The AMA Daytona Sportbike class this season marks some of the best AMA racing we’ve seen in a long time. It all started in Daytona with a drama-filled Daytona 200 race where tire problems stopped the race and in the closing laps five riders battled for the lead. A big crash right before the finish led to Dane Westby and Taylor Knapp sliding across the Daytona asphalt at 160 + mph. Jason DiSalvo took the win with West, Zemke, Beach and Herrin all less than four tenths of a second behind.
DiSalvo, Westby and Jacobsen are all running Galfer brakes and are right in the thick of the lead pack at every race so far this season. Riding a Latus Motors Ducati 848 Jason DiSalvo followed up his Daytona win with a pair of wins at Infineon. Youngster PJ Jacobsen also on a Ducati 848 is running very well on his Celtic Racing bike and Westby is coming up to speed on his M4 Suzuki. The field of riders in the Daytona Sportbike class this year is fantastic with AMA veterans like DiSalvo, West and Holden joined by a young riders with a few of them recently moving up from GP bikes. Adding to the competition is the classic struggle to balance the competiveness between the twin cylinder Ducatis and the four cylinder 600 Japanese bikes. DiSalvo won the first race on a twin but clearly that win didn’t come easily, however at the Miller AMA test the Ducatis were a bit faster than the four cylinders and DiSalvo won both races at Infineon. In an effort to even up the difference the AMA announced a rule change that added 5 lbs to the minimum weight of the twins and allowed the three and four cylinder bikes to drop 5 lbs.
The third stop on the AMA schedule was at Miller Motorsports Park as part of the World Superbike race weekend and once again the Daytona Sportbike riders came out swinging, thrilling the crowd with an incredibly close race in wet conditions. The rain lightened at the start of the race but the track was still very wet and all the riders went out on full wet tires. DiSalvo qualified on pole but PJ Jacobsen got the best start and led the first few laps of the race with West, Westby, Herrin and Beaubier hot on his tail. Through the course of the sixteen lap race this group battled hard with position changes every lap. Several times there were bikes three wide coming into turns with every one of these riders pushing it to the limit. Towards the end of the race West and Westby fell back slightly due to their tires wearing out, leaving PJ and Herrin to battle at the front in the closing laps. On the last lap Herrin took the lead from PJ on the brakes coming into the Blackrock Hairpin and led the race to the checkered flag with PJ just over a tenth of second behind. Beaubier finished third with West and Westby fourth and fifth. For Jacobsen and Beaubier, Miller was their first podium finish in AMA Sportbike and they proved they have to the speed to run at the front of this competitive class.
After four rounds of the series DiSalvo has won three races and has a 35 point lead in the championship. DiSalvo’s 7th place finish at Miller lost him some points but a few of the top riders have had worse races so far this year. Jacobsen and Eslick both scored no points at Daytona and Miller winner Herrin got no points at one of the Infineon races due to a single race ban by the AMA for his part in the Daytona last lap incident. With at least fifteen more races there is still a long way to go in the championship and these guys have put on a great show several times already this season. This great racing will likely continue in the remaining rounds of the AMA series.