This story was published in 1995 by American Roadracing magazine.
DuHamel whittles Hale’s points lead to nine with fourth win at Brainerd
The identical thought undoubtedly ran through the minds of nearly every constituent of the AMA Superbike series even before the race began at Brainerd International Raceway on July sixteenth. Whether they were a sweaty tire-changer at Dunlop or a clean shaven factory rider, the question remained the same: could Miguel DuHamel do it again?
Miguel DuHamel cut a swath through the AMA’s midwest and east coast tour like a sharecropper harvesting wheat, in great wide sweeps Miguel won all of the Superbike races of June, three in a row. And now everyone wanted to know when, or actually if, he, with motivation and momentum very high, could be stopped. After falling at Daytona and falling again (but picking the Honda up and finishing) at Pomona, DuHamel mounted a spirited charge for the AMA Superbike championship and by the twenty-ninth day of June he sat just seventeen points out of first place in the Superbike points tally. Mike Hale, Miguel’s Smokin Joe’s teammate had one objective at Brainerd and that was to protect his points lead.
There were two schools of thought on the subject, somebody needed to flat-out trounce DuHamel or DuHamel needed to make a mistake. After Brainerd, Atlantic City oddsmakers would not be betting on either of those circumstances happening.
Winning races brings immeasurable confidence to a Superbike rider, it blocks out the doubts he may have in his own ability and clouds over poor memories of the past. When Douglas Polen trounced the field on his 955 Ducati a few seasons back you could almost see his flesh swell from self-assurance the more races he’d won. By that season’s end, any advantage the 955 Ducati had was at least equaled by Polen’s enormous confidence from winning so often.
But winning races in succession too produces a large set of baggage. In that the pressure mounts with each win, this from the Earl of Spencer. The Fred from Shreeveport won four 500 and four 250 GPs in a row when he steamrolled the world in 1985 and he states, “Winning (in succession) like that does a tremendous amount to a rider’s confidence. It gets you in the frame of mind so that you know what you need to do and when you confirm it by winning race after race like that you don’t need to press as hard. And when that is off your shoulders, the results are always better. The down side, immediate downside, is that you can get complacent and you lose the edge after a while.” What else Freddie-san? “Well, racers are all superstitious (Spencer is fairly superstitious, although he keeps it in the closet well). And if it worked to put your pants on one way, you keep doing it that way .. and it might make you a little resistant to change.”
DuHamel wasted little time is showing everyone that he and Honda were out for blood. Ray Plumb had the RC45’s gearbox selections computed for BIR before the bikes were loaded onto the transporter in Torrance, it showed, the RC45 lunged off the corners from the first lap of practice and only got faster as their track time increased. Although Fast by Ferracci rider Mike Smith was immediately up to speed in qualifying using a soft compound Michelin, DuHamel bested him in the first practice and held pole throughout timed qualifying. Shortly after the FBF Ducati was timed as quickest, something in the fuel delivery process failed and Smith sat on the pit wall for the remainder of the session, watching DuHamel whittle away at the track, testing tires and small geometry changes.
When qualifying saw the final checkered flag, Miguel was on point with a new track record and a near half second cushion over the second fastest rider, Tom Kipp on the VHR Yamaha.
Steve Scheibe and company brought the Harley-Davidson VR1000 machinery to BIR after a test at Gratten a few days prior with rider Doug Chandler. Scheibe reported that the test “went better than any we’ve had before” but not much more. The spark in his eye told one that there was probably reason to revel, but what? Looking at the bikes … hmmm same forks, same brakes, same injection system … yet something appears strangely out of place. Ah, the triple clamps … had a distinct Italian flavor to them …
It was clear that the VRs had garnered new triple clamps since Loudon, probably from a conspicuous Ducati shop in Philadelphia. A source noted the tree was the same in geometry but different in material and tolerance. Chandler said that it was a definite improvement, making the steering feedback constant when the bike was healed over at different degrees of angle. As it is in the early stages of all racing efforts, not all the news was good at Harley-Davidson: accelerating up the front straight in the first session Chandler’s chain snapped, over-revving the engine and deeming a replacement be stapled in. The VR had decent top speed at Brainerd and accelerated out of the hairpin in nine harder than nearly anything else in the class. But the lap timer told a different story: lack of acceleration exiting the circuit’s very fast turn one and two.
