Photography by Andrea Wilson
The 74th running of the Daytona 200 will feature 69 laps of the shorter 2.91-mile road course in 2015… and it will be raced on Superbikes, thus ending what this year will mark 10 years of the race once ballyhooed as one of the biggest races in the world running 600cc machines and not Superbikes.
"Getting the Superbikes back in the Daytona 200 has been a fan request for years and we're thrilled to be making this announcement," said Michael Gentry, Chief Operating Officer of AMA Pro Racing. "The Daytona 200 is America's premier motorcycle race, and our goal is to once again feature the biggest names in motorcycle road racing in the event."
Mat Mladin won the last Daytona 200 held on Superbikes in 2004. Since then, the 200 has featured Formula Xtreme and Daytona SportBike – both based on slower 600cc sportbikes.
The adjustments to the AMA Pro Superbike rules package, planned as part of the recently announced AMA Pro Road Racing class restructuring, are a key component to getting the Superbikes back in the 200 for the 2015 running, the AMA says.
The 200 went to 600cc class machinery in 2005 primarily for safety concerns, most of which centered around tires. But AMA Pro Racing says that Dunlop will do what’s necessary to make sure the tires are up to the task.
"Dunlop is excited about the prospect of having Superbikes back in the Daytona 200," said Mike Buckley, Vice President of Dunlop. "Everyone on the Dunlop design and service team are enthusiasts first and foremost so the entire team is looking forward to supporting this endeavor."
Three-time AMA Superbike Champion Josh Hayes hasn’t had the chance to compete in the 200 since 2009 when he crashed out of the lead. In 2008, Hayes crossed the finish line first but was disqualified when his Erion Honda was found to be in violation of the rules. Now he’ll get the chance to race in the 200 again.
"The Daytona 200 is our biggest race of the season, so the biggest and best bikes should be competing in it,” Hayes said in an AMA release. “And, of course, that's the Superbikes. I'm looking forward to the 2015 Daytona 200, when Superbikes will make their return. I say, 'Welcome back.’ “
Hayes team manager Keith McCarty concurs with his lead rider.
"The Daytona 200 is an iconic event, and it's only fitting that Superbikes - AMA Pro Road Racing's premier class - should be the bikes that compete in the 200. Over the years, Yamaha riders have won the prestigious Daytona 200 a total of 22 times, on everything from our two-stroke production racers and Formula 1 GP bikes, to our four-stroke middleweight machines like the YZF-R6 and Superbikes like the FZ750, OW01, and YZF750R. As the 'Great American Motorcycle Race' approaches its 75th consecutive year of competition, we at Yamaha are excited that Superbikes will be returning to their rightful place in the Daytona 200 next year."