DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Dec. 6, 2008) – For the first time in history, AMA Pro Racing riders and teams didn't pack up their gear at 5 p.m. on the first day of tire testing at Daytona International Speedway on Friday.
They just took a dinner break and then climbed aboard their motorcycles for the first nighttime test session on the historic high banks of "The World Center Of Racing."
The Daytona 200 By Honda, the season-opening event to the Daytona SportBike class in AMA Pro Racing and America’s most historic motorcycle event, will be run under the lights for the first time in history on Friday night, March 6.
This weekend at DIS, teams are testing Dunlop tires and getting a preview of what Daytona is like after dark.
So far, the reviews are positive.
“It was a really cool experience to ride at night,” said Erion Racing’s Jake Zemke on Saturday afternoon. “It was something that I haven’t done since I was a little kid racing dirt tracks. Although it’s a little bit different running around Daytona on the banking at nighttime than it is going around a quarter-mile dirt track. It was quite a different experience. It was really cool. There are a couple of spots on the track that we need to address. Everybody is well aware of that and they are supposed to have it fixed for us tonight already.
“It’s going to be really cool for the spectators. It’s a whole new element that we haven’t seen in the U.S. Obviously, there’s been a GP at night (Qatar) this year and now we’re going to have nighttime races in the States. I think it’s great. It’s going to be really cool for the fans. They are not going to have to sit out here and bask in the sun all day and get sun burnt while watching us race. They are going to enjoy themselves in the evening when it’s cooled off a bit. It’s going to be a really neat deal.”
Zemke is a former Daytona 200 By Honda winner and respects the history of the motorcycle classic. He says moving the tough and demanding race under the lights is another important step in the evolution of the event.
“It definitely adds to the history bringing it into the night,” Zemke said. “We started on the beach and then speedway was built and the racing came inside. We’ve gone through course change in the last few years and now we’re going back to the old course and racing at night. It’s another first for the Daytona 200. It definitely adds to the history of the event. It’s just another new chapter.”
Hayes, who is joining factory Yamaha for the 2009 AMA Pro Racing season, concurred with Zemke.
“It wasn’t too bad,” Hayes said. “It had a couple of dark spots -- the backstraightaway -- but otherwise it actually wasn’t too bad. You’re just not use to having all the visual things that you’re use to having and figuring out some things that are usually shadows or just being able to see the whole race track. Knowing in your peripherals where you are. You just have to learn some new marks. But other than that, the only other thing that didn’t happen is that I didn’t ride around with another motorcycle. So it’ll be interesting, maybe tonight I’ll get to ride around some more and get close to some other bikes.
“You can’t see the crowd and you can’t see the grandstands or anything like that. It’s quite a bit different in that respect. I do a lot of motocrossing at night on motocross tracks, it reminds me a lot of that just at a lot higher speed.”
AMA Pro Racing Dunlop tire testing will wrap up on Sunday. The three-day test session is open to the public. Fans can view the testing action with a $10 tram-tour only ticket available at Daytona 500 Experience.