Rapp Strikes Back

Latus Motors Racing's Steve Rapp has two podiums, is fourth overall in AMA Pro Daytona SportBike points.

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Steve Rapp is campaigning a Ducati 848 for Oregon Harley-Davidson dealer George Latus this season in the AMA Pro Daytona SportBike class. At the Daytona opener, the series veteran finished third in the 200, his third podium placing at the Florida track in the past four years. Moving to the second round of the series, held at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, Rapp was seventh and third, respectively, in the two-race format. Heading to Road Atlanta for Round 3, he is fourth overall in points.

Team Latus Motors Racing is a small team with limited resources, but Rapp is pleased to be riding for the enthusiastic Latus, who is also a longtime supporter of dirt-tracker Joe Kopp. "He's not a big team," said Rapp. "He's not a corporation. He's just one guy who is spending his own money, and I'm thankful for that. We need people like George in this sport."Strong winds on Saturday morning at Fontana blew a 300-foot section of air fence onto the track and caused scheduling delays. Starting from fourth on the grid, Rapp went backward in the difficult conditions. "The crosswind was blowing the bodywork out, and the shift lever got stuck on it," he said. "It was just one of those things. We'd never ridden in wind like that." At the end of the race, the shift lever had rubbed through the paint on the offending panel.

For Sunday's event, the team secured the fairing and made suspension changes that Rapp had requested. "That helped a lot," he admitted. "I wasn't really happy with the balance of the bike." The wind that was such a hindrance one day earlier had abated, and Rapp circulated for much of the race in third behind Geico Powersports RMR Suzuki's Danny Eslick and eventual race-winner Graves Motorsports rider Josh Herrin. M4 Monster Energy Suzuki's Martin Cardenas, Saturday's SportBike winner, passed Rapp mid-race but fell in the closing stages, handing Rapp the final podium spot. "'Flip-flops are a lot of work," he said afterword, "but the Ducati felt really stable and planted."

This was the first race weekend for Dunlop's new D211 GP-A spec tire, which replaces the previous D209 GP-A. Rapp welcomed the improved grip of the new Buffalo, New York-built tire, though he was quick to note that the Ducati is much different than the Yamaha YZF-R6 he rode last year. "The way the Ducati puts power down is easier on the tire," he said. "The first seven laps or so were pretty good. After that, the tire started to get a little bit of movement. There's always room for improvement, but I think they're better."

Third isn't first, but Rapp feels the Latus effort is headed in the right direction. "This was one of the best days we've had here in a long time," he said. "If we can keep happy and motivated, thinking this a worthwhile cause, that's a good thing. If I keep getting on the podium, he'll be happy."