June 21, 2008
You could sense the anticipation in the ASRA Pro Series paddock as they rolled out for the first of the qualifying sessions under high clouds and mid 80's temperatures, far and away the best conditions VIR has seen in the last few years for the Festival of Speed.
The top two riders, Jeff Wood on the Bettencourt's Suzuki 1000 and Robert Jensen aboard the Butler Machinery were among the first riders out, and the race for the pole was on. While Jensen matched Wood lap for lap on the track, no official times were recorded because Jensen failed to mount his transmitter before joining scoring. Wood meanwhile set a track and class record for ASRA Pro SuperStock with a 1:26.573. Wood was followed by David Weber on the XT Racing Suzuki 1000 at 1:28.693, J. Seth Starnes on the All-Supply Suzuki 1000 at a 1:28.741 and Tyngsboro MA rider Shane Narbonne at 1:29.034 to round out the first row of the grid.
SuperBike qualifying was next for the pair as they switched to their Yamaha R-6's and set out unison for the session. Both Wood and Jensen were under the old lap record by lap two but it was advantage Wood as the two put in one more fast lap to finish the session, Wood's 1:27;996 bettered Jensen by .526. Finishing out the front row, it was Chad Herrmann from Loganville, GA on his Yamaha 600 with a strong 1:29.261 to place third ahead of Taylor Knapp whose 1:29.474 on the Ray C's Extreme Kawasaki 600 was good enough for fourth.. It was Wood's second pole and class record of the day giving the Winchendon, MA resident a boost going into the Factory Pro SportBike session to end the day.
ThunderBike became an intercontinental battle as the Daytona runner-up Richard Cooper from Nottingham, England returned to the US to put some pressure on the ASRA regulars. As the session opened, the top four riders eclipsed the old class record and it became a real battle to see who would pull off the fast lap and a new record. First it was Nate Kern on the BMWExplorer.com machine who took control, but pressure from Deeley H-D's Dave Estok forced the issue, resulting in Cooper's record lap of 1:32.474 on the Norton's BMW entry. In the end, Kern managed to move into second position with a 1:32;646, followed Estok on the Buell 1200 in third at 1:32.759. H-D of Fredrick's Bryan Bemisderfer put his Buell on the front row with a 1:33.014.
With the threat of thundershowers in the area, the Factory Pro SportBike riders took off and immediately went to work on the three-year old lap record held by Geoff May. By lap three, Jensen and Knapp posted their best efforts at a 1:29.078 for Jensen then Knapp right behind with a 1:29.094, closely followed by Joshua Hayes on the Paris Racing Honda at 1:29.158. Next lap, Jensen retired with a broken fuel line that drained his tank and left his machine powerless. Then it was time for the Jeff Wood show as the Bettencourt Yamaha rider put together a string of fast laps culminating in his final effort, a 1:27.667, fast enough for both the pole and a new class qualifying record. In post-qualifying inspection, Jensen's bike wouldn't start for the mandatory Dyno test, so he was removed from the results. Also in Dyno testing, Taylor Knapp's machine tested 1.4 horsepower over and was penalized 6 positions as per the 2008 ASRA rules. After the penalties, the front row is set with Wood on the pole followed by Hayes, David Rose on the Castles & Cottages Yamaha and Garrett Carter astride the Matsushima Suzuki.
With all the preliminary action complete now it's time for tomorrow's show as the ASRA Pro Series Finals are scheduled to start at 3:30pm Sunday on Virginia International Raceway's North Course. Tickets $15, support races start at 10:00am.
For complete qualifying results, click here.