Triumph-mounted Brandon Paasch of New Jersey took his second straight Daytona 200 victory in epic style on Saturday, making an aggressive race and slipstreaming strategy work to win by just .007 of a second over the works Attack Yamaha of Cameron Petersen in the 80th running of the Florida classic.
Syntainics Yamaha’s Sheridan Morais was less than a bike length behind the high line-running winner for third. Unretired four-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champ Josh Hayes netted fourth, just .126 of a second behind the leader on the Squid Hunter Yamaha.
After 57 laps, rain delayed with one early red flag, the eleven early leaders distilled to a final group of four. When all the front runners had finished pitting, with 11 laps left to run, 200 rookie Petersen was almost five seconds clear of dueling veterans Morais and Hayes, with Paasch playing catch-up in fourth.
All were on Pirelli rubber except for Dunlop shod Hayes, but crucially Paasch had gambled on just fuel and no tires on his second of two stops – the last of the lead group to pit, lessening the Triumph’s fuel load.
The question was, could Paasch make a play with tires that were much more worn than those of his competition? Cooler conditions made tire preservation less of an issue, but it was still a major gamble.
The answer turned out to be ‘yes,’ and how. Paasch seemed stretched to keep pace through the infield but looked well set in terms of gearing in the windy conditions for the run from the final chicane to the start-finish.
On the last lap, Morais gambled to lead out of the chicane, with Petersen and Hayes seeming set to work together in second/third. Paasch went low around that pair, and then managed to cut high behind the well-timed Peterson.
While Petersen looked like he had the job done, Paasch worked the side draft to go the long way around the leading Yamaha, earning first by the narrowest of margins.
“There were a few times where I tried to draft them, and I couldn’t get past,” admitted the winner after the race. “It’s a drafting game, and sometimes it goes your way, and sometimes it doesn’t.
“On the last stop, I expected to at least change the rear tire, and when they didn’t, I about poohed my pants! I was a little bit nervous about the tire wear. I just kept saving the tire as much as I could through that last lap.
“I saw Hayes kind of stay up high, so I kind of cut below him. I was thinking, ‘I’m like in a prime spot.’ I was behind the two front boys, and once they went, I went, ‘game time.’ The Triumph pulls really hard when you get on the gas, so I knew I had a chance of picking up the miles per hour a little quicker than those guys.”
Comparing this reborn version of the 200 to the past ‘club race’ decade, Paasch explained, “this one is great, to be honest. To have people like (Ducati’s Josh) Herrin on Instagram saying I’m not in his league, and then to come out here and beat him was really good for me.
“I’m stoked. Having all the Superbike guys out here is great. I know it’s not what they’re used to. They ride those big bikes and they’re really damn good at it. So, for them to jump back on the 600s and have a little fun with me is really cool. I feel lucky to share the track with those guys. Hopefully, this summer I can learn a thing or two from Cam (Peterson) and the boys in Superbike.”
In 2021, following Daytona success for TOBC Yamaha, Paasch raced in a support class in the very competitive British Series on a Triumph. This season, he returns to the U.S. to ride in the 1000cc category.
Daytona 200 rookie Petersen, making his debut for the factory Attack Yamaha squad, was satisfied with second.
“I’m super happy,” started Petersen. “We came here to win, that was the goal. We did get the motorcycle capable of winning, but for my first Daytona 200 I’m super stoked to be on the podium. It’s got me wanting to come back already. I’m going to lose quite a lot of sleep over this one.
“I’m not going to lie – I think it going to take me at least a week to stop thinking about it. I don’t think I have ever had so much fun in a race, just battling with guys I’ve always wanted to race against.
“The last three laps it was all about trying to pick your spot and figure out where you wanted to be going into the last corner. I could tell, coming out of the chicane on the last lap, leader Morais went to three-quarters throttle, and I went to half throttle. I thought that there was no way I was leading coming out of the chicane.”
Explaining the run to the finish line, Petersen continued, “I thought I timed my move to perfection, I really did. I almost started celebrating before I got to the line. Sure enough, here comes Brandon on the outside and takes the win. Congrats to these two guys (Paasch and Morais), it was so much fun riding with them. I hope we come back and do this next year.”
