Chandler wins first Pro Honda Oils 600 SuperSport race
17 February 1998A smiling Doug Chandler had a number of reasons to celebrate his win at the opening round of the 1998 Pro Honda Oils 600 SuperSport series. The Phoenix round was Chandler's inaugural race in the Pro Honda Oils 600 SuperSport series, and he also handed Kawasaki their first Pro Honda Oils 600 SuperSport win since Thomas Stevens' 1996 Sears Point victory.
"I wasn't looking forward to the 600 series but Kawasaki put together a new 600 bike and kinda put the pressure on me to run the series," said Chandler. "As long as you can compete with the guys up front, the racer in you takes over on any bike and makes the series fun."
The tight, 1.51 mile road course at Phoenix International Raceway made for dramatic passing and lap-traffic maneuvering. HyperCycle Suzuki rider Jason Pridmore was first off the line, but was overtaken by Honda's Ben Bostrom before the end of lap one. Yoshimura Suzuki's Aaron Yates then charged forward, passing Bostrom and briefly holding the lead before Bostrom returned to lead the next three laps. Chandler, in third, caught second-place Yates on lap six then quickly closed on Bostrom to take the lead for the next 14 laps. Yates followed Chandler past Bostrom and stayed with him, often coming within a bike-length, and managed to overtake Chandler on lap 20. Chandler chased Yates past the white flag and onto the infield road course. As the two moved through a pack of lap riders on the last few yards of the front straight, Chandler passed Yates to take the checkered flag.
The last few laps of the race also saw HyperCycle Suzuki rookie Nicky Hayden engaged in a spirited battle with Honda's Miguel Duhamel. Hayden passed Duhamel on the last lap, taking fourth-place in his first Pro Honda Oils 600 SuperSport race. After Hayden's stunning performance this weekend, fans will be watching this remarkable youngster who just two weeks ago received his Kentucky driver's license.
AUSSIES AND DUCATIS DOMINATE MBNA SUPERBIKE AT PHOENIX
Anthony Gobert became the third Australian to win the Pheonix round of the MBNA Superbike series aboard a Ducati, joining last year's race winner Mat Mladin, and 1994 winner Troy Corser. Gobert pushed his Vance & Hines Ducati to win by a margin of 8.443 seconds and set a new course record with an average speed of 87.940 mph. With Gobert's victory Ducati remains unbeaten at Phoenix International Raceway.
Gobert led all but four laps, but was aggressively pursued by Mladin in the first half of the race. Mladin, who had captured the pole aboard a Yoshimura Suzuki, took the lead from Gobert on lap five, but Gobert took it back on lap eight and led the rest of the race.
"I felt like we didn't have a chance early," said Gobert, "but once Mat got by me and couldn't get away, I thought we could get him back. My tire setup (a hard compound) kicked in pretty well at the halfway point and ended up working in our favor."
Mladin took second-place and led laps five through eight. "I got a pretty good start and got out to a lead but every time we got into a hairpin, I could hear Anthony behind me and knew we would have trouble there," said Mladin.
Mladin was followed by his Yoshimura teammate Aaron Yates in third-place.
SORENSEN COMMITTED TO 1998 ELF RACE FUELS GRAND PRIX SEASON
Polesitter Chuck Sorensen won the opening round of the Elf Race Fuels & Lubricants Grand Prix Series and broke Rich Oliver's 1997 track record at Phoenix International Raceway with an average speed of 85.090 mph. Yamaha rider Sorensen, who raced a limited Grand Prix season last year but finished on the podium at the three races he entered, has committed himself to winning the1998 Elf Race Fuels & Lubricants Grand Prix Championship.
Roland Sands took his Yamaha to second-place after leading lap one and laps 12 through 19. Lap traffic allowed Sorensen the opportunity to regain the lead and take the win. Sands was ranked 10th in the 1997 Elf Race Fuels & Lubricants Grand Prix Series. This was his first race since an injury at Sears Point raceway last year.
Takahito Mori, riding with a knee injury incurred during Saturday's Pro Honda Oils 600 SuperSport series practice session, placed third. The Honda-mounted Takahito's best finish in the 1997 Elf Race Fuels & Lubricants Grand Prix was fourth-place at Las Vegas, and he won the 1995 Grand Prix race Laguna Seca Raceway.
HIGBEE WINS INAUGURAL PROGRESSIVE INSURANCE PRO THUNDER RACE
Shawn Higbee, the 1994 Harley-Davidson SuperTwins series Champion, won the first race of the Progressive Insurance Pro Thunder series riding for Tilley's Harley- Davidson. Higbee's victory also marks the first time a Buell motorcycle has won an AMA National race. The win was Higbee's first since the 1994 season.
Paul Harrell, who was ranked seventh in the 1997 Pirelli Formula Xtreme series, placed second at Sunday's race aboard a Triumph.
Mark Miller took third place aboard a Buell in the Pro Thunder event at Phoenix. Miller also placed third in Saturday's Pirelli Formula Xtreme race.