FONTANA, CA, FEB 3: Two days of testing at Auto Club Speedway have shown that American Superbike-spec machines aren’t far off the full-blown 2008 Superbikes. Not so for Daytona SportBikes. A combination of less powerful engines and spec tires have made the middleweights much slower than their 2008 counterparts. Erion Honda’s Jake Zemke and Monster Kawasaki’s Jamie Hacking tied for the unofficial fastest time on their first day of testing on a sunny, warm day in Fontana, Ca. Their best hand-timed laps were 1:29.3 mins., much slower than the fastest lap times from the 2008 Supersport race. The fastest Supersport lap was a 1:26.406 turned in by Graves Motorsports Yamaha’s Josh Herrin’s. Zemke’s best was a 1:26.622, “so we’re a good three seconds off the pace at this point,” Zemke said. “I think it’s a combination of things. Definitely the motors aren’t as strong as our Supersport bikes were when we were here before. With the fuel and the rules and everything, they’re definitely a little bit slower than what they were. I think between the motor and the tires…you know, they’re still trying to get a handle on the tires and what’s going on with those, because, obviously, this is (Dunlop’s) first crack at building a spec tire. What they’ve got to build in a short amount of time here at the start of the season, I think the tires will continue to improve, but they’re not at the same level as what we were racing before, which is understandable. You want a tire that is going to last. Especially if we’re limited to the amount of tires we can use, you want a tire that can go 40 laps, not a tire that can go 15. So you need something that’s going to get some longevity out of it. In order to do that, you’re usually going to lose some grip. All in all, the grip level seemed to be OK. Definitely down from what we’re used to, but everybody’s in the same boat. So everybody’s dealing with the same thing. “It’s fine, it’s good. We’re here riding and we’re going to be racing here" in the first ever nighttime Daytona 200 "in a few weeks, so I’m excited about that. Seems like a long winter of not a lot of riding, not a lot of testing. So it was a long break before the Daytona test and another long one before this one. So I’m glad to get the ball rolling, get the season started.” Zemke will start the season with an engine that feels softer, “for sure. It’s not even as potent as our Supersport bike was. It’s down, not a whole lot from that, but a little bit. So it’s definitely challenging to ride, because you don’t have motor to make up for a mistake. If you make a mistake on the race track… It’s kind of like riding an XR100, a stock one, in your backyard: It takes forever for the thing to get the momentum back rolling if you lose your momentum. It’s fine. Like I said, everybody’s in the same boat, everybody’s on the same rules, so I think it’s going to generate some good racing and I just want to go racing right now. I’m tired of waiting.” The CBR600RR Zemke is riding is a mixture of new parts and existing parts, “because obviously there’s some areas you can change, some things that you can change that you couldn’t in Supersport, and there are other areas that are more strict than what Supersport was. So I’d say right now we’re using a mix of components from both FX (Formula Xtreme), some of the FX pieces, such as our data acquisition and stuff like that. I think you could run that before, but we never did. “We’ve got that stuff on there I didn’t get around to it today, but tomorrow I’m going to try some different triple clamps. Things that the rules allow but didn’t used to in Supersport. With that in mind, I mean, I know I ran a different offset triple clamp on my Formula Xtreme than what we’re running what the stock clamp is on a Supersport bike. The whole idea is, OK, well I already kind of know what it did on one bike, let’s see if it’ll do the same thing on this one. Tomorrow we’ll find out and, hopefully, that’ll help get the bike to go around the track a little bit better, so we’ll see. It’s a little bit of mixture of components. At the end of a day it’s a Honda 600 and still pretty much feels the same, so it’s a pretty nice bike to ride.”

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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.

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