In retrospect, Miguel DuHamel, on the softest of qualifying tires, hustled the VR around BIR in 1:41.72 a season ago. The best Chandler could do, in timed qualifying on race tires, was a 1:41.942, although he would improve that significantly later.
Always a trooper, Douggy tried some fairly innovative techniques to get more acceleration from the big American Twin exiting the fast corners, simple techniques any rider would attempt. For example, blasting into turn one at some god forsaken triple digit speed and downshifting into fourth while dumping the new slipper clutch (both he and Carr have em’ now) against a pinned throttle once the exit came into view. Do not try this at home. The engine laid on redline and acceleration, given no other possible option (but shelling parts), improved. Chandler qualified eleventh, just behind the Muzzy Kawasakis and picked up another half second on race day morn – in the warm up he raced with the Yoshimura Suzuki of Thomas Stevens and afterwards Stevens told reporters and other racers that the VR was nearly as fast as the Suzuki. “I’ve got a tenth left in me and if that thing will live, we’ll be near the front” Chandler predicted. But success for Chandler would be determined on his start and his ability to hang in the draft for the first laps.
Vance and Hines Yamaha was without the injured Jamie James who would sit out with the wrist he snapped at Elkhart Lake. This left Tom Kipp as the focus of the Vance and Hines Yamaha resources, and with the Yamaha spotlight shining on him, young Kipp shined. After qualifying second Kipp commented, “This is really the first time I have come here (BIR) with horsepower. On my Wiseco Yamaha and then Honda and last year with Suzuki, we were a bit off the pace as far as acceleration and outright power was concerned. But the Yamaha has excellent power and the chassis … well, I’ve only been passed by one bike in turn one so far. It’s a kick to go through there with a Suzuki or a Ducati leading, we’ll go in there real hot and all of a sudden they have to let off and I ride right by.”
Kipp intentionally languished back in qualifying until the second and final session when he and DuHamel hooked up and pushed each others limits, to a degree. DuHamel took point and with Kipp behind smashed the lap record set by Polen and secured the Pole. Then Kipp drafted around and DuHamel chased. Kipp’s fast time, although good for second place was still nearly half a second from the Canadian’s time. Said Kipp, “It worked out for both of us” DuHamel squeaked a 1:39.162 versus Kipp’s 1:39.502. Kipp was second fastest and perhaps more impressive, three seconds faster than his qualifying effort from 1994 on the Yosh Suzuki.
Team VHR Yamaha crew chief Jim Leonard smashed the thin lightweight electric shifter mount that cost Kipp victory at Loudon and in its place was a polished billet unit.
Yoshimura Suzuki enjoyed some uncharacteristic big top speed and tooth settling acceleration the last time the AMA carnival visited a fast circuit (Road America) but at BIR, that was not the case. Fred Merkel qualified in sixth and Tom Stevens laid whimpering back in eighth circulating at a 1:40.521 pace. Technical leader Don Sakakura stated that in an attempt to find more acceleration they had “messed around with the carburation just enough to actually lose acceleration and improve top speed.” And the distinct mix of slow and fast corners that make up BIR didn’t help matters for the blue and white Suzukis. Sakakura continued, “This place is so fast down the front and into the first two turns (however) … then you get to the infield section where there’s a real slow corner too. It’s tough.” Read that as internal transmission ratios were a problem as well.
Fred Merkel spent most of qualifying with soft qualifying tires on his GSXR in an attempt to move himself up the grid and only donned hard race rubber on Sunday morning. A cheeky crew member suggested to Merkel in the pitlane during final qualifying that he “try some different lines or something in the two parts of the track (you’re) having problems in.” Merkel vetoed that idea, explaining with a languished tone in his voice, “I’m using all of the racetrack and most of the dirt outside the track now. There’s nothing more I can do.” The Suzuki GSXR that looked so strong at Road America would not be of the same threat at Brainerd.
