Copyright 2002, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.
By David Swarts
American Honda’s Nicky Hayden once again set the pace for AMA Superbike racers testing at Laguna Seca Raceway Wednesday with a best lap time of 1:26.224. Hayden used a 555-compound, or “soft”, Dunlop race tire on his RC51 to set the fast time late in the final day of testing at the Monterey track for the Honda teams.
“It went okay,” said Hayden. “It didn’t go great, or whatever, but we did learn a couple of things. Actually for a while today, I wasn’t making any progress and was in the same rut all day. Then right there at the end I dropped about three-quarters of a second. The bike actually feels better than me. There’s more speed in the bike right now. I need to find the time in me more than the bike right now.”
Lap times for nearly every rider were slower than the times they turned during testing in much colder weather in January. “I’m not sure why we were a little bit slower,” said Hayden. “It seemed like everybody was a little bit slower. Maybe something from all of this construction around here with the track, maybe it’s a little dirty or something. I’m not sure. Everybody was definitely a little slower.
“I couldn’t necessarily feel that the track was slower. At first when I got here, I couldn’t believe how much grip there was. But coming from Daytona, a track were there’s next to no grip, of course it’s gonna feel like it has a lot of grip. The track must be down a little bit because I was almost 0.8-second slower than I went in January.”
Kurtis Roberts posted the second-fastest lap time, a 1:26.252, with a 587-compound, or “medium”, rear Dunlop on his Erion Honda RC51.
Kawasaki’s Eric Bostrom rebounded from his mid-day crash in turn six, improved his best time to a 1:26.5 but said that it was “disgusting” that he knew the problem that was holding him back but that he couldn’t find a fix.
Doug Chandler and his new HMC Ducati crew worked with details like handlebar and footpeg position on Chandler’s new bike to get him more comfortable. Chandler’s 1:26.6 was good enough for fourth-fastest.
Anthony Gobert crashed in turn two on fresh tires Wednesday afternoon while trying for a better lap time. Gobert lowsided without injuring himself or his Yamaha YZF-R7 and returned to make a lap at 1:26.78 later in the day.
“I should’ve given the tires another lap to warm up,” said Gobert after riding his bike back to the temporary pit lane being used during construction on the normal pit lane.
Team Blimpie Yoshimura Suzuki’s Aaron Yates spent a lot of time in the pits Wednesday while technicians from Showa worked with his forks, but Yates still found enough track time to turn a sixth-fastest 1:27.06 on his GSX-R750.
Even without a full day to test Wednesday due to changed flight plans brought on by Honda’s decision to leave Laguna Seca a day early, Duhamel lapped at 1:27.17, the seventh-fastest Superbike time.
After turning approximately 35 laps on Tuesday, Mat Mladin stopped riding after only eight laps on Wednesday with a best effort of 1:27.7. “My elbow is a lot worse today,” Mladin told reporters. “It’s sort of puffing back up and just hurting. I can’t bend it very well when I’m in my leathers. I’ll see how it feels tomorrow, but it’s all about rehabilitation now.” Mladin said he has been getting two to three hours of physical therapy every day since the Wednesday following the Daytona 200.
The third Yoshimura rider, Jamie Hacking, jumped on his Superbike for only handful of laps late Wednesday, enough time to turn a 1:28.4.
In the world of the 600cc Supersport riders, the 1:29.6 laps that Kawasaki’s Tommy Hayden and Yamaha’s Anthony Gobert recorded Wednesday morning stood up for the fastest Supersport laps of the day. Hacking’s 1:30.0 was good enough for third-fastest ahead of Erion Honda’s Mike Hale’s 1:30.4, Yamaha’s Damon Buckmaster’s 1:30.72 and Jake Zemke’s 1:31.2.
Kawasaki’s Tony Meiring and Bruce Transportation Group’s Alex Gobert rounded out the Supersport lap times with a 1:31.55 and a 1:31.74 respectively. Both teenagers have improved their times steadily during the two days of the test.
