INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (August 21, 2013) - 0.099 seconds -- less than one tenth of a second -- was the combined difference separating first from second in this past weekend's AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series doubleheader at the Red Bull Indianapolis GP. The exceptionally tight battles for victory were a fitting way indeed to kick off this year's $60,000 XR Showdown, and the increased stakes certainly produced the sort of intense racing one might expect. Perhaps unforeseen, however, was the mammoth impact a pair of super spoilers had on the weekend's outcome -- the effects of which will continue to be felt as the XR Showdown moves into its final two stages.
The field in the AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series heads into and through turn one at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in race two on Sunday, August 18. AMA Pro Road Racing photo by Brian J. Nelson.
While the rolling Steve Rapp (Aerostar Global/Suburban Harley-Davison) entered the weekend as the pre-race favorite with a four-race win streak in his favor, the weekend wins were ultimately taken by a pair of talented wild cards: former GP hero Jeremy McWilliams (Harley-Davidson of Bloomington Indiana) and aspiring GP pilot Hafizh Syahrin (PETRONAS/KWR). 49-year-old McWilliams struck first. The cagey veteran won out at the conclusion of a four-man drafting war on Saturday, claiming a narrow victory over Eco Fuel Saver/Scrubblade's Tyler O'Hara, Syahrin, and Rapp. The former Grand Prix race winner was elated with his accomplishment after coming up short in his previous attempt on an XR at Indy. The Irishman said, "I was just in the right place at the right time. I sort of lost my way a little bit at the beginning and these guys started moving ahead. I thought I better dig in or it wasn't going to work. I just wanted to be in a position at the end to give myself half a chance. Hafizh passed me and at that stage I thought Tyler and Steve were going to get a way. Luckily it came back with the draft and if it wasn't for the draft, I don't think I would have got back on their tails.
"At the end, going into the last lap I was making mistakes, Steve was making mistakes, but I just luckily stayed in front (of O'Hara and Syahrin). Steve got through and if it hadn't been for that I don't think I would have won the race; I drafted him across the line. He didn't get a great pull off the last turn and unfortunately he lost out today. We came back here wanting to make amends for 2011; we didn't get a result in 2011 and Bloomington have been so good and put so much effort in to make this happen. The win I have to dedicate to my dealership -- they put a perfect bike together. I guess I'm more surprised than anybody to be standing on top."
19-year-old Syahrin is viewed as one of Malaysia's brightest GP hopefuls. He impressed last season by leading in the wet in the Moto2 World Championship race at his home race of Sepang before ultimately collecting a fine fourth. He's currently competing in the Spanish CEV Moto2 series and came to Indy in part to get a feel for the track as he's hoping to race full-time in the Moto2 World Championship in the near future. Hafizh Syahrin goes by the nickname 'Fish' in Spain and at first he felt very much like a fish out of water on the big Harley-Davidson XR1200. However, he continued to make steady progress as the weekend developed. He earned a spot on the second row in qualifying, battled up front to earn a podium position on Saturday, and then aced Rapp on the final lap to win on Sunday. "I tried to keep improving every session," he explained. "We found a very good setting in the first race and then we just tried to improve the rear suspension just a little bit for today's race because yesterday I had just a little bit too much slide. It improved a lot and that's why I was able to run up front. Steve Rapp and I were the only two in the front and I kept in the second position until the very end. I passed him in the slipstream. I'm very happy to come away with a first place and third place this weekend. I just kept trying to gain experience and learn the Harley-Davidson, which is very heavy compared to a Moto2 bike and has very smooth power."
Rapp again demonstrated his remarkable ability to hustle a Harley-Davidson around a racetrack with power and finesse, however, the Californian was a sitting duck on the long Indy start/finish straight. In both races Rapp displayed his superiority through the infield but his slightly larger size meant he was disadvantaged on the all-important run to the stripe. On Saturday, Rapp was drafted from first to fourth late in the race, sliced his way all the way back into first position on the race's final lap, only to get blasted back into fourth as they raced down the straight to take the checkered flag. And on Sunday, Rapp managed to make a break with Syahrin, but become all too aware of the inevitable result -- second place -- as the contest took shape. Still, Rapp made the best of a somewhat frustrating situation and walked away from Indy with an eight-point advantage over his nearest XR Showdown competitor and in very strong shape heading into the penultimate round at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
Rapp said, "Of course you want to win every race, but you can't. At this point in the season, late in the championship, I just had to be smart. I don't think they outrode me -- it was just the luck of the draw with the draft and he weighs forty or fifty pounds less than I do. You know, that's the way it worked out and I'm just glad it was him and not anybody else since he's not in the Showdown. In the big picture it's okay. I figured I was in trouble (in the race). You get a draft down this long straightaway and it doesn't take much to pass people. I figured (Syahrin) had a pretty good chance of passing me, but I also knew if I was behind him I probably couldn't draft pass him in the same regard because of the size difference. I always say if I try 100% and I don't win I am okay with that." Rapp also finished second twice in a similar fashion at Indianapolis in 2011. "Same thing -- same story. I feel like I do a lot of hard work and get everything done but in the end I always end up to be on the wrong side of it (at Indy). But that's okay -- I'm thinking big picture. I don't think there's anything I could have done differently."
