Apr 25, 2007
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Chris Ulrich (right) is interviewed by www.squeezeoc.com reporter Laila Derakhshanian (second from left), after her ride on the back of his two-seat racebike at California Speedway. Photo by David Swarts
Team Roadracingworld.com Suzuki's Chris Ulrich gave several media members rides on the back of his brand-new, two-seat, 2007 GSX-R1000 AMA Superstock racebike during a Suzuki media event Wednesday at California Speedway, in Fontana, California.
The main attraction of the event was the domestic press introduction of the 2007 Suzuki GSX-R1000, but American Suzuki asked Ulrich to bring his new, two-seat GSX-R1000 racebike to the launch to give rides to Southern California television and newspaper reporters.
Ulrich ended up giving three-lap rides to 10 individuals, ranging from KTLA-TV Sports Anchor Damon Andrews to motorcycle industry journalists riding at the launch to 1993 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz.
"Chris does a great job on that thing," said Schwantz after a stint with Ulrich. "He never makes you feel scared out there. He's pushing the limits, but being a professional he has a good feel for the bike and how it moves around underneath you.
"I guess the most intimidating thing for me is not being in control at all, and feeling like you're hanging off the edge of a skyscraper. You're sitting up so high and that bike is leaned so far over you're just waiting for everything to drag. That was a lot of fun. I've never been on the back of one."
Asked what he thought of the Team Roadracingworld.com Suzuki two-seat racebike program, which is designed to introduce main-stream media members to motorcycle road racing, Schwantz said, "To somebody who doesn't know motorcycles it's got to be an absolute kick in the butt, a rush, a thrill. To be able to give them an up-close view of what it's like to go at a pretty decent clip around a race circuit like [California Speedway] is great. Like that girl who was just on there, she's going to be talking about her ride for weeks."
Schwantz proved to be spot-on, as all of the media guests came back from their rides with Ulrich with once-in-a-lifetime experiences to share and new-found knowledge and appreciation for motorcycle road racing.
"That was intense, but it was a lot of fun. He's a great driver," said Laila Derakhshanian, a reporter with the Squeeze OC, a weekly newspaper in Orange County, California, and . Asked if she could compare the experience with anything she had done in her life, Derakhshanian said, "A roller coaster, I guess, but this was more exhilarating than any roller coaster I've been on. It's hard to compare, it's such a unique experience. I've seen [motorcycle road racing] on television before, but I've never watched a complete race. I want to come back this weekend and watch them do their thing."
"It was unbelievable," said KNBC-TV's Amanda Maynard, after a ride with Ulrich. "It was definitely one of the best experiences I've ever had. It was very cool, very cool. It also gives me a completely different level of respect for these guys. [Ulrich] said they race for 17 laps, but two was good [for me], two and a half was pushing it."
"That was awesome," said Andrews. "This is nothing like most guys get on a bike and go do. This is like being on Mars as opposed to roaming the Earth. This thing is outstanding. The bike is just incredible. And the tires, just to go through a turn like that. I swear I could pick some daisies as I was going through the turn -- they were that close. But then of course, Chris got the gas and I felt I was going to crap my pants, but I didn't. I was OK. Or at least I'll check later.
"I've ridden dirt bikes. I've ridden a streetbike through the streets of LA. Riding is riding, except when you're doing it out here at California Speedway. This is totally different than what most guys do. This is all together something different. This is outstanding. I have a new-found appreciation for the guys who do this week-in and week-out on the professional level. You guys make it look easy. I have a new-found appreciation."
Ulrich set several records for the Team Roadracingworld.com Suzuki two-seat ride-along program Wednesday. Andrews, at 6'6" and 263 pounds, was the largest person to ever ride on the back of Ulrich's racebike. With Maynard on board, Ulrich reached a speedometer-indicated 163 mph on California Speedway's front speedway, surpassing his previous best mark of 160 mph. And with Schwantz as his passenger, Ulrich lapped the 2.36-mile infield road course in 1:38.0, the fastest lap time he has ever turned with a passenger in several years of giving two-seat rides around the track.
In fact, Ulrich's two-up lap time was faster than any of the motorcycle industry journalists at the intro went while riding solo, according to unofficial lap times taken by trackside observers, and within six seconds of the time needed to qualify for last year's AMA Superstock race at California Speedway.
Update: Video of Andrews' 150-mph ride with Ulrich aired on his late evening news report April 25 on KTLA-TV Channel 5. Andrews said he would have more on his ride during his sports wrap-up show Sunday, April 29.