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Feb 28, 2001

First Person/Opinion: AMA Season Preview, Part Four

Part Four:<BR>Lockhart-Phillips Formula Xtreme<BR><BR>Formula Xtreme has a new rule for 2001 saying that the "Frame may be modified but at least 50% of the original structure must be retained and approved by the AMA Pro Racing Technical Department." Although this would lead one to think that a complete R7 chassis with only a R1 steering head and VIN number grafted on to that chassis would be illegal, a bike like that has already been determined legal. The biggest determining factor will be the AMA approval part of the rule. With all four of the major motorcycle manufacturers producing a capable, liter-class sport bike now, there really is no longer a need to build a custom R7/R1 chassis in theory, but in practice that's exactly what some Yamaha teams are doing.<BR><BR>Considering that the AMA Formula Xtreme Championship has been won by Erion Racing every year that the class has existed, it is not difficult to pick the Kevin Erion-owned team as the favorite. But the FX class has grown and now features serious teams on three different makes of bikes, all taking great exception to Erion's favorite status.<BR><BR>With 1999 and 2000 Formula Xtreme champ Kurtis Roberts concentrating his efforts in 600cc Supersport and Superbike, the burden of keeping the Erion Honda streak alive is passed on to Jake Zemke and Mark Miller. Miller, 28, moves over from riding an R7/R1 hybrid for Attack Yamaha; Miller has won a race and set records while usually chasing the Erion CBRs. Now Miller will have to adapt to the CBR929RR, but has until May to do it because he will not be racing any other class and Formula Xtreme is not running at Daytona.<BR><BR>Zemke will be riding the same ex-Roberts bike that he rode to the season finale victory at Willow Springs in 2000. Josh Hayes finished third in the FX Championship in 2000 even while riding with a bad right arm and hand. Moving from the Erion camp to under the Erion-supported Bruce Transportation Group's awning for 2001, Hayes will still be on the mend from nerve transplant surgery to that arm but will still be a rider to be dealt with. <BR><BR>Team EMGO Valvoline Suzuki comes back for 2001 armed with the new GSX-R1000. In the hands of the newly-enlarged, Keith Perry-led crew, the Suzuki 1000 could set new standards for horsepower as long as Michelin can keep the bike hooked up. With riders Grant Lopez, 29, and John Hopkins, Valvoline EMGO Suzuki could dethrone Honda as the new leader in Formula Xtreme.<BR><BR>Also on the newest GSX-R1000 will be Pridmore and Alexander with Attack Suzuki. Pridmore should have no problem adjusting to the 1000 Suzuki's power coming straight from factory Superbike equipment, but Alexander may need an adjustment period to corral all of those horses.<BR><BR>Carrying the flag for Graves Yamaha aboard R7/R1s will be Damon Buckmaster and Aaron Gobert. Gobert has shown speed while adapting to his first 600cc racebike, but the R1 will require the climb of another steep learning curve. Buckmaster, on the other hand, has the talent and the drive to take the proven Graves R1 back to the podium where it finished the 2000 season with Vincent Haskovec riding.