Team Hammer closed out the MotoAmerica AMA/FIM North American Road Racing weekend at Virginia International Raceway by logging three-top five finishes, including a podium result on Sunday.
Sean Dylan Kelly, age 16, continued to impress in his first visit to VIR, bouncing back from his Saturday disappointment by extending his amazing Supersport rookie streak of earning a podium at each race weekend thus far in 2019. Aboard his M4 ECSTAR Suzuki GSX-R600, Kelly rode a measured and mature MotoAmerica Supersport race in treacherous wet conditions, storming up from the third row and into the lead on the opening lap.
Rarely putting a wheel wrong on his GSX-R600 despite the presence of steady rainfall and accumulating puddles, Kelly built an advantage of nearly 20 seconds over fourth-place, en route to his third-place finish.The podium finish adds to his early season success, which also includes the pole position and a runner-up finish at the 78th Daytona 200, and a third-place result in the MotoAmerica Supersport season opener at Road Atlanta.
“I’m definitely happy with this P3,” Kelly said. “This is my first actual race in the wet on a 600. Of course, it was nice to get back on track after the little problem we had yesterday and not being able to race. Overall, it was a very mental race today. The conditions were very difficult out there, and I just tried to stay focused the entire time. I think that was the most difficult part.
“It was very exciting getting up to the front in the first corner. I knew a couple guys would eventually get past me, and I just tried to stick with them. They had a little on me, so I just tried to make sure I didn’t go over my limit and stayed within my own pace. I saw I had over 10 seconds to fourth place, so I stuck to my plan and got as many points as I could today.”
Unfortunately, Kelly’s M4 ECSTAR Suzuki Supersport teammate Bobby Fong was unable to turn his poor Saturday luck around on Sunday. Starting the day, Fong passed an advanced Infrared Oculography Technology test, which showed he did not have a concussion and confirming the results of another medical exam he had passed on Saturday. He was again cleared to race, and this time the medical exam was not overruled by the race director, and Fong was allowed to start. Fong settled into seventh as the race approached mid-distance. However, as puddles built on the start-finish straightaway, Fong’s bike hydroplaned and snapped violently sideways, flinging him off at high speed. While frustrated, Fong again escaped relatively unscathed.
Meanwhile, M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Superbike ace Jake Lewis secured a third consecutive premier-class top five.Lewis battled as part of a five- and later four-rider pack for the final spot on the podium in an exciting race contested under drying track conditions. The Kentuckian executed a slick inside maneuver on the race’s final lap to reclaim fifth, which he would hold to the checkered flag. Lewis finished just 1.219 seconds off the podium.
“Today’s race was tricky,” Lewis said. “It dumped down rain an hour before our race and it was still quite wet. We were on the grid deciding which tires to run and everyone pretty much went with slicks. The first few laps were pretty sketchy, and the front two guys on rain tires got away pretty quick, but we definitely made the right choice going with slicks.It was nice to be in the battle for the podium. Overall, it was a decent weekend. Two top-fives isn’t bad, and we’re continuing to make progress and learn the bike. It’ll be nice to have a little break so I can train, and then we’ll pick back up at some tracks we go well at.”
Autovest Suzuki’s Joseph Blasius registered an impressive performance in the weekend’s solitary Twins Cup race. Blasius finished the opening lap in seventh position and continued to fight forward from there.He ultimately took the checkered flag aboard his Suzuki SV650 in fifth position, just 0.253-second off the podium.
Blasius contested the race without his teammate by his side. Roadracing World Young Guns Suzuki’s Alex Dumas qualified one position behind Blasius in ninth, but a crash in qualifying damaged a finger and the up-and-coming Canadian was unable to participate in the race as a result.
Team M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Felipe MacLean ran inside the top-10 deep into the Stock 1000 race before encountering a mechanical issue, which ultimately ended his weekend early.
Team Hammer will return to action on May 31-June 2 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
The following is from Aguilar Racing…
After battling for a podium finish at Road Atlanta and coming up just short with a 4th place Finish, RiderzLaw Racing’s Jason Aguilar was looking to compete for podiums at Virginia International Raceway. Life decided to throw some additional obstacles at Jason. Traveling on a redeye back East Jason picked up a nasty virus. Being sick, coupled with the new two-day schedule, left very little margin for error. By Saturday, Aguilar’s illness was such that he was having a difficult time functioning. Still, he was able to manage 6th place in morning practice and just 6 tenths off a top 3 result.
Qualifying came up 2 hours later, and Jason continued to improve his lap times. Jason ended up qualifying 7th, 1.5 seconds off the pole position time. Despite the 1:27.9 being a personal best, he knew he could go faster and was determined to improve in the races. Starting from the 3rd row, Jason got a good launch, but got pushed out wide going into turn one, which cost him a few positions. Jason went to work regaining positions and was running in 6th when a crash brought out the red flag. Gridded from 5th for the restart, Jason again got pushed out wide in the first turn and dropped a couple of positions. By the 6th lap, Jason had regained 5th, but the guys in front of him had checked out and he could not close the gap.
Race Day for Race 2 brought a new set of challenges. It was wet, then dry, then wet again. The race was delayed due to heavy rainfall at the last second. On top of that, Jason was feeling better but still sick. Right as it looked like it was going to be a wet race the track started drying out. Jason went out for the warmup lap on dry tires, which at the time was the right call. Then out of nowhere, the skies opened up in a crazy rainstorm while on grid. With the swift actions of Jason’s crew, they were able to change back to rain tires before the race start. At the start, going into the first turn, a rider hit the back of Jason’s bike and that sent him into another rider. Jason then dropped all the way down to 23rd place at the end of the first lap. Not giving in, Jason just put his head down and went to work. He was able to start picking off riders and move up while running laps that were on pace with the top 6 riders. However, by the time he had moved up 11 positions, a red flag ended the race early, leaving Jason in a disappointing 12th place.
“It was a very tough week for us. We had some good momentum after Road Atlanta, and I knew I could battle for podiums, but viruses, bad starts, and some bad luck kept us from getting there. Still we are in 6th place in the championship and are one of only 7 teams to score points in each race. We are looking to rebound at Road America next round. My RiderzLaw Racing Yamaha R6 continues to be one of the fastest bikes on the grid, and we hope to use that speed to get up to the front at Road America.”