As stated, in the end it was all DuHamel who was fastest in qualifying, taking one more point from the void between he and championship rival and teammate Mike Hale. Hale made a fine run on Miguel for the pole position but with nobody to draft and the fact that he used a race set up and tires in the qualifying session meant that he would sit third fastest at 1:39.896, the last rider in the thirty-nines. After toweling himself off, he stated, “I tried to get a clear lap and nail one, I wanted to do it, but unfortunately slower riders cost me some time.” Hale now sat sixteen points up on Miguel. “It’s one point but, oh well.”
Ducati rider Mike Smith too ran well at Elkhart Lake and looked forward to coming to Minnesota because of the big speed of the Ducati. Thus, he was just as curious as to his less than stellar qualifying position of fourth. “It seems that at one moment we have it, the next we don’t. We had it at Elkhart but here … the bike’s essentially the same …” Teammate Spencer qualified in seventh and said the actual qualifying process for him held no real luster with his back being injured from a turn three crash on Thursday. “It wasn’t exciting” said Fred. “We had to re-do everything (swap an engine) because of the crash and I sat out this morning’s session with a sore back. It’s okay now but only for five or six laps.”
Crashes, yes. Brainerd Superbike practice and qualifying saw a fair number of crashes. Chris Carr pitched the second factory VR1000 into turn ten in practice with a cold front tire and traction became absent in a hurry. Carr lowsided and body-surfed off the racing line on his backside and elbow, unhurt. Hale pitched the Camel Honda into turn four with a cold tire and fell as well. Freddie Spencer had just put in a flying lap and was on another in the first timed qualifying session when he felt a slight engine vibration coming into turn three. Knowing big twins throw big parts when they break, Spencer snapped the throttle closed but it was too late, something inside the cases failed, locking the rear tire before Spencer could catch it. He was on his back and tumbling in short order. Although The Fred thought afterwards he was fine, an hour later the pain in his back would not go away and he was on his stomach with electrical current being mainlined into the muscles of his back. A day later teammate Smith would crash in three when the front brake inexplicably locked. “I came in normally and when the front started to lock a little I let off the lever but … the brake wasn’t listening. I pushed it out as far as I could and finally it just went away.”
The front Michelin showed a nice flat spot in testament to Mike’s story that the front wheel never moved once he clamped on the lever.
But locked brakes are perhaps better than no brakes as Mirage Ducati rider Dale Quarterley experienced when he entered turn three under the same circumstances and pulled the lever to the bar with no result. The pads had separated from the backing material and for a time Quarterley was forced to use the most basic of braking systems – the soles of his boots and the rear binder. Off the track he went until a forced lowside brought him down. Performance Machine brakes will soon be replacing the Brembos that came with Wildman Quarterly’s Ducati.
With the benefit of hindsight, race tire selection proved to be even more crucial than normal. Miguel, Hale and other Dunlop riders went with the 886, a softer compound with Tom Kipp being the only front-running holdout, opting for the standard, and harder, 676 slick.
On the grid before the green flag fell, Kipp and DuHamel were deadly silent, allowing themselves to look down the straight or occasionally at each other, serious race-faces with blinders as well. Further back on the second row, Freddie Spencer, who long ago shook real pre-race seriousness, laughed and joked with Larry Ferracci and waved to fans in the grandstands.
It was Spencer who nailed the start, almost leaving too soon with Smith following his jump but Kipp and DuHamel were soon at the front as the pack of riders blasted down the straight. The pair wasted little time in drawing beads on one another: Kipp led as the two snagged fifth gear with DuHamel coming just along side him, WFO. Side by side or nearly so, both knew the other sat beside him through peripheral vision, and neither were going to let off through one, *let’s see right now who is the top dog, eh?*
With drama at its highest point between the two young guns, Spencer and the long legs Ducati pulled out of Kipp’s draft, his location until then unascertained to either Kipp or DuHamel, and he simply drove around the two Japanese machines and pulled a nice long lead by the second corner. “I thought I had a good start” said DuHamel post race “and all of sudden here comes Spencer from no where.”
