Rapp Rumbles to the Top

Henny Ray Abrams | March 10, 2011

DAYTONA BEACH, FL, MARCH 10 – On his first outing on a Harley-Davidson XR1200, Steve Rapp decimated the 18-rider field in qualifying for Friday’s seven-lap Vance & Hines XR1200 race.The journeyman from Hawthorne, California called on his decades of experience to get the most out of the Parts Unlimited XR1200 in the lone on-track session for the booming V-twins.In the first official timed session at Daytona for the class, which only joined the championship I the middle of last season, Rapp lapped the 3.51-mile road course 2:08.317 mins. at an average speed of 98.475 mph to take the provisional pole. Rapp also had the third fastest XR1200, with a top speed of 135.39 mph. (Travis Wyman’s XR1200 was fastest at 136.68 mph.)”I had a lot of ideas and I heard a lot of things about it and I was kinda actually a little nervous, surprisingly,” Rapp said. “And it was my first time on the bike today. And it was kinda weird. It was not as hard as I woulda thought it would be, but then again it’s like a mix between a small bike that I used to ride with no power and the heaviest bike you’ve ever ridden.Rapp completed a total of 15 laps, but for the first two-thirds of the session, which was twice interrupted by red flags, he was “just kinda figuring out where to shift and kinda where I could brake at and things like that. And so it was just a total learning experience from the start. The first lap to the last lap I was just taking it all in and trying to figure out what it was going to take to go fast. We don’t have much practice. We have one more session tomorrow,” a 30-minute qualifying session. “So I tried to stay out there the whole time and just take it all in.”Rapp spent most of the session by himself, which he prefers, but believes the draft is going to be significant in Friday’s race.”It’s going to be huge,” Rapp said. “Those number plates, they’re pretty much like miniature pieces of plywood up there. You can be way back from behind people and it kicks up a big draft. So I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like at the start with maybe 10 or 12 or 15 bikes, It’s just going to be, I think it’s going to be pretty crazy, so we’ll see.”Drag Specialities’ Michael Barnes, another veteran with an eclectic resume, finished with a best lap of 2:09.832 mins, more than 1.5 secs. slower than Rapp. It didn’t help that Barnes’ top speed was third from the bottom and more than 8 mph from the class leader.Latus Racing’s Joe Kopp might have been the fastest rider had he not crashed early. The former Grand National Champion set his best time on his first flying lap, then crashed the next lap out. Kopp didn’t rejoin qualifying, but still finished third fastest.Five-time Daytona 200 winner Scott Russell, right,  wobbled to the eighth fastest time. Russell’s H.O.G. Racing XR1200 was clearly a handful on the tri-oval. Late in the session he and Paul James (James Gang/Hoban Bros. Racing) rode together, and James, whose crew is working with Russell, said if they could sort out the handling Russell would be at the top of the order. As it was, he was 4.7 secs. off the pace. “We’re sneaking up on it,” Russell said, adding that they’d found the XR1200 was a little soft in the rear. Because he hadn’t ridden for a while, he felt he was rusty and needed a day to sleep on what he’d learned before Friday qualifying. He believed that if he “could get a whiff of some of the guys up front” he could make a race of it. “We’ll get the bike right and try to get in behind somebody tomorrow and I’ll knock four or five seconds off.”

Vance & Hines XR1200 Qualifying:

1. Steve Rapp (2:08.317)

2. Michael Barnes (2:09.832)

3. Joe Kopp (2:10.673)

4. Chase McFarland (2:11.700)

5. Travis Wyman (2:11.949)

6. Chris Fillmore (2:11.975)

7. David Estok (2:12.707)

8. Scott Russell (2:13.042)

9. Kyle Wyman (2:13.159)

10. Paul James (2:13.212)



Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.