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MONTEREY, CA (July 23, 2011) – When the AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport class launched off the line from a three-rider-wide, MotoGP-style start, Roadracingworld.com’s Benny Solis immediately began to gap the rest of the furiously hard-charging field. The lead the 16-year-old Californian eventually built was big enough to survive near-catastrophe in the race’s closing stages, and to deliver him to victory in front of the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix crowd.
“I think I was just a little bit too nervous when I was coming up to the lappers,” said Solis, who sailed into the gravel run-off at the top of the Corkscrew just prior to the white flag. “I didn’t want to make any mistakes, but I wanted to get by them quickly, so I ended up moving my brake marker way too far. I knew I was going to tuck it if I braked any harder, but then I almost dropped it in the gravel and it really freaked me out. [Once I got back on track], I looked back and saw I still had something of a margin, but it definitely scared me.”
Remarkably, Solis’ close call wasn’t the most dramatic part of the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca contest, as the final laps’ battle between Vesrah Suzuki’s Corey Alexander and LTD teammatesTomas Puerta and David Gaviria culminated in a breath-taking photo-finish, the three side-by-side riders mere inches apart. And while Gaviria missed the final spot on the podium by just .001 seconds, his result earned the Colombian rider the 2011 AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport West Division Championship.
“First of all, I want to thank all the guys on the team,” said Gaviria. “They were wonderful during the year, and I really appreciate all the things they did for me. Things were very different this year; last year I was on my own, driving the car to each race, preparing my own bike, and I don’t even know how to be a mechanic -- I had to walk all over the pits and ask everybody how to set up my bike! This year is so different, and I just want to say thanks to my team, my sponsors, and everyone who supported me. I tried my best to be in the top three,” Gaviria added, “but I was also thinking about the championship at the end. I made it, I’m here, I didn’t crash, and it was very fun.”
Once off the start, Puerta was quickly tasked with defending second against Vesrah Suzuki’s Corey Alexander, who himself had to deal with an extremely strong Elena Myers(SuzukiScoopFans Racing) before assuming the third spot. Alexander’s rank was far from safe, however, as it became increasingly clear that Myers was prepared to turn in one of the most impressive AMA Pro race starts of her career. With fourteen laps to go, Myers sliced past the Vesrah rider into third and held him off for a pair of high-pressure laps. When forced to cede the spot to Alexander, Myers regrouped and reclaimed it just laps later, in time to execute a skillful negotiation of lapped traffic.
Gaviria, who’d watched the Myers-Alexander battle closely from fourth, made his presence felt with nine to go with an inside pass on Alexander that put Gaviria solidly in podium contention. Focusing all his attention on Myers, Gaviria took advantage of lapped traffic to take over the runner-up position with six laps remaining.
With Solis now a stunning fifteen seconds ahead of the rest of field, all eyes turned to Alexander, who’d slipped to fifth but was suddenly resurgent with a one-two punch that shot him ahead of Myers and Puerta in quick succession. As the laps ticked down, Alexander and Puerta began tracking Gaviria while Myers slipped back, losing touch with the lead pack.
Only two laps from the end, Alexander and Puerta both put a move on Gaviria that relegated the LTD rider to fourth. Shortly after, gasps from the crowd signaled a huge miscalculation by Solis, who ran off track at the off the top of the Corkscrew into the gravel, reentering with a much narrower but still comfortable 7.5-second lead as the white flag flew. Alexander, Puerta, and Gaviria piled into the last turn together -- Alexander and Gaviria making contact -- and launched themselves at the checkered flag. In a photo-finish so close that even the photo required careful study, Puerta claimed the runner-up spot by just .037 over Alexander, with Gaviria just .001 behind.
“I tried to keep up with Benny,” said Puerta, “but I didn’t feel the rear was okay to do it, and I didn’t want to crash -- I crashed here three years in a row and really wanted to be podium. The race was really close today; I was just thinking, ‘Don’t take David out for the championship!’ On the last lap, I knew I could pass Corey in the Corkscrew and put my head down coming down the hill, but on the last turn, I didn’t expect…. I was on the inside, and the last thing I saw was Corey and David going into the last turn together. The next thing I knew, I was on the finish line.”
“Hats off to my mechanic,” said Corey, “because the bike was really good all weekend. About halfway though I was making mistakes and felt like I was riding a little over my head at times, so I just sat in behind [some riders] to see what I had, waited to make my moves, and tried to be smart about it. The last corner was actually where it got decided … it was pretty hairy going in there three-wide in a small corner. Coming out, I was out in front when my gear popped, and it was tight -- I didn’t know whether I got third or fourth.
Race-long challenger Elena Myers finished fifth, leading Stefano Mesa (Rata Racing), Travis Ohge (Jake Holden Racing), Dustin Dominguez (Latus Motors Racing Triumph), Colter Dimick (Aces/Tri-City Cycle), and Sebastiao Ferreira (Doug Chandler/10/Fast Line).
Watch for highlights from today’s Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport race during SPEED’s AMA Pro broadcast from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca at 8 p.m. PST/11 p.m. EST Sunday. For Red Bull USGP tickets and information, visit www.mazdaraceway.com or call (800) 327-7322. To be a part of AMA Pro Road Racing, please visit www.amaproracing.com and join us onfacebook.com/AMAProRoadRacing and twitter.com/AMAProSBK.
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