Team M4 Monster Energy Suzuki registered a powerful opening day performance on Friday at New Jersey Motorsport Park, consistently ranking at or near the top of the charts in both the AMA Pro Daytona SportBike and American Superbike classes.
SportBike title hopeful Martin Cardenas was narrowly bumped from first to second at the end of the day’s opening free practice session, but stormed back to claim the provisional pole in the afternoon.
The Colombian, who didn’t race at NJMP in ’09 due to injury, took little time get up to speed, leaping to the top of the charts early with a 1:23.683 lap aboard his GSX-R600 racer. That time that ultimately proved quick enough for provisional pole.
Martin, who is currently third in the title chase just 14 points removed from first, explained his strategy on a day of mixed conditions. “It was kind of complicated at the beginning because we didn’t know if it was going to start raining again or not. We tried to get as fast as we could at the beginning and put in a good lap in case it rained later or maybe tomorrow. We tried to make a good lap and that’s what we did — we put a soft tire on very early and made a good lap. Then we waited to see if someone got close enough I went back out but I saw my pit board was still saying ‘P1′. It’s great to be on provisional pole.
“The bike seems to be working very good. We came here a couple days ago and the bike is very stable, very well balanced for this track. We haven’t done anything to it yet. We’re going to try a small change for tomorrow to see if can improve in one area a little bit but so far the bike is great.”
John Hopkins was equally impressive in the Superbike class, leading the first free practice and following that up with a third-ranked showing in provisional qualifying. Encouragingly, the former MotoGP superstar also confirmed that his riding is only improving as his surgically repaired wrist continues to get stronger.
The Californian ripped off a 1:21.561 on his GSX-R1000 in the practice and further lowered his mark to a 1:21.048 during qualifying.
“It’s just good to be out here and have a good setting,” Hopkins said. “The team has worked really hard and put a lot of effort in last week when we rode the track day here and got the bike working really, really good. We barely even changed the bike around throughout the day here.
“The conditions were a little bit off because it was drying out and we weren’t sure if it wasn’t going to be wet but it was perfect. It was a little bit windy in the last session. The bike is working really, really well and the M4 Monster Energy Suzuki team has been incredible. We’ve just got to keep moving forward and see if we can’t put it on the podium for the mechanics and everyone on the team who have worked so hard for me.”
Meanwhile, Chris Ulrich was also solidly in the top ten in what was a very impressive all-around effort for the squad. Ulrich came out eighth fastest in the free practice and followed that up with a ninth-place showing in qualifying, cutting a best time of 1:22.316. The consistent Californian, seventh in the AMA Pro American Superbike standings, is looking for another solid result in the points.
Team M4 Monster Energy Suzuki will now look to turn their Friday form into raceday results on Saturday at New Jersey Motorsports Park.