Sean Kelly, a 16-year-old from South Florida who had never raced at Daytona International Speedway (DIS) before, rode his Dunlop-shod Hairy Kiwi/Bespoke CBD Suzuki GSX-R600 to the overall race and GTU class victories in the ASRA Team Challenge Presented by Michelin endurance series finale Saturday.
Kelly, a former Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup competitor, took the lead near the midway point of the 55-lap race, turned his fastest lap (a 1:51.381) on lap 41 shortly after he pitted for the second and final time, and pulled away to win by the margin of one lap over his closest competitor.
“I’m super grateful for the opportunity to come here,” Kelly said from the podium. “First of all, I just want to give a huge thank you to Team Hammer, Bespoke, Hairy Kiwi, all the guys there, EJ [Viso] and Robertino [Pietri] who gave me this opportunity at first.
“It’s really amazing. From the first moment, it felt like a family. It’s really good how they worked. Everyone’s super professional. I had a frickin’ machine today that was working spectacular. I’m super happy and super grateful. I’m just going to keep working from here. It’s my first time so I know there will be many more. I’m super happy for how this day went.”
Kelly said his future racing plans have not yet been set, but he has opportunities to continue racing in America and in Europe.
Unlike Kelly, who rode a GSX-R600 built (and supported) by Team Hammer specifically for doing endurance racing with quick wheel/tire changes, M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Lewis rode a MotoAmerica Supersport-spec sprint racebike that was only fitted with a quick-fill fuel tank at the last minute. As a result, Lewis was forced to ride with the same Dunlop front tire for all 55 laps (as opposed to the three front tires used by Kelly), to endure two long pit stops to fit new rear Dunlops, and finished second to Kelly.
Placing third overall and winning the GTO category was Virginia Express’ Ryan Jones, who rode a BMW S1000RR solo. Jones had to make one unscheduled pit stop during the race when the air bags in his Alpinestars leathers deployed even though he didn’t crash. The air bags opened the zipper on Jones’ leathers, forcing him to pit to zip the leathers closed again.
LB Sports’ Lloyd Bayley suffered damage to his Kawasaki ZX-10R’s rear sprocket that resulted in an early pit stop and had a front tire spin on the rim and cause a confidence-sapping vibration, but he rode on to get fourth place overall and second in the GTO class, which was enough for LB Sports to capture the overall and GTO Championships for the 2018 season.
The GTU class Championship was clinched prior to the final round by National Granite’s Gene Buonomo and Norman Pomerleau on a Yamaha YZF-R6. At the final round, National Granite recruited Jody Barry to replace the injured Pomerleau and ride with Buonomo, and the pair scored seventh overall and fourth in class.
The GT Lights class Championship was also wrapped up before the season finale by Team Coming In Hot’s Ray Hofman and Terry Wilkinson, who won the final GT Lights race on their Suzuki SV650.
A total of 30 teams entered the ASRA Team Challenge at Daytona.
ASRA Team Challenge Presented By Michelin
Daytona International Speedway
Daytona Beach, Florida
October 20, 2018
Provisional Overall Race Results:
1. Hairy Kiwi/Bespoke CBD (Sean Kelly), Suz GSX-R600, GTU, 55 laps
2. M4 ECSTAR Suzuki (Jake Lewis), Suz GSX-R600, GTU, 54 laps
3. Virginia Express (Ryan Jones), BMW S1000RR, GTO, 54 laps
4. LB Sports (Lloyd Bayley), Kaw ZX-10R, GTO, 53 laps
5. Thrashed Bike Racing (Max Flinders), Yam YZF-R6, GTU, 53 laps
6. Grease Monkey Racing (Stephen Hoffman/Eric Helmbach), BMW S1000RR, GTO, 52 laps
7. National Granite (Gene Buonomo/Jody Barry), Yam YZF-R6, GTU, 52 laps
8. TSE Ladies (Meghan Ryan/Nate Minster), Yam YZF-R6, GTU, 52 laps
9. McNology Racing (David McPherson), Yam YZF-R6, GTU, 51 laps
10. Haye Boyz (Tim Haye/Mark Haye), Hon CBR1000RR, GTO, 50 laps