In the inevitable first lap shuffle, Mike Hale sprinted into the lead before the first lap was in the books with Tiger Sohwa on yet another Ducati just behind him. Hale would hold that position, with DuHamel and Kipp close behind, for two laps and then slid to sixth and worse when his rear tire began to go off in a big way. Spencer knew that his battered back was good for about eight laps at a serious race pace thus The Fred decided to make the most of a fresh Michelin rear. Sadly his FBF Ducati began to “skate” badly with the machine being almost uncontrollable mid corner. “It was drifting and walking all over and I was really losing my drive out of nine and ten. Mike and Tiger used (a different) tire and perhaps they made a better choice” said the three time world champ post race.
Kipp came into turn four, the first left hander, on lap one and had a big moment with the Yamaha almost spitting him off. With DuHamel and company trying to make a break, Kipp cracked the YZF’s throttle hard and found himself in a textbook Flying W, legs high in the air. A six-year Superbike veteran Kipp saved it, and with that little altercation taken care of he re-joined the battle from the third position before sliding back to fifth. In a late race charge and duels with both Hale and Spencer, Kipp managed to finish a strong third. He found that the Yamaha began to drag serious chassis parts when the pace increased and thought that his tire selection “gamble” would have moved him up the rostrum one position if the race had gone two more laps.
Ducati rider Mike Smith can usually find a second or three from qualifying to the race and he charged from sixth on the first lap to the point position on lap five. DuHamel had speed but Smitty had acceleration or just pure balls to run it up under him in the slower sections of the track. Smith would take the lead in the infield and lose it to DuHamel on the straight. The two locked in a nice battle for the lead with both extending short leads right back into second place.
During this period and until the final laps of the race, DuHamel looked absolutely masterful as he did at several times in June and in Brainerd Superbike qualifying. Yvon’s son is without a doubt the most aggressive rider in AMA Superbike racing, looking sublimely comfortable as his Honda Superbike shook and wiggled beneath him. Forgive the cliché but it is as if he and the machine were one, and the convulsing as natural as rain falling from a tin roof.
If there was anyone who could take the win from DuHamel it would be Smith but his Michelin tire blistered and chunked on the seventeenth lap and he was forced to adopt weak wrist procedures to ensure a finish. “With the abrasive surface here at Brainerd,” Smith explained later, “and the fast turn one, you almost need a Daytona tire (to race here).” His second place was solid though and he was relatively happy with a decent finish in spite of his dreary qualifying position.
The race for both of the Yoshimura Suzuki riders was uneventful. Merkel ran strong until the right side of his rear tire lost adhesion and he faded to an eventual sixth place finish. Teammate Stevens wopped the curbing in turn nine, according to Don Sakakura and damaged the front wheel. With a nasty vibration coming then from the front he backed off for a points position in tenth.
Doug Chandler’s race effectively ended on the starting line. Chandler wanted to run with the lead group and not lose the draft so he tried an aggressive launch technique and smoked the clutch of the VR1000 Harley-Davidson within a few feet of the line. Strange to see white smoke everywhere around Chandler’s machine but the rear tire not moving in the slightest. Both he and Carr’s VRs finished the race, a high point in an otherwise trying season.
From the seventeenth lap, tires became the focal point in the race. Falling back, Spencer, himself probably with tire problems, stalked Mike Hale who had chunked a rear and was unable to accelerate at a respectable pace, the rear would spin when any amount of stick was applied. With Hale an almost solid third and the checkers looming in front of them, Hale’s tire called it a day and Freddie spanked the kid at the line for fourth. When Smith’s Michelin went off, DuHamel made enough of an advantage to ensure victory and then let off to a eight-tenths pace.
DuHamel exited the final turn before the checkered flag and yanked the Honda into a beautiful wheelie, long and graceful. With the nose of the bike in the air and stable, he began to bang gears and didn’t set the machine down for probably a half mile, at well over a hundred and ten mph, easily besting the Brainerd wheelie record set by Robbie Peterson a few seasons back on a Roberts YZF500.
