Both Attack Performance’s Steve Rapp and GPTech’s Aaron Yates were within the 107% mark in the first session, which was an especially good thing for Rapp. The Kawasaki engine Rapp used gradually slowed down and the team chose to sit out the second session to repair the mill. After a frustrating weekend at the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, it was a fitting reward for the team which worked feverishly to be ready, only to be sidelined by a small electronics glitch on the handbuilt motorcycle. Those two will be starting their first MotoGP race, joining series regulars Nicky Hayden, Ben Spies, and Colin Edwards.
“In the first session, things were apparently going pretty well,” Rapp said after setting the 23rd best time, from the first session. “But towards the end of the session the motor started slowing down on me, so I bought it back to the pits, so I had (team owner Richard Stanboli) listen to the bike and he could hear something. They wanted to take the motor out and check it and we didn’t have a spare motor, so I sat out the second session. We had a good first session and we were fast enough to qualify. We’re in, so we need to go out tomorrow and find out how high we can climb.”
Yates was returning to high level racing more than two years after breaking his leg in an AMA race at California Speedway. The leg didn’t respond properly to the first surgery, so Yates had to have a second operation. He rode Supermoto and club raced earlier in the summer to get ready, but had never faced this sort of competition and on a motorcycle he’d barely ridden. The team took part in a one day test last Saturday.
The Suzuki GSX-R1000 engine is above AMA Superbike spec, and makes about 210 horsepower, he said, compared to over 250 for the prototypes. The GPTech BCL Suzuki is also heavier than the prototypes, Yates said.
“This morning we changed a few pieces, suspension and set-up,” he said after finishing the day just in front of Rapp. “We had a few issues this morning with grip. We didn’t go as quickly as we did Saturday., but it looks like we were within 107% of the fastest guy in the session, so that pretty much puts us in the program. Now we have to go out there and go faster.
“I’ve been racing motorcycles since I was 10-years-od. I went through one two-year break, 16 to 18-years-old, and I’m coming off my second two-year break. I realize how much I missed it. you have to be able to push these things hard to get around the corners and that’s what you have to do, ride hard. We’re down on power, so it’s going to be tough. It looks like we’ll be racing for 12th or 13th place. We’ll try and push it and put on a good show for an American team and all-American riders.”