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AMA: Who's The World's Best?

18 June 1998

LAGUNA SECA RACEWAY, Monterey, California: Annually, the world's top superbike racers compete wheel-to-wheel one time. That's here at the Dunlop World Superbike Championship. This year, it's the weekend of July 10-12.

Sunday will feature two superbike races. They are rounds 15 and 16 of the SBK Superbike World Championship. At stake are bragging rights, perhaps even more important than world championship points, for the daring young men who race the tire-smoking, 150 mph motorcycles called Superbikes.

Beating the world's best in race one makes a loud statement. So loud, in fact, that the winner becomes a target during the second one. To win both races is to dominate the field - virtually unheard of at this pinnacle of international competition. Only one rider has ever done the double; that's Arkansas' John Kocinski who won both races here last year riding a Honda RC-45 and became Superbike racing's undisputed Top Gun.

Kocinski has moved on to race Grand Prix bikes, so the job of keeping World's Best Superbike Racer honors at home falls to Colin Edwards and Scott Russell, America's representatives in the Superbike World Championship series and also to Americans competing for the AMA (American Motorcyclist Association) National Superbike Championship such as reigning U.S. champion Doug Chandler, Superbike rookie sensation Ben Bostrom, Jamie Hacking, Tom Kipp, Rich Oliver and Aaron Yates.

Leading the pack of riders from the rest of the world are SBK Superbike World Championship competitors Troy Corser, Pierfrancesco Chili, Aaron Slight, Noriyuki Haga, Carl Fogarty and U.S. national championship contenders Miguel DuHamel from Canada and Australia's Anthony Gobert and Mat Mladin.

In addition to the only SBK Superbike World Championship races in North America, Sunday there will also be the North American debut of the Supersport World Series. This is the top international championship for sportbike racers who compete on motorcycles powered by 600cc and 750cc engines; bikes virtually identical to those ridden on streets every day.

Saturday features Superpole qualifying (riders get one lap alone on track to capture the pole position) and the ninth round of the 1998 AMA Honda Oils 600 SuperSport National Championship. This series includes leading superbike riders who compete on the near stock sportbikes with 600cc engines. Chandler won round three, here at Laguna Seca on April 19, after a ferocious battle with DuHamel - on one lap alone they swapped the lead five times between turns one and three. Steve Crevier now leads DuHamel in the standings by a single point. Right behind are Bostrom, Chandler and 16-year-old wonder Nicky Hayden.

Also on the four race event card is an AMA 125 Grand Prix race where young racers showcase their talent on lightweight motorcycles with 125cc engines, like those raced for the 125 GP World Championship.

Between races on Sunday there will be an Extreme Air competition. This follows a demonstration on Saturday of the skills required for Extreme Air riders to perform high-speed acrobatics on motorcycles like those performed by Olympic snow-boarders and extreme skate-boarders. Plus, motorcycle daredevil Gary Rothwell will again, on both days, do "They're not possible" stunts like those that awed spectators last year.