Points leader Mike Hale appeared understandably dejected after the race, with the loss of nearly half his championship cushion. He sat on a bench in the garage with the rear tire in question beneath him staring off in the distance as he spoke with reporters and his father. The tire was not a textbook failure, but appeared as if someone had taken a thin knife and cut the crown off making it as flat and square as a tire from a sixties musclecar.
In the post race press conference DuHamel said that he thought had speed down the front straight on the Ducati and perhaps got through turns one and two a bit faster than Mike Smith or anyone else in the field. Smith, sitting next to him, suddenly got a cold and began to sneeze with the sneezes sounding a lot like “Bullshit”.
When asked what had happened to Spencer, Smith taunted, “I’m sick of you guys coming over here and asking me what happened to him. I beat his ass today and I will continue to beat him.” When told that Spencer said he’d used a different tire than he or Sohwa. Smith continued, “I used the same tire that Freddie did. Get him over here and we’ll ask him.” The dust had long settled from Spencer’s rental car leaving the paddock.
When the race was long finished and the spectators back to their respective homes and lives, Smokin Joe’s people popped open refreshments and beamed in their four-way fortune. Someone, just making conversation, asked DuHamel’s lead technician Al Ludington what modifications he would make to DuHamel’s RC45 for the upcoming WSC race at Laguna and the AMA race at Gateway. Ludington thought for a few moments, thought of the events of June and Miguel’s pole at Brainerd. He thought of how he and DuHamel had once almost resigned from the championship points chase because of the seventeen points that separated them from first place. That seventeen points, thanks to DuHamel’s pole and Brainerd win were a comfortable nine points now.
After some time he answered,
“I think, really, all I am going to do is take the fuel tank to our fabricator at Honda, Tom Jobe, he will put two very large dents put in the back of the tank, right where Miguel’s crotch rests.”
Headin’ North? Bring warm clothes … and plenty of power
Fans of the Sixties television cartoon Rocky and Bullwinkle no doubt remember Frostbite Falls, home for the two furry heroes of the long running Saturday morning program. Always interwoven into the latest clash with Boris and Natasha, Frostbite Falls was referred to as the coldest city in the United States and is loosely based upon International Falls, Minnesota a city about two hours north of Brainerd, home of Brainerd International Raceway and the seventh venue on the AMA Superbike calendar.
International Falls, just across from the Canadian border, is officially the coldest spot in America. And for good reason, mid-winter temps can drop to forty below zero and it is not uncommon for a thin layer of ice to stay on area lakes until the first of July. This is actual ambient temperature, not wind chill which can dip below one hundred below on occasion.
What does this have to do with racing you ask? Indirectly, quite a bit. Brainerd International Raceway is unique on the AMA Superbike circuit in that some of the course is used in the winter for snowmobile racing and that the cold weather can buckle the asphalt when the mercury drops to the depths of the thermometer. BIR, which began life in the late 1960s as Donnybrook Speedway, has been repaved a number of times in part because of the damage done during the cold months, most recently for the WSC races in the late 1980s and will no doubt require a near complete re-pave before the decade is out.
The course itself, in comparison to its midwestern brethren– Mid Ohio and Road America – is certainly not majestic. Ten turns make up the circuit and nearly all flat and medium speed corners with plenty of run off. It has wholesome beauty though, BIR is mostly free of tobacco signeage unlike Elkhart and Mid-O because the IndyCar series does not yet visit the sight.
Yet, some are of the opinion that the circuit is featureless.
Other than the front straight that is. Brainerd’s three mile course is home to the fastest straight that the AMA circus travels to and perhaps the fastest stretch of roadracing asphalt in America. It’s a throttle stop bending one mile in length and with an exit from turn ten (the corner that leads onto the straight) of about seventy miles per hour, a Superbike can build serious speed in a hurry. “It’s pretty amazing,” says Vance and Hines Yamaha rider Tom Kipp. “ When you exit ten and look down the straight and the next corner seems like it’s miles away, all you see is heat waves coming up from the pavement. You just get in a tight tuck and hold the throttle open.”
