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Apr 30, 2002

HMC Ducati's Sears Point Preview

From a press release from HMC Ducati:<BR><BR>Round three of the AMA Superbike Championship at Sears Point this weekend is the first of an almost uninterrupted series of back-to-back races right up until August 9 when the Championship ends in Virginia. After a four week race break, the teams begin a stint of races every two weeks – bar one round – for the remaining eight rounds. The HMC Ducati Team head to Sears Point confident of a good result after last round's performance, when Doug Chandler finish just shy of the podium, and a successful test at Atlanta two weeks ago.<BR><BR>Sears Point Raceway has recently undergone remodeling, beginning with the resurfacing of a number of the higher speed corners, modifying the road circuit to eliminate the drag strip, fixing a water seepage problem and increasing the run-off areas in certain corners. The planned $50 million upgrade to the Californian raceway is still on-going and many of the discussed modifications will not be complete by the first of the double header races on Saturday, but Doug Chandler feels that what Sears has accomplished so far has greatly improved the safety and rider enjoyment of the racetrack.<BR><BR>The layout of the course is tight and twisty, featuring predominantly right hand corners with plenty of crests and elevation changes and varying degrees of negative and positive camber. It's the left-hander called the Carousel that is going to keep riders and technicians on their toes. Not only is it the longest corner of the track, it's the most difficult to master. But once you have worked it out, the rest of the track is smooth sailing. If the bike can handle the elevation change of the Carousel it should work well on most other corners and if the rider finds the right line, they've set themselves up to get on the throttle hard – probably the only chance they'll have to open it fully.<BR><BR>Even though the repaved sections should improve lap times, it will cause a problem with bike set-up and tires. The varying differences between the new and older surfaces will require a well balanced bike and the ‘green' asphalt will have sharp edges until a suitable amount of rubber is laid, by both cars and bikes, to smooth the surface. Since its repaving there have been race schools and NASCAR testing but from his time at Sears, the weekend after the Fontana race, Chandler felt it would cause additional tire wear.<BR><BR>To counteract these problems, HMC Ducati's technicians will focus their attention on the forks and shock, opening up the valving and letting the oil flow more freely. Loosening the compression damping and opening the compression will make the bike work off rebound. This is a set-up they have already accomplished at the mid-April Atlanta test, under similar track conditions.<BR><BR>It's hard to imagine that Sears Point is the first road-race track that Doug Chandler ever rode on. It's a track he's always been fond of and boasts some very good results at, but so far no win. This weekend may just change that.