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Jan 21, 2002

Graves Begins 2002 WSMC Reign By Winning Four Races

Copyright 2002, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.

By David Swarts

Graves Yamaha's Chuck Graves began his reign as the WSMC Overall Champion Sunday at Willow Springs International Raceway by winning all four races he started. Graves won in 600cc Superstock, 650cc Superbike, Formula Two and the feature event, the Toyota Cup Unlimited Formula One Grand Prix, on his Dunlop-shod Yamaha YZF-R6 and YZF-R7/R1 hybrid. Other big winners on the day included Lee's Cycles' Jeremy Toye, Elite Racing's Jack Pfeiffer and's Chris Peris.

Toye started his 2002 season by leading the Formula One race into turn one on his Dunlop-slick-equipped, Supersport-spec Suzuki GSX-R750. Graves, riding his R7/R1 Formula Xtreme bike, followed Toye into the first corner, but Graves led out of the first turn of the 12-lap final. No Limit Motorsports' Jason Curtis, riding an ex-Graves Yamaha YZF-R1 Formula Xtreme bike, and Jack Pfeifer, on a Suzuki GSX-R1000, quickly joined Graves and Toye to make it a foursome at the front.

Toye, Curtis and Graves each took a turn leading the race, but Graves soon took control. Running lap times as low as 1:22.2, Graves pulled out a lead over Toye that reached a maximum of two full seconds. Then in the second half of the race, Toye amazed himself by reeling in Graves with 1:22.2 laps of his own. Toye closed the gap steadily in the closing laps but came up 0.6-second short at the finish line.

With his horsepower advantage diluted by an ailing transmission, Curtis held third over Pfeifer for most of the race, while Richard Headley worked his way forward from the 18th spot on the grid. Riding a 2002 Ducati 998RS customer-spec World Superbike that reportedly hit 171 rear-wheel horsepower on the mobile dyno at Willow Springs during the weekend, Headley caught the duel for third on lap seven. Headley passed both Pfeifer and then Curtis in turn nine on successive laps and finished third.

Curtis continued to battle with Pfeifer until the start of the last lap when Curtis' transmission blew going into turn one. Pfeifer cruised home to fourth. Fifth place went to California Superbike School instructor Stoney Landers. Landers rode a Suzuki GSX-R750 that he never rode until his first race Sunday morning. Stephen Hewitt, Owen Richey, Robert Christman, Jeff Stern and Darren Fulce rounded out the top 10.

Toye didn't go home empty-handed. The San Diego rider earned wins in 750cc Supersport, 750cc Modified Production and 750cc Superbike. Headley also won in Formula Twins and Formula 40 Heavyweight on his Ducati. Pfeifer collected first-place trophies for Open Superstock and Open Modified Production, while Hewitt won Open Superbike on his Yamaha YZF-R1.

Sixteen-year-old Chris Peris walked away from a turn-three highside in an early race and returned to take a win in one of the day's best sprints. After getting off his Suzuki GSX-R600, young Canadian Peris got a slow start in the 600cc Modified Production race on his more familiar Yamaha YZF-R6. Peris was in about 10th place in the first corner and began to move forward as his confidence came back. On lap three of six, Peris joined the lead group of seven and began picking off positions. On the last lap, Peris positioned himself well in third, caught a draft from Michael Leon going into eight, then caught another draft from leader Jacob West coming out of the final corner and beat West to the flag. With the 2001 WSMC 125cc Championship already to his credit, Peris added his first 600cc win to his growing resume.

The event saw the debut of WSMC's new 250cc Grand Prix race, with 12 entrants. Frank Aragaki won on a Yamaha TZ250 from Mark Watts on a Honda RS250, Darren Fulce on a Yamaha, new AMA Trustee John Ulrich on a Yamaha and Gene Redmon on another Yamaha.

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