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This just in from HRC:

Honda Red Rider Weekend Report
July 9-11,
2004 AMA Chevrolet Superbike Series
Round 8: Laguna Seca Raceway, Monterey CA

Ben Bostrom Wins Formula Xtreme and Superbike Races at Laguna Seca

The undulating oak-studded hills of Steinbeck country formed the perfect backdrop for nonstop human drama-of the road racing, not literary variety-as the Honda Red Riders reaped hard-earned victories in three premier classes at Monterey, California's Laguna Seca Raceway. Ten Kate's Chris Vermeulen won both legs of the WSC Superbike doubleheader aboard his CBR1000RR and the home-grown Honda contingent rode to victory in the AMA Formula Xtreme and Superbike classes as well. To bring even more human interest to this thrilling accomplishment, the sun-drenched summer weekend saw the resurgence of Team Honda's Ben Bostrom, who staged two dramatic performances to win the FX race on Saturday, as well as a red-flag-delayed Superbike event on Sunday.

Round 8 of the AMA Formula Xtreme race series kicked off with Erion Honda's Jake Zemke grabbing the pole with a lap time of 1:27.388-a posting that would have been quite competitive in the WSC Superbike ranks! Team Honda's Miguel Duhamel and Ben Bostrom posted the next-fastest times, and Erion Honda's Alex Gobert qualified fifth.

What many thought would be just another winning day at the races for Honda turned into two races in one, thanks to a red flag. The first nine laps had Zemke taking his CBR600RR to a quick lead over the field and pulling away from the pack, gaining ground at about a second a lap. Bostrom followed closely behind after passing the veteran Duhamel, who was having a shifter problem. "The shifter was falling down and moving around," said Duhamel. "I was glad to see the red flag because I thought I was going to have to run the whole race in second gear." The three Red Riders were far outpacing the field when blue smoke suddenly began billowing out of the #98 Erion machine. With the two top riders in the championship having mechanical problems, the dynamics of the race took on entirely new proportions. Bostrom seized the lead as Zemke nursed his bike to the pits. "A little piece cracked and caused a pretty good oil leak," said Zemke. "I could see the oil coming out of the fairing." Shortly thereafter, the red flag came out and sent all riders to pit row.

On the restart, Bostrom gridded on the pole and took his CBR600RR right to the front, followed by teammate Duhamel. Zemke was forced to grid in 28th place due to his mechanical problem, but that scarcely slowed his charge forward. While Bostrom and Duhamel led the field, Zemke demonstrated some keen maneuvers while carving his way through the field. He would ultimately claim third. Meanwhile, Bostrom took control of the race, leading the last eight laps and taking the checked flag followed by Duhamel. With Zemke in third and Alex Gobert in fourth, the Honda Red Riders swept the top four spots.

The victory marked Bostrom's first AMA win since returning to the States and reuniting with American Honda, and it was his first career Formula Xtreme win as well. "It's great to be up here," said Bostrom. "It gives me a lot of motivation for tomorrow's Superbike race." Bostrom wasn't kidding, as Sunday's Superbike race would soon prove.

Ben had already issued a challenge to the entire paddock when he set a Laguna Seca AMA Superbike record lap time of 1:24.9-just a tick off the track record of 1:24.88 set by Colin Edwards aboard a WSC-spec RC51 Superbike in 2002.

So when Sunday brought the warmest track temperatures of the weekend, the stage was set for a world-class race experience for competitors and spectators alike. And the thousands of Honda race fans in attendance enjoyed watching the Red Riders crowd the front of the pack as the AMA Superbike race waved off.

Jake Zemke and his Erion CBR1000RR led the race the first time past the start/finish stripe, but the deck shuffled and Mat Mladin gained the upper hand by the next lap, followed closely by Ben Bostrom, Zemke and Miguel Duhamel, in that order. On lap 6 Zemke squeezed by Bostrom, but a mere 0.7 of a second separated the top three riders. Zemke soon began probing for a way past Mladin, and on lap 11 Zemke and Mladin passed and re-passed each other, with Mladin hanging onto the lead-barely. The tight racing continued as the leaders got into lappers on the next go-around, but then the race was red-flagged on lap 16 when a rider went down.

Mechanics all along the pit wall raced around at full speed, changing tires and twirling wrenches in a carefully orchestrated ballet that would resemble full-on chaos to the uninitiated. Hurried conferences between riders and crew chiefs saw some bikes undergo major changes in suspension settings, while others sat untouched save for new rubber, a quick wipe-down and a splash of fuel.

Ben Bostrom and his crew chief Merlyn Plumlee were one team taking the minimalist approach. "We didn't touch any settings," Plumlee said as the #155 CBR1000RR sat awaiting the restart. "However, we did put on a harder rear tire. The track is a lot warmer this afternoon than it was in practice earlier today. Ben said he needed a little more grip, so strange as it may sound, we're going with a harder tire."

Their decision proved to be good as gold. At the second start Ben quickly charged to the front and he would never relinquish the lead. "The harder tire was so much better," Bostrom said after the race. "I had so much more grip than I had before the red flag. In fact, in a way my bike became harder to ride because I had so much rear tire traction it was overdriving the front. One time I made a mistake and pushed wide, and it really got my heart going. I know I lost about a second there."

Behind him, Mat Mladin had been trailing by about 2 seconds, with Duhamel claiming third after getting the better of a hard-fought duel with Aaron Yates. And the view Duhamel had from the #17 CBR1000RR worried him as he saw Mladin gaining ground on his teammate. After the race Duhamel recounted, "I saw Mat closing on Ben, and I said, 'Come on, Ben, don't fool around. Go for it.'"

There was no need to worry; Bostrom held fast to a half-second gap for the last two laps to cinch the win, with Mladin second and Duhamel third. Jake Zemke nursed an ailing bike to a 7th-place finish despite being hampered by electrical problems that caused the rev limiter to cut in early.

After the race, a jubilant Bostrom said, "We're back and we're racing again, racing for the win. I had problems beginning back at Daytona when I had an ear infection. It really affected my balance for a long time. But now it's all better, and it came back fast since I began training with the Carmichael Training Systems people. I've changed my diet, and I've been doing a lot of bicycle training. The bicycle work not only pushes you hard physically but it also helped me build better balance. It feels so good to get back on the top of the podium again."

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