While rival O'Hara finished ahead of him on Saturday and earned an immediate five-point advantage in the XR Showdown, the tide turned on Sunday's opening lap. O'Hara crashed out of third place and now finds himself fighting an uphill battle, trailing Rapp by 20 points and with only two races to make up that ground. Instead, the man closest to Rapp in the title race is Harv's Harley-Davidson's Travis Wyman. Wyman has being growing in strength as the season has progressed, as evidenced by his close runner-up result at Mid-Ohio and then a Sunday third at Indy. Wyman battled with McWilliams deep into the contest, pressuring the experienced pilot from fourth before McWilliams made a late-race mistake. McWilliams crashed out of third as he attempted to fend off Wyman and chase down Syahrin and Rapp. Wyman took evasive action, narrowly made it around the fallen McWilliams, and ran home in third.
"I real happy to leave second in points," Wyman said. "Being on the box here at Indy is like a win to me. We've been working real hard all year and to get a podium at the last race in Ohio and then here, I feel like I've got a really good shot at the Showdown. McWilliams crashed there in front of me, otherwise it was going to be a real good dogfight between us, I know that. He's not one to give up a podium spot. When he went down in front of me, I just rode my own race to the end. I'm really happy to be up here in third." McWilliams explained why he crashed, stating, "I just ran in a little bit hot; I was trying to keep up my corner speed because I couldn't get off the corners with them. I was having to overcompensate a little in the middle and it hasn't got much grip when the front wheel is listed off the ground! I was third and I thought I could capitalize because (the leaders) were having a little trouble with backmarkers. I thought it was a chance to get on them. I didn't do much differently -- I might have been a couple miles-per-hour faster and I touched the right-hand side of the casing down and it just lifted the front wheel."
It was something of a quiet weekend for Spyke's Harley-Davidson's Michael Barnes, who is hoping to successfully defend his AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series title. Barnes suffered a fall late in qualifying and then registered seventh and fifth-place rides. As a result, he's currently third in the XR Showdown, 15 points out of the lead. However, Barnes has been in this position before. Last year he took fourth and fifth-place results in the Showdown doubleheader opener and left Indianapolis ranked fifth, 21 points back of first. Of course, he rebounded to secure his first career GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing title, so Barnes understands that he's still very much alive in this year's chase.
Mob Racing's Shane Narbonne is ranked fourth at the Showdown's halfway point. He finished one position behind Barnes each day, taking eighth and sixth-place finishes at the Red Bull Indianapolis GP. Next up is Thrashed Bike Racing's David Estok, who finished 11th and 12th this past weekend. His consistent performance more than made up for the Sunday excellence of Suburban Harley-Davidson's Ben Carlson, who is one position and one point back in the XR Showdown rankings at seventh. Carlson collected a fourth-place finish on Sunday to make up for Saturday's problematic outing, in which he was credited with 26th. H&S Distributor's Nicholas Hansen (13-11), Eco Fuel Saver/Scrubblade's Josh Chisum (12-13), and Longevity Racing's Barrett Long (23-10) complete the XR Showdown order following two of four rounds. While wild cards McWilliams and Syahrin garnered the lion's share of the headlines with their respective victorious, a few other riders from (just) outside the XR Showdown also enjoyed strong, double-top-ten weekends at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Happy Trails M/C Connection's Hayden Schultz picked up sixth and seven-place results, while Folsom Harley-Davidson's Gage McAllister finished ninth and eighth and Fernet Insurance's Eric Stump was tenth and ninth.
The full GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing paddock will be back in action for the second-to-last round of the 2013 season on September 13-15 at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, NJ for the New Jersey Lottery Devil's Showdown.
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About GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing
GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing is the premier motorcycle road racing series in North America and is universally regarded as one of the most competitive road racing organizations in the world. The 2013 schedule consists of nine rounds of competition on the country's finest road courses. The Series is comprised of four production-based classes: AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike, AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike, AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport and the AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series. Learn more about GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing at www.amaproracing.com/rr/.
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