M4 Suzuki’s Dane Westby made a heroic charge through the field on Saturday at Mid-Ohio that ultimately culminated in his first-career AMA Pro Daytona SportBike victory.
Starting from the outside of the second row after qualifying in eighth position earlier in the day, Westby fell back to seventh position a couple seconds behind a five-rider tussle for the lead.
On lap five, Dane began to race down the leaders, moving into sixth and slowing closing on the front group. Once he had closed the gap, Westby thrilled the crowd with a number of remarkable late-braking maneuvers as he dropped one competitor after the next, moving his way up through the ranks.
Dive-bombing up the inside at the end of the back straight on three successive laps to finally take control of the race on lap 18 of 21, Westby then fought hard to hold the position by answering each attempt with a counterattack.
Dane slashed through the final corner and wheelied his GSX-R600 across the stripe to take the checkered flag in the dramatic contest by 0.139 seconds.
After scoring his momentous victory, Westby said, “I was a little off the pace in the beginning. Finally I was able to get back up there and I pulled a couple of moves up the inside and just stuck it up in there. I just had to pull some demon-braking maneuvers there at the end.
“But these guys weren’t about to take that lying down and I knew they were right behind me checking me out. I’ve never really led at the end, so it was kind of gnarly the last few laps trying to calm myself down and just be cool. These are the big dogs and they weren’t playing around. I just tried to be conservative and defend my lines and I pulled it off.
“This is great. At the beginning of the year we had a few bugs to shake out and now it seems like we’ve got some stuff worked out and the bike is going fast and it just seems to go wherever I want. Like I said, in some of those moves it might have looked ‘hairy’ but I was just able to carve right up the inside because the bike was so good.”
Martin Cardenas registered a courageous ride of his own in a grueling once-stopped AMA Pro Superbike race. Unable to match his Friday pace in qualifying after getting banged up in yesterday’s high-speed crash, Cardenas was relegated to the third row after being pushed down to ninth position.
The Colombian opened the race in that same position but systematically worked his way forward. In the end, the Superbike rookie race winner fought his way into the top five, winning out in a close three-way scrap for fifth position.
Meanwhile, Superbike teammate Chris Ulrich withdrew from the weekend after his injuries proved not sufficiently healed to allow him to compete.
Ulrich said, “This weekend provided us a good opportunity to gauge exactly where we are at with our recovery. Mentally I’m good. I was happy with that but physically we’ve still got a little ways to go. We’re going to take a couple days to recover and then get back to training and head to Laguna Seca. That’s a short weekend with less track time and just one race so hope to be ready to go there.”
Santiago Villa finished 15th in the SportBike race. The Colombian qualified in 16th position before falling back to 21st on the opening lap and battling back up to the top 15.
M4 Suzuki will look to add to their trophy haul on Sunday as the Mid-Ohio AMA Pro Road Racing weekend concludes.