DAYTONA BEACH, FL, DEC 5: Graves Motorsports Yamaha’s Tommy Aquino thought he was prepared for the 31 degree banking, but once he took his maiden laps on the R-6 he discovered a whole new world.

“Daytona is a lot steeper than I thought it would be, the banking. It’s pretty scary,” the 16-year-old said after the first Daytona SportBike practice session on Friday morning. “The first lap I was kind of like, ‘Wow, I’d fall over if I was going less than 50 mph.’ Other than that it’s really fun once you get the hang of it.

“It’s really different. The infield’s good. It’s a little slippery coming onto the banking, but I hear that’s pretty normal. Other than that, I’m having fun.”

Aquino is teaming with fellow teen-ager Josh Herrin to contest the Daytona SportBike Championship on the Graves Motorsports Yamaha R-6’s. His pro career began mid-season when he turned 16 at Miller Motorsports Park. He finished seventh, a finish he would equal in every other one of his seven rides. The pattern began at Miller, continued in the July Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca race and at Virginia International Raceway, and ended back at Laguna Seca late in September.

The 2009 season will be his first full season in AMA competition and it begins here at Daytona in just over three months time. To start the season on the right foot he’ll need to continue his Daytona learning curve, which has been steep. He’s taken advice from the senior Yamaha riders, Josh Hayes and Ben Bostrom, by watching old races, and by watching what others are doing. He got a chance to ride with Herrin when his slightly older teammate caught and passed him in the morning session.

“I didn’t learn really like lines,” he said of following his teammate. “I just kind of realized that I could push it a little harder and the bike will handle it."

Aquino said the banking can “get pretty bumpy,” which is why he has a chin pad on his gas tank. “It might not seem like it, but once you get going fast it’s pretty gnarly.”

And he dispelled the notion that you can rest for long periods of time.

“Well, you know, you really can’t,” he said. “A lot of people are saying that- you’re on the straightaway for a long time-but you really have to know where you’re going. Going between the white line and the wall, it takes a lot of concentration. It’s not just sit there and read a book.”

It took Aquino a bit of time to acclimate to screaming past the outside wall at around over 150 mph. “Yeah, it was kind of scary, then I got used to it,” he said. “All in all it’s pretty good.”

Now he just needs “to work on the track some more, get more familiar with the track, get my braking points dialed in. Push it,” he said.

That chance will come at 6:00 p.m. EST this evening, when the Speedway holds the first ever night practice session for Daytona SportBike.

AMA Pro Racing News

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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