This editorial may result in me being shunned by my longtime friends in AMA Pro road racing press rooms, but here goes:
I’m going to give AMA Pro Racing/DMG a major thumbs up for the Daytona SportBike class. At Mid-Ohio the racing was fantastic. Sunday’s dramatic showdown between Danny Eslick on the Buell and Jamie Hacking on the Kawasaki was an instant classic.
Many ask: How fair is it to allow a motorcycle with nearly twice the displacement race with what are essentially slightly hopped up 600 Supersport bikes? I say the proof of the formula’s success is on the track. In addition to the epic battle Eslick and Hacking had Sunday at Mid-Ohio, the class has produced four different winners (Eslick, Martin Cardenas, Ben Bostrom and Chris Peris) on four different machines (Buell 1125R, Honda CBR600RR, Yamaha YZF-R6 and Suzuki GSX-R600). In addition Kawasaki and Aprilia have come darn close to winning as well – so the class has very nearly produced six winners on six different machines. I would venture to bet that both Hacking on Kawi and Aprilia’s Chaz Davies will be winners in the class before the season is done, as well as Erion Honda’s Jake Zemke and perhaps one of the young Graves Yamaha riders – Josh Herrin and Tommy Aquino.
This, my friends, is the very definition of parity. The championship is very much up for grabs, even late in the season. The formula for the class is working just the way the AMA/DMG envisioned it would.
It’s not well known, but Steve McLaughlin is the primary creator of the Daytona SportBike concept and its formula. You may have heard of McLaughlin, the father of Superbike racing. If you don’t know who he is you should – do a Google search. The point being is McLaughlin came up with a stunningly successful formula in Superbike 35 years ago and he has once again come up golden in Daytona SportBike, with the class giving many manufacturers and riders the opportunity for victory.
From watching the races this year it is obvious that the Buell clearly has more horsepower than the other bikes in the class, but it’s equally obvious that Danny Eslick is hitting his peak as a rider and he’s the only one so far able to produce the kind of results he has on the Buell. Maybe it’s a bit like Casey Stoner on Ducati’s MotoGP bike in that it takes a special talent, who meshes well with the machine to be able to ride it to its potential.
Countries have traditionally favored their home brands. The British Superbike Series had to seriously bend the rulebook to allow the fire-breathing, rotary-powered Nortons of the early 1990s. And one could argue that the Italian-run World Superbike Championship has shown favoritism in the rules regarding Ducati. So if we in the U.S. give Buell a little allowance here what does it hurt as long as the racing stays close?
The traditional inline four 600s of the Japanese makers are better overall packages on the racetrack. The bikes handle better, brake deeper and carry higher mid-corner speed than the Buell. The Aprilia seems to be the hybrid of the class with equal parts handling and power.
What it boils down to is the track. Some tracks favor the Buell, others the Japanese 600 bikes. Maybe we’ll soon find a track that favors the Aprilia or perhaps even the Ducati 848.
I for one think it’s great that we have a class that has something more than cookie-cutter inline four-cylinder 600s. Those bikes are great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s nice to have variety out there with bikes that have to take differing lines and are stronger in certain sections of a racetrack.
In my mind Daytona SportBike is a resounding success. And yes the Buell has horsepower on the others, but do you think Martin Cardenas would trade his Suzuki GSX-R600 race bike for a Buell? I doubt it. I bet the series leader is very happy with his very traditional Gixxer.