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Aug 7, 2001

Scott Russell Returns To The Racetrack, Tests With HMC Ducati At VIR

Copyright 2001, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.<BR><BR>By David Swarts<BR><BR>During testing at Virginia International Raceway on Monday, August 6 and Tuesday, August 7, Scott Russell lapped just two seconds off of the pace set by Honda's Nicky Hayden, Kawasaki's Eric Bostrom, and Russell's HMC Ducati teammate Andreas Meklau on the 2.26-mile North course at Virginia International Raceway near Danville, Virginia.<BR><BR>The session marked Russell's first ride on a racetrack since being involved in a horrific starting-grid crash at the Daytona 200 last March.<BR><BR>According to HMC owner Mitch Hansen, Russell, in his first visit to VIR, turned low 1:29s compared to the high 1:26s turned by Hayden, Bostrom and Meklau. Hayden and Bostrom tested at the facility in 2000.<BR><BR>"If you can imagine, he's very weak, but he wanted to ride," Hansen said in a cell-phone interview from the track. "(Scott) was doing low 1:29s. Yeah, incredible. It just blew us all away. His expectations were that he just wanted to go out there and ride a little. He didn't even want us taking times, but obviously we couldn't resist and he was just about two seconds off the pace, really. <BR><BR>"We grabbed one of his bikes, which Andy is using, we had it all set-up and ready to go for him (with his last set-up) when he got here. We were hoping that he could do maybe five or 10 laps, and that's all we thought he would be capable of doing. I'd say he put in a good 40-50 laps. <BR><BR>"He rode both days. I didn't think he'd ride today. He came out walking like a soldier, all stiff. But he took a couple of aspirin and he was fine and ready to go."<BR><BR>What makes Russell's feat more amazing is that temperatures were in the high 90s with equally high humidity.<BR><BR>"He's very weak and gets fatigued," explained Hansen. "He can do two strong laps and that's about it. He's got a long way to go yet, but my God! We're so impressed. I mean, it's incredible. I don't think anybody else could do what he's doing.<BR><BR>"Actually, the hand was fine," said Hansen when asked about the nerve damage in Russell's recovering left arm. "The arm's a little weak because he hasn't been able to work out. But the biggest obstacle right now is his ankle is so swollen yet that he doesn't have a lot of motion. So shifting was the biggest problem. Of course getting off the seat, he was using just the leg muscles in the right leg."<BR><BR>When asked about a possible return to racing for Russell at Pike's Peak, Hansen said, "No, I think Scott is basically riding to get his confidence back and see where he's at physically. But I don't think you've seen the last of Scott Russell, that's for sure."<BR><BR>What about Russell making a racing appearance before the end of the 2001 season? "That hasn't been brought up because we just don't know," said Hansen. "Obviously, if he can only do two laps strong, he's a long way from returning to racing. He's going to do a lot of riding. Ducati gave him a streetbike, and he's gonna go out and ride that. He's gonna start riding his dirt bike again, and that will get him back into shape.<BR><BR>"But overall, the test actually went very well," said Hansen of the real business matter at hand. "Everybody was grouped together: The Kawasaki, the Honda, and our Ducati team. Everybody had very, very similar and close track times. I think there were three guys that got into the 1:26s. I believe they were Hayden, Bostrom, and Andy Meklau. Andy was really going well here today and did a 1:26.92. And Steve (Rapp) just missed getting in the 1:26s. He had a 1:27.01. <BR><BR>"The guys loved the track. The facility is second to none. It's a marvelous facility. The people are just fantastic. I wish we had 10 more places like this on the schedule. They really thought of ways to help the motorcycle crowd. Usually, we're the second-class citizens when it comes to going to a racetrack because everyone seems to cater to the car people. But these people here have been unbelievable."<BR><BR>Hansen said that he didn't see anyone have any crashes or mechanical troubles during the two-day tests, but Meklau had a problem. "Andy hit a bird, and wouldn't you know, he hit it with his left shoulder. And it was a big bird," said Hansen. Meklau has been riding with a broken left collarbone since before the Mid-Ohio race.<BR><BR>In a separate phone interview, Virginia International Raceway General Manager Jack Abbott said that the changes made to the North course, based on rider suggestions following an AMA test in 2000, were received well by AMA riders. Run-off areas were leveled, barriers removed or relocated, trees moved, but the most notable change was the creation of another passing zone by opening up the entrance to the "Roller Coaster."<BR><BR>"The guys say that they have four places that they can pass now," said Abbott. "And even with the extreme heat that we have right now, the track surface is holding up well. The guys say that the grip is good. We're gonna have a great race here in September."<BR><BR>Virginia International Raceway is the host of the 2001 AMA Superbike series finale, scheduled for September 28-30. Tickets are available at dealerships near VIR, or can be ordered by phone at (804) 822-7700, or online at www.virclub.com.<BR>;