Reigning AMA Pro Daytona SportBike champion Martin Cardenas opened his AMA Pro Superbike career for M4 Suzuki by registering a second-row provisional qualifying performance at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday.
The Colombian is proving a quick study on the team’s powerful GSX-R1000 racebike, clocking a 1:40.912 around the intimidating high-speed venue to rank eighth best for the day.
“It was okay,” Cardenas said. “It wasn’t a great qualifying — not a great time — but we’re going to change some things for tomorrow and hopefully go a little bit quicker. Daytona is a very fast and very strange place. It’s not a typical track but each time I get on the Superbike I feel a little bit more comfortable. We have to adjust the suspension a little bit to get some more traction and we’re planning on doing that and going faster tomorrow.”
Teammate Chris Ulrich has similar thoughts as he expects to climb up the order on Friday as well. Ulrich experimented with a pair of set-ups in the day’s sole session and ended up running 12th fastest at 1:41.337.
Ulrich remarked, “We went in with two different set-ups. The first one was a little bit stiffer than ideal for the track conditions but we managed to go okay on it. We also tried a pretty radical second set-up but it just didn’t work out. It’s a little frustrating to be in the position that we’re in, but I feel like my execution is good and we’re going to look at the data overnight and come back with some changes to help solve my problems tomorrow. We have some issues but we have a clear direction where to go.
“It’s Daytona — anything can happen. Daytona is like its own planet. There is no track like this in the world; it’s just a different place. The main goal is to try to get out of here with some good points, but we’re going to improve and be a lot stronger tomorrow.”
Dane Westby got his first session as a member of M4 Suzuki under his belt during Thursday’s Daytona SportBike free practice. Like his Superbike-mounted teammates, the ‘09 Daytona 200 runner-up is aiming to work his way up the charts as the weekend progresses, running 16th best in the practice with a best time of 1:54.457 aboard his GSX-R600.
Teammate Santiago Villa was right on Westby’s heels, posting the session’s 18th fastest time at 1:55.003.
Thursday’s half day of provisional qualifying and practice action allowed M4 Suzuki to ease back into form to kick off the 2011 season, but the pressure ratchets up considerably tomorrow. Friday will feature final qualifying for the 70th running of the Daytona 200 and the 2011 AMA Superbike season opener.