CARDENAS TAKES CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD WITH BARBER VICTORY
NEWS September 25, 2010
LEEDS, Ala. (September 25, 2010) - Team M4 Monster Energy Suzuki registered a pair of magnificent performances on Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park, scoring a victory, another podium, and taking control of the AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL title lead with just tomorrow's race left to run.
Martin Cardenas did exactly what he had to do on the day, transforming his third-place championship ranking into a title advantage with what can only be described as a perfect outing. Starting from third on the front row, the Colombian was aggressive from the opening lap, forgoing his preferred stalking approach in his quest for maximum points.
Cardenas took over first place aboard his Suzuki GSX-R600 just a handful of turns into the 21-lap affair, and, despite being under heavy and constant pressure throughout, he crossed the line in first position on each and every lap. Coming up big with an inch-perfect ride when he needed it the most, Cardenas grabbed the checkered flag by a scant 0.127-second margin of victory, which catapulted him from 12 points back in the championship race to three points out in front with just Sunday's finale left to decide the season's champion.
Cardenas, who is guaranteed the championship tiebreaker with his class-leading eight victories, said, "I got a good start and I just wanted to race my own race and race at the front as many laps as possible to get the bonus point. It turned out that way and I raced at the front almost the whole time. At the same time it was very, very tough because when you are leading and have someone right behind you all the race, it is very easy to make mistakes. I was trying to not look too much to the back and just maintain my rhythm."
"The bike was very consistent. We did a really good job yesterday with the set-up of the bike. The bike was very stable the whole race. The last few laps it started to move around a little at the back as the tires wore but besides that it was working great and the power was awesome. Really, really big thanks to the team," said Cardenas.
He added, "It was kind of a different race because I led almost the entire way. It's hard to say if it was my best race yet because we've had some really awesome races this year and last year. But these guys are all riding very well so I have to maintain my focus and try to not make any mistakes tomorrow."
John Hopkins backed up Cardenas' stunning ride with a sterling effort of his own, logging back-to-back AMA Superbike podiums with his third-place effort in Birmingham.
Hopkins, who like his teammate qualified third earlier in the day, felt he wasn't aggressive enough in the opening corner which forced him to work hard to make up ground quickly. He did just that, slicing back up into third aboard his GSX-R1000 by lap 3 of 21 and he gave everything he had to keep the championship leaders honest at the front.
"Going off into the first turn on the first lap, they all just kind of passed me," Hopkins joked. "From there the front two guys kind of got a gap but I moved up into third and just tried to hang as long as I could. As my tire started going off my lap times increased dramatically so there are maybe some things we'll want to try for tomorrow to improve the grip when the tire is used. I'm really happy with the result. The M4 Monster Energy Suzuki worked awesome.
“It's been working well all weekend long and we haven't needed to change anything on it at all. We might try a couple little things depending no the weather tomorrow but rain or dry, the team is going to be ready, and I'm going to be ready,” said Hopkins. “It's just a blessing to be out here racing and riding up at the front again."
Unfortunately, Chris Ulrich's season came to an early end as he was forced to withdraw from the season finale weekend. Still suffering from his 125mph spill at New Jersey Motosports Park, Chris was further injured in a press launch incident at Willow Springs Raceway.
He attempted to ride on Friday but his body was still not sufficiently healed for the highly physical act of piloting a Superbike around Barber Motorsports Park.
Ulrich explained, "We got back from New Jersey and I just started to be able to resume my regular training program and everything was coming around. I went to Willow Springs for a press launch for the magazine and someone dropped some oil on the track. When I got to it there was nothing I could do and it highsided me and I landed on top of the bike. I did some damage to my pelvis and smashed my ankle quite badly. I couldn't walk at the time but did a lot of therapy before coming here and was hopeful I'd be able to compete. But when we got here, it all just proved too much. Every time I hit a bump it felt like someone was sticking a needle in the nerve. Overnight it swelled and it was starting to affect the function of my leg and then there was no point trying to continue on. It's a tough way to end the year and you always want to say, 'We'll try again tomorrow,' but it's only going to get worse. It’s the correct move, unfortunately."
The Californian was very upbeat about his season overall, however, having scored 14 top-ten finishes while demonstrating the pace to take the fight to the class' established stars.
"It's a disappointing way to end things, but it was a good year," Ulrich said. "The first eight or nine laps at New Jersey were probably the highlight. We were really starting to show very strong pace at the end of the year. I'm happy with my season; I took a huge step forward in my career. At the end of 2009 I felt I had to do something to step it up and I feel I've done that this year. I'm really looking forward to coming back next year and fighting just as hard on Superbike and enjoying my racing."
Team M4 Monster Energy Suzuki will wrap up the 2010 AMA Pro Road Racing season on Sunday as Hopkins looks to conclude the AMA Pro SuperBike season with three-consecutive trophy rides while Martin Cardenas has his sights set on nothing less than the AMA Pro Daytona SportBike crown.
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