The opening day of the Honda Championship of Alabama presented by Genuine Broaster Chicken included the final combined Provisional Pole session for Motul Superbike and Bazzaz Superstock 1000cc machines prior to Saturday’s SuperPole session.
On a busy day at Barber Motorsports Park in the final 2017 event of the MotoAmerica National series, Yoshimura-Suzuki’s veteran Roger Hayden was quickest with a time of 1:25.97 on the works GSX-R1000 Superbike. This afternoon’s session was delayed to clean up the mess after a big crash by Honda rider Jake Gagne, who wasn’t injured.
Former Series Champ Josh Herrin, filling in for the injured outgoing Champ Cameron Beaubier on the works Monster/Graves Yamaha team, has a strong second outing on the works YZF-R1, placing second best with a lap at 1:26.28. Second factory Yamaha rider Josh Hayes, a four-time series Champ, was ninth.
The top Superstock entry for less-modified 1000cc machines in the second, Friday afternoon session was South African Mathew Scholtz on a Yamaha, third quickest at 1:26.408. Scholtz has already won the Superstock title for Westby Racing outfit. Newly crowned overall series Champ Toni Elias was sixth best on the second factory Yosh-Suzuki.
Kenny Riedmann made his first career entry in the Superstock category with his Sturgess Cycle/Liqui Moly Kawasaki ZX-10RR Ninja, the former works Triumph America racer netting 16th overall at 1:29.3 in the red flag-interrupted afternoon 1000cc session. Riedmann’s friend and former Triumph team-mate, class front runner Bobby Fong, was 10th quickest on a similar Kawasaki at 1:27.2
Mitch Card, another rising Canadian Pro star racer, was scheduled to compete in the same category as Riedmann with his Yamaha YZF-R1, but a last minute issue with his racing licence meant Card could not enter the MotoAmerica event.
The top 12 riders will advance to the 15-minute final session to establish the front of the Feature race grid, late tomorrow morning, using special soft Dunlop “Q” tires. The first of the two 1000cc races is scheduled for 3:30 pm CDT tomorrow, but there have been some delays due to rain seeping through the usually-pristine track surface. There has been considerable rain in the Birmingham area recently, a left over effect of Hurricane Irma.
Qualifying for the KTM Cup spec series for single cylinder machines was rescheduled for tomorrow morning and a single session due to the various water control issues with the track. 15-year-old French-Canadian class rookie Alex Dumas is riding a four race win streak in the KTM class, and has a serious shot at the Championship in the final two races this weekend. Dumas was sixth fastest in the morning session, having run as high as first before he suffered a late crash in his first outing at the track. Dumas was not injured.
Newly crowned Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike Canadian National Champ Tomas Casas had an encouraging first day as a MotoAmerica competitor, placing his Parts Canada/Dunlop supported Yamaha Canada R6 seventh overall in the “second tier” Supersport and Superstock 600 afternoon Practice with a lap at 1:34.6.
MotoAmerica Series regular Braeden Ortt of Alberta on a Tuned Racing Yamaha R6 was 11th quickest in the Group One session, turning a lap at 1:31.6. Fastest overall in the combined two 600cc classes was newly crowned Champ Garrett Gerloff aboard a Monster Energy/Graves Yamaha R6 at 1:28.18.
“I’m gaining confidence with the bike on this track,” confirmed a cheerful Casas at the end of a very warm day at Barber Motorsports Park. “The bike feels good settings wise, and the adjustments we have made so far have helped.
“I need to work more on the blind corners, and the braking areas, there is so much going on with this track,” confirmed 18-year-old Casas of the hilly, 16 turn venue. “Some of the turns I’m still lacking confidence; that really affects your lap time on a blind section of this track.
“If I can pick up some corner speed, I know I’ll gain some confidence,” continued the 2018 Pro Middleweight Canadian number one plate holder. “Then I can really focus on riding with other people and picking up some pointers; so far I have been by myself. That will be a focus of Qualifying tomorrow.
“Overall, it was a lot of fun for my first day. My goal is to make it all the way through the weekend, not to crash, to ride all the time in every session and race and get the greatest opportunity to learn. I want to stay within my limits.”
The first 600cc class race for Ortt and Casas is schedule for 2:25 pm CDT tomorrow afternoon, with the initial KTM spec race including title contender Dumas slated for the end of the day Saturday at 4:35 pm CDT.