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Feb 28, 2001

First Person/Opinion: AMA Season Preview, Part Three

Part Three:<BR>Genuine Suzuki Accessories 750cc Supersport<BR><BR>The 750cc Supersport series returns in 2001 with new sponsor Genuine Suzuki Accessories, an increased Championship bonus program, and a new rule. No longer will 600s have a minimum weight requirement to enter the 750cc class, but the power-to-weight ratio of the latest GSX-R750 has made riding a 600cc in the class an exercise in futility. Defending 750cc Supersport Champion John Hopkins is not expected to campaign the whole season, but Hopkins' younger Valvoline EGMO Suzuki teammate, 16-year-old Texan Ben Spies, will. Spies qualified on the front row for his first-ever 750 race at Mid-Ohio last year. A stronger and smarter Spies could eclipse his own teammate as the youngest AMA Champion ever if he gets the job done. Spies will be armed with pro-racer-turned-mechanic Shane Clarke setting up the bike like only a ex-racer can.<BR><BR>The strongest favorite for the 750cc Championship would have to be Jimmy Moore. Moore leaves the Ricci Motorsports team after many years to join a team returning to AMA competition after a similar length of time. Past race winner Moore will ride for Landers Sevier's EBSCO Suzuki team, sponsored by Corona Extra. Moore, 33, will be teamed up with 17-year-old Tony "The Tiger" Meiring, perhaps the youngest beer-sponsored rider in U.S. road racing history. Champion dirt tracker Meiring struggled with a Honda CBR600F4 in Pro competition in 2000, but has quickly taken a liking to his Suzuki GSX-R750. EBSCO Suzuki will field a third bike with Czech immigrant Vaclav "Vincent" Haskovec at the controls. Haskovec, 26, has shown flashes of brilliance, especially at his home track Willow Springs, but has yet to put together a strong National season.<BR><BR>Two-time Suzuki Cup Champion Mike Ciccotto will be back with Steve DeCamp's successful Hooters Suzuki program and could be a serious contender for the title. <BR><BR>Another strong contender in the Suzuki-spec class will be 1998 AMA 750cc Champion Richie Alexander. After a bout with Lyme disease derailed his promising career in 1999, Alexander, 28, is back for 2001 riding with Attack Suzuki on Dunlop tires.<BR><BR>Gary Ricci's Bardahl-backed Ricci Motorsports team will return with back-in-racing Tony Lupo as well as Scott Gooch, with appearances by young gun Jake Holden. Lupo was a 750cc Supersport regular and podium finisher when he ran the series from 1995-1997. In the meantime, Lupo had some bad luck and a run-in with the law related to domestic violence. Lupo now returns to master the new generation GSX-R750 as well as his temper. Gooch comes from regional racing success in the Northwest for his first full AMA season. Holden will stay close to home while he still learns the ropes of professional racing and run in selected West Coast events.<BR><BR>Wild card entries in 750cc Supersport competition will include 21-year-old Chris Ulrich riding a Vesrah-backed Suzuki. Ulrich will be racing his first year of four-strokes after a successful teenage career on Grand Prix two-strokes. A second-generation 24-Hour Endurance race winner, Ulrich has already proven that he is in top physical shape and up to speed in pre-season testing. He'll run Metzeler tires.<BR><BR>Arclight Suzuki is planning on making some AMA 750cc Supersport appearances like the one that saw Lee Acree podium at Daytona last spring. After a successful 2000 season in WERA and F-USA competition, Arclight has stepped their program up for 2001 with F-USA Sportbike and three-time Suzuki Cup Champion Acree teamed with Northern California's Brian Parriott. As a true privateer, Parriott has shown in the past that he can ride with the factory stars. Now with Suzuki support, Parriott has a real chance to be a star himself. Both will ride on Pirelli tires.