It is officially a sign of Spring when the AMA Pro Racing kicks off at Daytona International Speedway. With a reported 146 entries in the AMA Pro Road Racing field, the season looks to be nothing short of spectacular, and a few Canadians will be on hand to test their metal as well.
Canucks Darren James and Chris Harmon have made the trip to Daytona to contest the Vance & Hines XR1200 class, with James qualifying on the front row in third position aboard his Ruthless-Deeley racing XR1200. Inside Motorcycles correspondent Steve Hoffarth is on site at Daytona following all the action. He caught up with James this morning, who is pumped for today’s XR1200 Daytona race, “I’m on the front row that’s all that counts,” said James.
Following some heavy race preparations, Canadian Chris Harmon managed to qualify in 10th position in a field of 20 riders on his Vision Harley-Davidson XR1200.
In the Daytona Sportbike class, Tim Horton’s backed FOGI Racing rider Ben Young struggled with mechanical issues two laps into his first practice when his Yamaha 600 motor spun a rod and was forced to limp back to the pits. The team scrambled to get Young’s back-up Yamaha R6 running and the young Canadian set to work to get in as many laps as possible. According to Young’s facebook page, “With the remaining time in the session I wanted to get in as many laps as possible to get more familiar with the track. In the afternoon session, my laptimes were respectable and I was able to run mid-pack”. Young qualified 27th in packed field of 45 riders in the Daytona Sportbike 200 class.
In the AMA Pro National Guard Superbike feature class, it was defending champion Josh Hayes who set the pace early to gain pole position for this weekend’s races. Hayes set a fast lap of 1:37:463 aboard his Monster Energy Graves Yamaha R1, followed closely by Yoshimura Suzuki rider Blake Young with a time of 1:37.890. National Guard Suzuki’s Roger Hayden rounded out the top three aboard his Suzuki GSXR1000 with a time of 1:38.132.
Missing from the Superbike grid was AMA Superbike regular front-runner Tommy Hayden. The long time Suzuki rider was left without a ride this year however was called in at the last minute to replace injured Y.E.S. Yamaha rider Garrett Gerloff who suffered injuries in a crash on Thursday. It’s been a long time since the oldest of the three Hayden brothers has been on a Yamaha, much less a 600cc motorcycle. According to Hayden, “It’s been a mad scramble to say the least…I’ve got a lot of catching up to do out there but the team has been doing an awesome job of making me feel comfortable.” Despite being on an unfamiliar motorcycle, Hayden qualified14th for the Daytona 200 Sportbike event.
AMA Pro Flat Track racing kicked off yesterday and saw Canadians Doug Lawrence and Don Taylor strut their stuff. Lawrence finished an impressive 6th place in the GNC Singles Semi last night aboard his Honda CRF450R while Clare’s Cycle/ Shei Racing-backed Don Taylor finished 2nd in the GNC Singles Semi and 16th in the GNC Expert singles short track.
AMA Pro Racing kicks off this afternoon at Daytona International Speedway and Inside Motorcycle’s own Steve Hoffarth is there to cover all of the action. Twitter users can follow him live @motoshire for all the updates.