Pirelli-Shod Army Of Darkness Takes N2/WERA Endurance Victory And 17th National Championship At Summit Point Raceway
The points separating AOD from their top challenger made for a virtual tie with whichever team winning the Summit Point series finale [held on September 11] securing both the Heavyweight Championship and the Overall Championship.
AOD kicked it old school by fielding the rider lineup of Chris Peris and Ben Walters, who would be facing off against a team consisting of ex-AOD teammates Taylor Knapp and Danny Eslick. Peris laid down a marker by securing pole position for AOD in qualifying with a gap of 1.5 seconds.
Knapp, forever the competitor, latched onto Peris at the start and was able to keep pace for the first 20 minutes before Peris was able to turn tenths into quarters and then halves into full seconds and slowly built a lead of 45 seconds, before an early pit top by Knapp gave AOD a full one-lap lead. Eslick was unable to make any inroads on Walters before having to pull off the track to receive some out-of-bounds fueling.
From that point on, the race was between the N2-sponsored team of Bobblehead Moto and AOD. Peris’ fastest-laps-of-the-race pace and the crew’s faster pit stops allowed AOD to keep ahead of the strong challenge from N2/Bobblehead Moto.
AOD used Pirelli SC1 rear slicks and SC 2 fronts to take the race win, securing both the Heavyweight Championship and the Overall Championship for the fourth consecutive year.
Team Rider Ben Walters offered: “There have been 18 N2/WERA endurance races over the last four years and I have been privileged to be a part of AOD winning 13 of them. There are thousands of things that can go wrong with the bike, or the track, or another competitor, and then we still have to bring a fast platform to the track and turn the lap times and, after all that, still have perfect pit stops. It’s just incredible the amount of work that Sam, Melissa, Tim, Chris, YT and Anthony put into everything from the trailer to the ECU programming to hand-beating aluminum. And then, of course, Chris Peris is the perfect teammate because not only is he talented, but he is a great instructor and friend who even today was helping me find tenths. If you told me at the start of 2018 that we were going to win over 70% of the races going forward I wouldn’t have believed it. We had very strong challengers each year, but racing fortune is smiling upon us and we keep pulling off the late-season rally to win the championships. It’s like a storybook ending each year!”
Crew Chief Tim Gooding opined: “Each season, Sam and I talk about how to get in more laps by reducing dumb mistakes, faster pit stops or faster lap times. This year was particularly tough because not only did we have to face a well-equipped challenger, but we also had to adapt our strategies and tactics to the new Pirelli tires and the challenges of racing a Euro5 emissions-compliant motorcycle. We were maybe lulled into a false sense of security with the first win in the rain but lost the next two races to a combination of lack of race pace and dumb mistakes. In the mid-season, we did a lot of testing with Xavier Zayat, Peris, and Walters and worked so hard on improving our mechanical package and then matching that to the electronics package. It all paid off with the win at PittRace and the championships here at our home track of Summit Point. When Sam and I first came to race an RD350LC in 1990 I don’t think either of us could have ever imagined winning an overall endurance race surrounded by friends and family. I want to thank Pirelli for all the support and technical assistance and the whole AOD crew for the hard work and dedication.”
AOD is sponsored by: Army of Darkness, Pirelli, Yamaha Champions Riding School, Yamaha, Chicken Hawk Racing, Woodcraft, Hindle, K-Tech, Fast Frank Racing, Supersprox, Thermosman, N2, Industry13, WERA, and Roadracing World.