Eric Bostrom didn’t finish Sunday’s AMA Pro American SuperBike race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. After qualifying ninth and finishing eighth on Saturday in his debut with Team Cycle World Attack Performance Yoshimura Suzuki, the 15-time AMA Superbike race winner was set for an even better result. Overnight revisions to the MoTeC engine-management system and Öhlins suspension in preparation for the 20-minute morning practice session and afternoon race had given Bostrom even greater confidence in his GSX-R1000.
A blazing sixth-place start from the third row of the grid did indeed put the former factory Kawasaki, Ducati and Yamaha rider immediately in contention for an improved placing among the series’ established teams and riders. From the opening circuit of the scheduled 21-lap race, Bostrom was lapping nearly a second quicker than he had on Saturday, though he was still off the pace set by frontrunners Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Tommy Hayden and Graves Yamaha rider Josh Hayes.
“We’re learning a lot for Laguna,” said Attack Racing’s Richard Stanboli. “We need a second [per lap] to be competitive.”
As the race evolved, Bostrom began to catch the slower-lapping Jordan Suzukis of Jake Zemke and Brett McCormick, running fifth and sixth, respectively. When Jake Holden, riding an M4 Monster Energy Suzuki in place of the injured John Hopkins, slipped back to 10th, Bostrom found himself in seventh place. A sixth- or even fifth-place finish looked possible.
Track conditions didn’t favor taking big risks, especially with the next event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca just one week away. “It’s so greasy out there,” commented Steve Rapp, watching from pit lane. Minutes earlier, Rapp had finished second in the Daytona SportBike race on a Latus Racing Ducati. “If you put any input through the bars [while leaned over], the bike just wants to lose the front end.”
With five laps remaining in the race, an image of a perspiration-covered Bostrom walking helmet in hand flashed onto the pit monitor carrying the live Speed television feed. From our vantage point on the front straightaway, it was unclear what had gone wrong. Based on the pictures, Bostrom hadn’t crashed. “There’s not a scratch on him,” said Stanboli.
Back in the team garage, Bostrom confirmed that he’d parked the bike when the “bottom end tied up.” We’ll know more when the engine, which, according to Bostrom, sounded off-song and hadn’t run as strongly on Sunday as it had on Saturday, comes out of the chassis and goes back to Yoshimura Racing this week.
Despite the DNF, a forward-looking Bostrom was positive. “The start was amazing,” he said. “I engaged the clutch and the bike moved; that kind of scared me. I need to keep the start in check.
“I took it a little easy at the beginning because I wanted to access some of the changes. The changes were in the right direction. We can still make the bike better. The front was a little ‘tight’ feeling. Basically, it wheelied too easily.
“We’ve got a few things to tidy up on the engine-management system. Maybe a little more traction control on the side of the tire to help near the end of the race. We also have a bit of entry stuff to work on. We’re still locking up the back end on the brakes too much now that we’re starting to brake a little more aggressively. The rear end of the bike is…the grip is wonderful. The bike does so many things right. Now, we’re getting down to the point where we can start nitpicking.
“I think the race was a real success. It was a shame that we weren’t able to get up there and race with Jake and Brett; they were coming back to us. It would have been really tough to do anything with them because the brake lever was fluctuating. That would have made passing really desperate.”
Just one weekend into our now four-race program, we’ve already demonstrated that it’s possible under new AMA Pro American SuperBike rules to purchase a motorcycle from a dealership, hire a team and rider, and achieve competitive results. Of course, Attack Performance’s Richard Stanboli and his crew (mechanics Todd Fenton and James “JJ” Matter, truck driver Don Baynes, plus painter and all-around good guy Paul Finn, standing in this weekend for Dan Schwartz) are no ordinary team. And Bostrom is no ordinary rider.
“We came here to Mid-Ohio to accomplish a certain mission and we accomplished it,” said Stanboli. “We made the bike competitive.”
Next stop: the July 23-25 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.