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Copyright 2001, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.
By David Swarts
Yamaha's Anthony Gobert and Aaron Gobert recorded the fastest lap times among Superbike and 600cc Supersport riders, respectively, during the first day of the annual Dunlop tire tests at Daytona International Speedway.
The day started late while the track dried after overnight rains. All riders ran for about one hour on the track before an isolated shower put a halt to on-track activities around 1:00 p.m. At approximately 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the track went green and remained dry until 5:00 p.m., at the end of the day. Most riders started on their 600cc Supersport bikes except for those racers who race in the Superbike class only. Mat Mladin, Eric Bostrom and Pascal Picotte rode their Superbikes all day.
Yoshimura Suzuki's Mladin started the fireworks by recording a 1:51.537 early in the day on a 2002-model GSX-R750 Superbike equipped with a revised engine and a new four-into-two-into-one-into-two exhaust pipe that replaced the four-into-one system from his 2001 machine. Mladin did relatively few laps during the day as his crew spent a lot of time working with his new bike's rear suspension.
Later in the afternoon, American Honda's Nicky Hayden roared out of the pits on his 2002 RC51 and was instantly quicker than he had lapped earlier in the day on his 2001 Honda Superbike. Distinguished by its single exhaust canister and army of HRC attendants always near it, Hayden's new bike carried him to a 1:51.301 almost immediately. Hayden later said that the new bike was very stable on the banking and that it had more power than his 2001 bike.
Then at the very end of the day, Anthony Gobert got fired up and did a string of laps with eight of them in the 1:51s, with a best of 1:51.275 to take the first day's top honors.
Holding up his end of the family name, 21-year-old Aaron Gobert, in his first time on a 600 at Daytona, made the quickest lap among all of the AMA 600cc stars. Aaron Gobert's 1:55.085 was 0.2-second faster than the second-fastest time turned by Nicky Hayden.
2001 Formula USA Champion Shawn Higbee clocked the fifth fastest overall time Monday on his F-USA Unlimited Superbike GSX-R750 on Dunlop DOT-labeled tires. Later during the warm afternoon, Higbee became the only crash victim, falling uninjured at the entrance of the chicane. "I was in there pretty good and had a lot of lean angle," said Higbee. "Then I lost the front big, but I thought I could save it. Then I hit the dirt and I was done. I'm okay, though."
Pascal Picotte and HMC Ducati crew made steady progress through the day with the 2002 998 and spirits were definitely high in the team's pits at days end. Picotte's best lap, 1:53.526, came after just a few laps on the 2002 Ducati 998.
Miguel Duhamel's new/old Crew Chief Al Ludington was not at Daytona International Speedway Monday. Ludington attended the AMA awards banquet Friday, December 7 in Palm Springs, California and returned home at 3:00 a.m.; Ludington then had to be at the International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach, California at 8:00 a.m. the next morning before flying out of Los Angeles on a "red-eye" overnight Saturday night to Florida. After arriving in Daytona Sunday, Ludington got a call from his wife to tell him that she was about to give birth to their first child. Ludington got back on another plane to return to Southern California and will most likely miss the entire test.
Monday Lap Times (From the AMA scoring system or directly from the rider's Crew Chief):
1. Anthony Gobert, Yamaha YZF-R7, 1:51.275
2. Nicky Hayden, Honda RC51, 1:51.301
3. Mat Mladin, Suzuki GSX-R750, 1:51.462
4. Eric Bostrom, Kawasaki ZX-7RR, 1:51.873
5. Shawn Higbee, F-USA Suzuki GSX-R750, 1:53.134
6. Pascal Picotte, Ducati 998, 1:53.526
7. Kurtis Roberts, Honda RC51, 1:53.634
8. Aaron Gobert, Yamaha YZF-R6, 1:55.085
9. Nicky Hayden, Honda CBR600F4i, 1:55.285
10. Miguel Duhamel, Honda CBR600F4i, 1:55.406
11. Anthony Gobert, Yamaha YZF-R6, 1:55.488
12. Tommy Hayden, Kawasaki ZX-6R, 1:55.594
13. Mike Hale, Honda CBR600F4i, 1:55.614
14. Jake Zemke, Honda CBR600F4i, 1:55.727
15. Jamie Hacking, Suzuki GSX-R600, 1:55.757
16. Kurtis Roberts, Honda CBR600F4i, 1:55.761
17. Aaron Yates, Suzuki GSX-R600, 1:55.890
18. Alex Gobert, Honda CBR600F4i, 1:58.520
The Dunlop tire tests continue through Wednesday, December 12 with a forecast that calls for above average temperatures and only a small chance of rain.