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Grant Lopez used a 2001 Suzuki GSX-R1000 to break the motorcycle track record at Homestead Miami Speedway en route to winning the Unlimited Grand Prix race during a CCS regional event Sunday. Lopez, who had set the previous record at Homestead in December of 1999 on an 840cc GSX-R750 Formula Xtreme bike, broke the record three times during the six-lap race, eventually setting it at 1:26.62. The old record was 1:27.00.
"If I had another 30 minutes on it I'm sure I could have gone another second quicker," said Lopez after the short race, in which he started well back on the grid, which was set by entry date. Lopez had gotten just three laps on practice on the machine Sunday morning, sharing it with teammate John Hopkins during the single 15-minute practice session. Team Valvoline EMGO Suzuki mechanics changed the machine's front end and altered its set-up Saturday evening after practice, replacing the stock front forks with a set of Ohlins racing forks.
"This thing is going to be fast," Lopez continued. "Those other guys in Formula Xtreme are going to be in trouble this year."
Lopez broke away from strong challenges by local stars Shane Prieto and Mauro Cereda and pulled away to a several-second margin of victory. Local star Marco Martinez was fourth followed by Texan Ben Spies, local star Manny Manusuthakis, California's Chris Ulrich, local stars Mike Ciccotto and David McIntyre, and AMA 250cc GP Champion Chuck Sorensen of California. Carlos Macias of Florida was 11th, with Jason DiSalvo 12th.
Lopez also won the Heavyweight Superbike race on a Formula USA-spec GSX-R750 ahead of Cereda and Spies.
In other action at Homestead, DiSalvo won the Lightweight Grand Prix race, marking the first victory for a 2001 Honda RS250, with Sorensen three seconds behind at the finish on a TZ250 Yamaha.
The Expert GTO race saw Shane Prieto take his 2001 Suzuki GSX-R750 to victory ahead of 16-year-old Ben Spies, with Hopkins, who had collided with Ciccotto on the first lap and had been delayed aboard the GSX-R1000, coming close to catching Spies at the line. Prieto repeated this victory pattern twice in the short, six-lap races, taking advantage of better grid positions, stronger starts and near-flawless riding to beat Spies again in both Expert Unlimited and Heavyweight Supersport.
Riding his 2001 GSX-R600, 17-year-old Hopkins was unstoppable, winning three Middleweight races with Prieto, also on a GSX-R600, second in both the Middleweight Supersport and Middleweight Superbike. Martinez was second in Middleweight Grand Prix, followed by DiSalvo.