The five Formula Xtreme riders at Laguna Seca became more active on Wednesday with Erion Honda’s Roger Lee Hayden turning a 1:28.45 on his new CBR954RR for fast lap honors.
“The new bike definitely feels good,” said the youngest Hayden brother. “It has a lot more stability than the other bike. It’s quite a bit different and took a little while to get used to. The 929 would come out of a corner and wants to spin and both ends want to swap. This bike feels real straight. It doesn’t spin at all. It feels like I’m putting. I’m pretty stoked and can’t wait for Fontana.”
Graves Motorsports Yamaha’s Buckmaster was second-fastest among the Formula Xtreme riders with a 1:28.60. Graves’ Jeff Carter said that Buckmaster rarely did more than two flying laps at a time in between stops to make new changes. Buckmaster said that his Formula Xtreme testing was as much a matter of finding a good baseline for him and his YZF-R7 with a YZF-R1 engine hybrid as continuing to build his relationship with his new Crew Chief John Asher.
With a best lap time of 1:28.67, Bruce Transportation Group Honda’s Zemke echoed Roger Lee Hayden’s thoughts on the new CBR954RR, saying that the new bike’s chassis allowed it to get much more rear traction.
According to Erion Honda Crew Chief Rick Hobbs, both of Erion’s CBR954RR Formula Xtreme bikes suffered electrical problems Tuesday. The problems were related to the custom wiring harness that the ECU and data acquisition systems share. The damage done to Hayden’s bike was fixed. Due to a lack of spares, Mike Hale’s CBR was done for the test. As a result of his bike’s problems and because he spent some time during the January test with a CBR929/954RR hybrid, Hale spent most of his day riding his CBR600F4i. Hale did manage to get 20 minutes with Hayden’s bike at the end of the day to see how the finished product performed. Hale’s one flying lap on Hayden’s CBR954RR was a 1:29.76.
Likewise, Bruce Group’s Alex Gobert was unable to get much time on his 2001 CBR929RR Formula Xtreme bike due to a persistent oil leak, but the youngest Gobert brother was able to get a few laps on Zemke’s CBR954RR before the Honda teams packed up and left Laguna Seca Wednesday evening. Although he will race on a CBR954RR starting at the California Speedway AMA National, Gobert’s best time of 1:30.13 was turned while riding the 2001 CBR929RR.
Testing will continue with Yamaha, Graves Motorsports Yamaha, Kawasaki, HMC Ducati and Team Blimpie Yoshimura Suzuki on Thursday.
Best unofficial lap times from Wednesday:
1. Nicky Hayden, Honda RC51, 1:26.22
2. Kurtis Roberts, Honda RC51, 1:26.25
3. Eric Bostrom, Kawasaki ZX-7RR, 1:26.5
4. Doug Chandler, Ducati 998RS, 1:26.6
5. Anthony Gobert, Yamaha YZF-R7, 1:26.78
6. Aaron Yates, Suzuki GSX-R750, 1:27.06
7. Miguel Duhamel, Honda RC51, 1:27.17
8. Mat Mladin, Suzuki GSX-R750, 1:27.7
9. Jamie Hacking, Suzuki GSX-R750, 1:28.4
10. Roger Lee Hayden, CBR954RR, 1:28.45
11. Damon Buckmaster, Yamaha YZF-R1/R7, 1:28.60
12. Jake Zemke, Honda CBR954RR, 1:28.67
13. Tommy Hayden, Kawasaki ZX-6R, 1:29.6
14. Anthony Gobert, Yamaha YZF-R6, 1:29.6
15. Mike Hale, Honda CBR954RR, 1:29.76
16. Jamie Hacking, Suzuki GSX-R600, 1:30.0
17. Alex Gobert, Honda CBR929RR, 1:30.13
18. Mike Hale, Honda CBR600F4i, 1:30.4
19. Damon Buckmaster, Yamaha YZF-R6, 1:30.72
20. Jake Zemke, Honda CBR600F4i, 1:31.2
21. Tony Meiring, Kawasaki ZX-6R, 1:31.55
22. Alex Gobert, Honda CBR600F4i, 1:31.74