Daytona was the debut of Petersen with Attack, the top team in MotoAmerican’s feature Superbike category. Daytona was the only 2022 event where Attack is scheduled to run Pirelli tires and compete with a middleweight class YZF-R6 machine.
MotoAmerica’ s Superbike king, Attack’s Jake Gagne, was the heavy favorite going into the 200. Unfortunately, Gagne crashed leaving the pits in cool and damp conditions the morning of the rain-delayed race and struck the pit lane guardrail that separates Turn 1 from pit out.
Gagne’s R6 required a rushed complete rebuild with a new frame, and while his crew lead by Canadian tuner Jon Cornwell got the job done, Gagne retired early nursing an injured leg.
For well-travelled journeyman international racer Morais, the 200 was “the best race of my life – I loved it. So much fun. So much passing. Ridiculous. I know it’s an Endurance race, 57 laps, but it feels like a sprint race. When I got to the front, I put my head down. Cam and I went for it the last three or four laps.”
Morais had planned to compete in the COVID19-cancelled Daytona 200 of 2020, and his Yamaha then sat in storage in Georgia waiting for Morais to return for his 200 debut.
The race event was the first time FIM-affiliated MotoAmerica had sanctioned the Daytona 200, and the return of a strong field in what was once North America’s premier road race. One of the attractions was the debut of the new World rules for (World sanctioning body) FIM SuperSport, with technical allowances permitting possible over dogs from Ducati (955cc twin) and Triumph (765cc triple) to compete with the current field of existing (but updated) 600 class middleweights.
While Daytona is not your typical road course, thanks to the long laps and two trips up the banking per tour, the initial demonstration suggests that the equalization rules structure is viable.
Also new was the ‘open spec’ tire formula, an unusual development in modern racing. Other MotoAmerica events are spec-Dunlop. While all manufacturers provided solid contingency support, Dunlop supplied the bulk of the grid with 28 bikes, followed by Pirelli with 16, Michelin at 4 and Bridgestone with one.
Pirelli swept the podium, but Dunlop was certainly competitive over the course of the 200 – although the fact that the Paasch Triumph didn’t change front or rear rubber during the final fuel stop but still won will be a long-term talking point.
The race was interrupted by one red flag, on Lap 7, due to an incident at the chicane. But overall, there were far fewer delays that in other runnings of the 200 milers over the past decade once the event became a CCS Club race.
Fifty-two racers entered, and 43 made the grid after the 110% rule was applied post-qualifying. Apparently, the venue’s long-stated goal of starting 80 bikes for the 200 is now a thing of the past.
Twenty-nine racers were listed as finishers, with the top Canadian ace the U.S.-based Yamaha Champion Race school instructor Chris Peris, formerly of Alberta, in 11th overall. Endurance Champ Peris was the first lapped racer and worked his way up through the field aboard the N2 Racing/Bobble Head Moto Yamaha.
Back in 2005 when the 200 was a Formula Extreme 600 race that opened the AMA National season, rising star Peris placed an impressive fifth on a family-owned Yamaha.
Vancouver’s Darren James netted 17th overall on the brand new, Attack-built, Ruthless Racing/Trev Deeley Motorcycles Yamaha, but was injured later in the day when oil caused a multi-bike crash at the chicane at the start of the Twins event.
Kawasaki mounted French Canadians Alex Coelho (36th on the first grid) and Vincent Levillain (29th on the grid) didn’t make the second start and were not classified.
Josh Herrin started from pole with the impressive works Ducati, but a gamble on fuel mileage ended his chance to win – after a lengthy delay in the pits he wound up 10th, last unlapped competitor.
Slow pit stops held back the solid Vision Wheel M4 Ecstar Suzuki works squad of the Ulrich family, their top finisher new recruit Richie Escalante in fifth. Team-mate Geoff May was seventh.
The second TOBC Triumph of three-time 200 victor Danny Eslick was quick and netted sixth but was troubled by an unpredictable electronic glitch. There was some expectation that the open tire rules would encourage a strong overseas showing, and the top Brit was Harry Truelove in seventh on a TSE Yamaha, brother
Matt netted 12th on a similar entry.
- Colin Fraser