Roadracing for Vampires

Tire testing after the sun goes down at Daytona.

Roadracing for Vampires

Knowing that only a handful of teams would be testing, I arrived at Daytona International Speedway in early December with mixed emotions. Due to a multitude of reasons, all not explained, the Suzuki and Kawasaki factory teams did not attend. Yamaha was there along with Honda, as was Buell. For the first time, the test was run by AMA Pro Racing, not Dunlop. As a result, a formal schedule of events was put in place, along with a pit-lane speed limit.

Mornings from 9–12 a.m. were reserved for "Daytona Sportbike," which used a newly configured track running from the infield onto NASCAR Turn 1 and then down the back straight of the Speedway, through the chicane and back onto NASCAR Turns 3 and 4. From 1–5 p.m., the track was reconfigured for "American Superbikes." Those bikes ran pretty much the same infield as in recent years and took their turn on the banking after the final chicane.

With sunset on the horizon and darkness falling, track personnel switched on the permanent lights. In addition, massive Musco lighting trucks were scattered around the infield like mechanical giraffes. It was so bright, shields were put in place so as not to blind pilots trying to land at the neighboring airport! As the temperature dropped, the atmosphere became oddly festive. With the ugly backgrounds that surround the track obscured from view, the Speedway was almost cozy.

Watching the bikes glint and shine under the lamps as they flashed past was interesting. As they sped away, I could see the glow of their small, red LED taillights. Yamaha's Josh Herrin mentioned that he got a headache the first time he ventured out onto the track in the dark. I, too, was slow to adapt to the lack of ambient light and had to use my best judgment while working my cameras. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed shooting the evening sessions.

The Daytona 200 is scheduled to run on Friday, March 6. On a typical Bike Week Friday night, everyone is hanging out on Main Street. How many of those people will choose racing "under the lights" over leather-clad biker babes?

Josh Herrin leads Hayes into the International Horseshoe.

Turn 1 flashing light.

Bostrom on the all-new Yamaha R1.

Bald eagles do their mating dance.

Dunlop use to run the December tire test; now it's AMA Pro Racing's turn.

Bostrom, Josh Hayes and Blake Young under the lights on the start/finish straight.

As the sun sets, the riders come out.

After the pace car pulled in...

R1 in the garage.

Under the lights at Daytona.

Richie Morris Racing announced its plans for 2009.

Jake Zemke, hard on the brakes, lifts the rear wheel of his Erion Honda.

Michael "Barney" Barnes, the new Buell factory rider.

Dusk at the Daytona International Speedway.

Hayes onboard his Yamaha R1 Superbike.

Neil Hodgson under a late afternoon sun.

All-new rubber shoes.

Ben Bostrom in NASCAR Turn 4 at Daytona.

Pace car enters NASCAR Turn 1.

Tommy Aquino had a good test weekend.