|Side by Sideways, Larry Pegram (72) and Nicky Hayden (69) into the circuit’s final turn|
SuperTT racing may only have a small following in the US, but if Saturday’s pre-season warmup race was any indication, that following includes some of American motorcycle racing’s most famous names.
The race, held in the parking lot of Anaheim’s Edison Field, featured 3 classes: Open, Sportsman, and Mini-motard. The podium in the Open class was occupied by three riders who may be familiar to our readers: American Honda’s Nicky Hayden (1st), roadracer and dirttracker Larry Pegram (2nd), and former 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz.
The SuperTT course was short and predominantly paved, with one dirt corner towards the beginning of the track. Laps ran in the low 50 second range in the Open class event, which featured an exciting, Superpole-style qualifier for the top 5 riders.
|The Yoshimura-built Suzuki DRZ400 Raced by Kevin Schwantz|
Both Hayden and Pegram competed on heavily modified Honda CRF450R race bikes, Nicky’s being a factory-built effort while Pegram’s bike came from the crew at White Brothers. Schwantz raced a Suzuki DRZ400 prepared by Yoshimura. All three bikes featured lowered suspension and 17-inch rims, along with various other bits of trickness. Pegram and Hayden both ran what appeared to be roadracing rain tires in the Open class main, while Schwantz’s bike looked to have been fitted with hand-cut roadrace slicks. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to examine the tire choices until after the main, at which point the heavily worn rubber was somewhat difficult to identify.
The heavy tire wear comes from the impressive sideways action the racers engage in through the paved corners. During one of his laps in the two lap Superpole-style qualifier, Nicky Hayden actually rode through the entirety of the final turn with the bike incredibly sideways and his knee on the ground in roadrace style. While Nicky didn’t use this tactic during the race, it was nonetheless an impressive display of riding ability.
|Hayden, Pegram, and Schwantz begin|
Schwantz and Pegram fought for the lead in the opening laps of the main event, with Schwantz eventually falling behind Pegram and then being passed by Nicky Hayden near the halfway point. Nicky went all-out to catch Pegram, leading to a tight battle in the closing laps. Hayden finally passed Pegram (with a little help from a lapper) and was able to hold on for the win. After an impressive, near-vertical rolling stoppie on his victory lap, Hayden returned to the winners circle to clown around with Pegram.
The two young riders appeared to have had even more fun than the crowd, trading hugs and playful blows while the announcer interviewed Schwantz. In his interview, Pegram jokingly accused Hayden of “cutting the track” and then suggested to the announcer that the two run another race. It might have been a joke, but Nicky seemed to think it was a good idea and so did the crowd.
Altogether, Saturday’s event provided a relaxed atmosphere and exciting racing between stars of today and yesterday. I’d say it was one of the best races I’ve attended in a long time, and I think at least two of the riders would agree.