MONTEREY, Calif. – Aerostar Global/Suburban Motors H-D rider Steve Rapp earned the first AMA Pro Road Racing championship of his long career with another dominating flag to flag victory in the AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson series race Saturday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Rapp’s sixth win of the 2013 season came in much the same fashion as he has crafted the others, starting from pole position, establishing an early lead, and building the gap on his competitors as the laps clicked off. The only difference this time was that the rewards for victory were sweeter at the end: a coveted No. 1 plate for the series championship and the $25,000 XR Showdown first place check.
“I didn’t have a good plan. I just thought I’d go hard for the first couple of laps and see how it played out. It went well, and I’ve got to thank the Suburban Motors Harley-Davidson team. They’re a family team and it feels amazing to do this for them. It’s a perfect weekend,” Rapp said. “[This championship] feels as good as I was hoping it would. It’s a lot of years of hard work and to finally get to the point where it’s paid off for all the people that have helped me over the last 15 years, it’s the perfect end to a season.”
Just as the script for recent Harley-Davidson series races began with Rapp checking out to big lead, it also included a vicious fight for the second and third place positions, and Laguna Seca was no different. With the remaining spots in the XR Showdown still up for grabs, the drama began even before the race started when front row starter Tyler O’Hara (Eco Fuel Saver/Scrubblade) had a mechanical problem on the warm-up lap. After a delayed start, O’Hara started on a backup bike from the last row of the grid and battled his way to the front in the opening laps.
He pulled off the move of the race on lap 3 with a stunning pass of four riders at the track’s infamous downhill Corkscrew turn, moving from sixth to second in one move. From there, he never fell lower than second, but instead of chasing down Rapp, he had his hands full fending off attacks by Hayden Schultz (Kyle Wyman Racing) and Suburban Motors H-D’s Benny Carlson for the duration of the 10-lap race.
“It was some wild emotions there. I thought everything was done on the parade lap. The bike just broke. I don’t know what happened, but I got back in and had to start from the back row. I just paced myself and I had to make some aggressive passes there in the middle,” said O’Hara, who also finished in second place in the XR Showdown final standings.
Carlson nipped Schultz in the late laps to claim the final podium spot, followed by defending 2012 series champion Michael Barnes (Spyke’s H-D) in fifth. Gage McAllister (Folsom H-D), Travis Wyman (Harv’s H-D), David Estok (Thrashed Bike Racing), Darren James (Ruthless Racing), and Shane Narbonne (Designstar3.com/Empire H-D rounded out the top ten.