BIR’s straight is fairly infamous because of a pair of incidents: Kevin Schwantz’s collision with his Japanese teammate in 1986 and Troy Corser’s crash in practice last season when he too fell on the entrance of turn one, destroying another FBF Ducati.. After pitching his Suzuki at a buck fifty Kevin quipped that an entire day had passed from the time he fell to when he stopped sliding.,
When Wayne Rainey and the factory Honda machines blitzed down the straight in the mid 1980s the braver lads would hold the throttle wide open from the exit of turn ten until the exit of turn one (an enormous top gear banked right hander), the better riders never letting off.
VR1000 mounted Miguel DuHamel showed all in 1994 that an underpowered motorcycle can run at the front at BIR, if the rider will use the draft and ride like a certifiable maniac. However, in almost all instances, horsepower is normally the order of the day at BIR. Although the series is so tightly competitive now that all Superbike teams are trying consistently to have a power advantage everywhere, there was a time when several teams had big power engines that were used only for Daytona and Brainerd. These mills had plenty of cam, a high flow cylinder head and nary a care about torque down low. Only the engines that made huge dyno numbers had BIR written on the case.
Below are the radar gun readings from Saturday’s qualifying session:
Freddie Spencer/Ducati 179 mph
Doug Chandler/Harley-Davidson 173
Steve Crevier/Kawasaki 178
Tom Harwood Kipp/Yamaha 175
Miguel DuHamel/Honda 176
Pascal Picotte/Kawasaki 176
Mike Hale Honda/178
Fred Merkel Suzuki/176
Dale Quarterley Ducati/168
Mike Smith Ducati/173
Chris Carr Harley-Davidson/168
Thomas Stevens/Suzuki 176
(Spencer had the fastest trap speed at Road America : 174mph)
Brainerd International Raceway
The AMA circus has been coming to BIR since 1983 when a kid who looked more like a surfer than a racer won the Superbike race on his Rob Muzzy tuned Kawasaki GPz750 based Superbike, winning against a hoard of VF750 Hondas. Wayne Rainey would go on to the Superbike championship at Kawasaki (after the spectacular carnage at the Willow Springs final) only to have the proverbial carpet pulled from beneath him when Kawasaki opted out of racing after the season ended, sending the entire team to the unemployment line. Rainey went to Europe in 1984 and rode a Roberts Yamaha 250. He had about the same success Jimmy Filice had on the Rainey 250 ten seasons later.
The AMA series ceased coming to Brainerd in the late eighties when attendance numbers and factory involvement became lacking. BIR manager Dick Roe was instrumental in obtaining a WSBK race at BIR in one of the first seasons of the then fledgling series, 1988. With a wide open paddock and super trick machinery everywhere, fans flooded to BIR for both WSBK races and only last year has the attendance at an AMA race exceeded what the track brought in for the WSC series.
When the WSBK series ventured to BIR the sanctioning body asked the track to modify the high speed section of the course which ran under a cement bridge and deemed dangerous by track inspectors. The new corner is a low speed hairpin taken in second gear on most Superbikes and exits to a short straight going under the bridge. This area has become a popular section for spectators as the Superbikes exit the slow kink on the back wheel. On raceday the turn nine area was filled to capacity with fans.
Battle of the Trash
Tripp Nobles made a surprise entry to the Supertwins class at Brainerd. After a struggling season with the Muzzy Kawasaki team and a solid non-compete contract for 1995 (meaning Nobles cannot compete on any other motorcycle but a Kawasaki in any class that KHI races in) Tripp made a desperate call to Bartles Harley-Davidson and asked for his old ride back. “I called them last Saturday and they told me get to Brainerd. We have a real good relationship dating back to when I rode for them before so I was happy to get something going for them again.” Bartles furnished Nobles with their Springsteen 883 dirt track machine with wide bars, dirt tires and gearing way off for Brainerd. In the race Nobles ran well but when he looked down at the tach he knew the American mill would never survive. “I looked own at the revs and was surprised to see it spinning all the way to eight grand. I knew that she was going to let go, you just can’t do that. So in about five or six laps it stared losing power and a lap later it started to smoke, it was done.” Matt Wait won the race even after being nudged from behind by Higbee near the finish with Eric Bostrom, Billy Graef and Nobles rounding out the top five.
