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Daytona Preview: The 200? It’s Anybody’s Guess

The 82nd Daytona 200, Mission King Of The Baggers, BellissiMoto Twins Cup and Mission Super Hooligan National Championships Highlight MotoAmerica’s Daytona Bike Week, March 7-9

Information from a MotoAmerica Press Release

Lead photo courtesy of MotoAmerica

Welcome to the phenomenon that is the Daytona 200. Sixty-eight riders will attempt to qualify for the 82nd running of the “Great American Motorcycle Race,” two of those MotoAmerica racers are women, and one of them is half of a married couple who will compete against her husband. Additionally, five different brands of motorcycles will be on the starting grid at Daytona International Speedway and 13 countries will be represented.

Did we mention that the race is 200 miles long and features pit stops? And that three different tire manufacturers will battle for bragging rights in one of the few races left in road racing that doesn’t require the use of one tire brand?

Oh, it’s also worth noting that the margin of victory in the past three 200s was a combined .108 of a second.

All those things combined make the 200 an aberration. It really is like no other motorcycle race in the world.

82nd Daytona 200 – All In

The list of potential winners in the Daytona 200 is lengthy, but it must begin with the defending race champion Josh Herrin and his Only Fans Warhorse Ducati Panigale V2. Herrin won a drafting war to the finish line of last year’s 200 on his Ducati to beat five-time AMA Superbike Champion Josh Hayes by just .070 of a second as five riders crossed the line separated by less than half a second.

Four of those five riders from a season ago will be back for another shot in the 200, led by Hayes who will go to battle on his CSU One Cure/J4orce Racing Yamaha YZF-R6 in what may end up being his only race of the 2024 MotoAmerica Championship. Hayes has yet to win a Daytona 200.

Cameron Petersen won’t be defending his third-place finish in last year’s 200 as he continues to rehab his wrist injury and is focusing on being 100 percent when the MotoAmerica Steel Commander Superbike series begins at Road Atlanta in April. Although the South African won’t be on the grid at the Speedway, his Attack Performance Progressive Yamaha Racing YZF-R6 will be in the capable hands of Xavi Forés, the 2023 MotoAmerica Supersport Champion.

Like Hayes, Daytona might be Forés’s only MotoAmerica race with the Spaniard failing to land a ride for 2024 despite carrying the number-one plate as the series champion.

Hayden Gillim and PJ Jacobsen are the other top-five finishers returning for another crack at Daytona 200 glory. Gillim will be Suzuki GSX-R750-mounted but for a different team – Vesrah Racing – in this year’s race. Ditto for PJ Jacobsen as the New Yorker will be in the race on a different bike and a different team as he and teammates Kayla Yaakov and Corey Alexander will make their Rahal Ducati Moto Panigale V2 debuts at the Speedway.

With foreign riders aplenty, the list must start with the three-rider YART-ProKASRO team that is the defending World Endurance Champion. They are led by Italian Niccoló Canepa, who now calls Switzerland home, German Marvin Fritz, and Czech Karel Hanika.

Britain will be represented in this year’s Daytona 200 by 13-time Isle of Man TT winner Peter Hickman and his PHR Performance Triumph teammate Richard Cooper.

There’s also a horde of 11 Canadian racers making the trip south, led by three-time defending Canadian Superbike Champion Ben Young. Young and his countrymen will be trying to become the first Canadian to win the 200 since Miguel Duhamel in 2005.

There’s also an Australian entered with Tom Toparis making the trip to ride a ASTRO MAR Suzuki GSX-R750. Toparis, who finished 10th and 18th in the two World Supersport races at Phillip Island recently, is hoping to be the first Australian to win the 200 since Mat Mladin won in 2000 and 2001.

The MotoAmerica regulars mentioned earlier will be joined by the likes of Bobby Fong (Wrench Motorcycles Suzuki); Stefano Mesa (Boulder Motor Sports Ducati); Richie Escalante (Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki) and his teammates Brandon Paasch, Tyler Scott and Teagg Hobbs; Gus Rodio (Rodio Racing – Powered By Robem Engineering Ducati); David Anthony (Wrench Motorcycles Suzuki); and four-time Daytona 200 winner Danny Eslick (TOBC Racing Triumph) with any of them capable of scoring victory.

