31.0<BR>22. Roger Lee Hayden, Honda CBR600F4i, 1:31.1<BR>23. Jake Zemke, Honda CBR600F4i, 1:31.2<BR>24. Alex Gobert, Honda CBR600F4i, 1:31.7 <BR>