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Jun 9, 2011

Jake Zemke To Race In British Superbike Championship Event At Knockhill

Jake Zemke (54) as seen during the 2010 season, when he raced and won for the National Guard Suzuki AMA Superbike team.
Former AMA Formula Xtreme Champion and former Daytona 200 winner Jake Zemke will race the WFR Honda CBR1000RR in the British Superbike Championship EVO class June 17-19 at Knockhill, in Scotland.

"I'm heading over there, going to try it out and see what it's all about," Zemke told Thursday in a telephone interview. "Stuart Higgs, who is the Race Director in BSB, had gotten a hold of me saying there could be a possibility with the [WFR Honda] team."

The opportunity came about when British Superbike EVO Championship point leader Alex Lowes and the team parted ways after round three over a contract dispute, according to the BBC. Lowes (the twin brother of World Supersport rider Sam Lowes) went on to fill in for injured Stuart Easton on the MSS Colchester Kawasaki Superbike team, and WFR Honda started looking for a replacement rider.

"We had initially talked about getting over for the last race at Thruxton," said Zemke, "but things didn't come together timing-wise for that. But we continued to stay in touch, and things worked out for me to head over to this next race at Knockhill."

Asked about the terms of the deal, Zemke said, "We're just going to take it one step at a time. The plan as of right now is to just go over, do this race at Knockhill and we'll just go from there and see how things work out. We have talked about the possibility of finishing out the season if things work out, but it depends on how we're both feeling about it."

The EVO class is made up of 1000cc production bikes tuned to a lower technical level than the 1000cc machines of the premier British Superbike, which are very similar to World Superbike-level machinery, and the EVO class is run as a race within the premier British Superbike race. But it doesn't bother Zemke to be racing in what is essentially a support class as much as it bothered him not to be racing at all.

"It is what it is," said Zemke. "I'll have to beat the guys in the EVO class. That will be my first job, and if we can get it in there and mix it up with any of the front guys, obviously, that will bode well. But it is gonna be tough going in there knowing I'm at a disadvantage against the full-blown Superbike guys, but at the same time it will be kind of easy because there won't be any pressure. As long as I'm beating the EVO guys there won't be any pressure to beat the other guys while I'm learning the bike and the team and the track and everything else. At the same time I'd rather be on a full-blown Superbike racing against all the guys for the overall win.

"But it's a good opportunity to get back out on a bike. I haven't ridden since Daytona. I went to Infineon and Miller, and it definitely bothered me to be at the racetrack and not racing. After watching my fellow AMA guys racing this last weekend at Road America I'm itching to get back out on a bike and get racing. I'm just happy to have the opportunity to go do that.

"The racing over there is really good, really close. It seems like they've got quite a few teams and the grid's fairly large [with] good manufacturer support. It seems like they have some good sponsors, and the crowds seem pretty good.

"Me and Hopper [John Hopkins] have been messaging each other, and he seems to be enjoying himself over there and having a good time. I know John pretty well already, so it will be nice to have someone that I can talk to and hang out with a little bit."

Zemke won't have to wait long, as he said his big British Superbike adventure starts Friday.

"I'm jumping on a plane here tomorrow, heading over to Silverstone," said Zemke. "I'll be able to pick up the GP Sunday, and I'll get my first chance to ride the bike on Monday. We'll play it by ear and see how it goes, but obviously the team is excited to have me. I'm looking forward to it. I'm just happy to get back on a bike and get back to racing."