Jimmy Filice made a return to AMA 250 racing at Brainerd after a trying season on the Padgetts 500. Former class champion Filice, with help from friends through together a last minute deal with Brian Turfrey who has a close association with Bud Aksland of Kenny Roberts fame. Turfrey will tune the Yamaha TZ250 that Filice will ride for the remainder of the year.
Filice’s weekend at Brainerd put an extra dose of excitement in the class that has been a Rich Oliver solo act for much of the last two seasons. Filice won his heat race, qualifying second and looked good for a run at Rich Oliver in the final, although he commented that his bike was slow. “Slow huh?” said one of Filice’s competitors. “Maybe it’s slow compared to the 250s that Jimbo has ridden in the past, but it is definitely not slow.” According to Filice the 1994 Yamaha he was using was essentially stock, internally, with a Bud Aksland pipe and other assorted bits. Rich Oliver wandered through the Filice/Turfrey pit and reported back, “They have some nice parts over there and some of the best 250 guys in the business. We have a nice set up, but Bud’s dyno-room and the development they can do are serious weapons. I’m sure it will start swinging back and forth once he gets on an equal footing.”
The first real duel between Oliver and Filice failed to materialize in the race when Filice made a nice start only to move backwards to fifth on the fourth lap. By lap six he was in the pits and out of the race. Oliver would go on to an astounding near fourteen second margin of victory over his team mate Chuck Sorenson and Randy Renfrow, who hadn’t been on a podium in some time.
Renfrow, riding the Moto Liberty Honda won the 125 race on Saturday over Rodney Fee and Masahiro Iizuka.
Fred Merkel and Miguel DuHamel continued their winning ways at Brainerd, both winning their respective Supersport classes. In each case there wasn’t much drama in the racing (at the front) after qualifying with both Merkel and DuHamel qualifying a half second faster than the field. Merkel simply left the pack behind from the first laps and cruised to an easy victory over VHR Yamaha’s Tom Kipp. Kipp still has the points lead and most paddock instigators are wondering when Yoshimura will put Thomas Stevens on a Supersport bike to help Merkel gain points on Kipp. The answer to there million dollar (actually the fifty thousand dollar question – Kipp’s rumored championship bonus) question – is yes. Kipp can finish behind Merkel and the very impressive Yoshimura Suzuki for the remainder of the season and still win the championship. But Kipp, Merkel and Yamaha are saying it ain’t gonna happen that way …
DuHamel wandered from the front of the lead pack to the rear in the 600 Supersport race but never looked like he couldn’t strike when he thought the time was right, with Mike Hale leading and Tom Wilson on the Kinko’s Kawasaki up front. DuHamel stalked the pair and on the last lap cut his way to the front for the win.
Steve Crevier ran up front as usual until a failed engine took him out on the final lap, in the final two corners. Crevier crossed the finish line scarcely under power and took a moment to perform a huge stoppie before parking the Kawasaki against the fence across from the flagger.
Erion racing almost won the Unlimited Challenge race at Brainerd at it certainly wasn’t a lack of trying the kept them from the top rung of the podium. The Honda team lead after a good start by Mike Barnes and on the first stop did a zero fuel maneuver that put Larry Pergram back into the lead over Cycle Motion.
Aaron Yates took the lead for Cycle Motion just after the two thirds mark and looked to have the race in hand. Until on the final lap Pegram ran the big Honda through turns one and two harder than he ever did before and by turn three had nearly caught Yates’ Suzuki. Exiting turn ten Yates wheelied the Cycle Motion Suzuki anticipating being the first past the checkers. Pegram was right behind him, drafted and went wide at the line for the provisional win. The two riders had split flag man Duke Penhal, Yates with the front wheel in the air and Pegram hard on the gas. “You should have seen the look on that guy’s face as we went by him,” said one of the pair.
A week later, after inspecting the video footage, Cycle Motion was awarded the win and Erion Racing second place. The margin of victory, according to those who witnessed the tape was by a few inches.