Mission King Of The Baggers – Let The Battle Begin

Sixteen of the best Mission King Of The Baggers motorcycles will be ridden by the 16 best King Of The Baggers racers at Daytona International Speedway this weekend with the championship set to begin with two races at the Speedway.

Led by defending champion Hayden Gillim and his RevZilla/Motul/Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Road Glide, there is no questioning the depth of the field in the season opener.

And there are plenty of new faces amongst the 16, beginning with Gillim’s new teammate Rocco Landers, the 19-year-old set to make his Baggers debut on the high banks of Daytona.

Joining Landers in making his debut at the Speedway is three-time Australian Superbike Champion and Supermoto phenom Troy Herfoss, who will join one of the founding fathers of the class Tyler O’Hara (the 2022 King Of The Baggers Champion) on the pair of factory S&S/Indian Motorcycle Indian Challengers.

The Harley-Davidson Factory Racing team will again feature 2021 champion Kyle Wyman, the winningest Baggers racer with 12 victories (the next closest are O’Hara, Gillim and Bobby Fong with three wins apiece), and former Vance & Hines teamster James Rispoli.

Rispoli and Kyle Wyman won the two races at Daytona last year with Rispoli winning race one and finishing second in race two while Wyman had a DNF in race one before winning race two.

Saddlemen/Harley-Davidson will field three riders with former Harley factory rider Travis Wyman joined on the team by incumbents Cory West and Jake Lewis.

Andorran Rubén Xaus comes to the Baggers series with a thick racing resume that includes stints in World Superbike (including 11 wins), World Supersport (two wins) and MotoGP (a podium finish in the Grand Prix of Qatar) and he and his Feuling Parts team have definitely put in the time and effort with its Harley-Davidson Road Glide.

Fong, and his three career Mission King Of The Baggers victories, returns for more with the SDI/Roland Sands Racing/Indian Motorcycle Indian Challenger. Fong is a proven winner in the class and the only MotoAmerica Superbike race winner in the Baggers series.

Others who have stepped up their programs for 2024 are Suburban Motors H-D/Slyfox/Trask Performance’s Jesse Janisch, Nowaskey Extreme Performance’s Danny Eslick, RydFast Racing’s Kyle Ohnsorg, Mad Monkey Motorsports’ Max Flinders, and Trask Performance’s Shane Narbonne.

BellissiMoto Twins Cup – Welcome To The Jungle

With a 25-riders strong grid, the opening round of the BellissiMoto Twins Cup series should be another barnburner and it will be so without defending series champion Blake Davis, who will focus his efforts on the Supersport (and Daytona 200) series with his N2 Racing/BobbleHeadMoto Yamaha YZF-R6.

As for the rest, most of the gang is back for more, including last year’s series runner-up Gus Rodio and his Rodio Racing – Powered by Robem Engineering Aprilia RS 660. Rodio won three races en route to second in the championship, including a victory in race one at Daytona last year.

Rodio will be joined on the Rodio Racing – Powered by Robem Engineering two-rider team by Italian Alessandro Di Mario.

Rocco Landers returns to the BellissiMoto Twins Cup after his six-win 2023 season netted him third in the title chase. Landers has switched teams and will race the new Suzuki GSX-8R for the new RevZilla/Motul/Vance & Hines Suzuki team.

South African Dominic Doyle stood on four podiums last year, including a victory at Ridge Motorsports Park. Doyle will race a Yamaha YZF-R7 for the Giaccmoto Yamaha Racing team that will also include former Royal Enfield Build. Train. Race. competitor Sonya Lloyd.

Last year’s Junior Cup Champion Avery Dreher moves up to the Twins Cup class on a TopPro Racing Team Aprilia RS 660 and Rossi Moor is another MotoAmerica youngster making a new home in Twins Cup, and he will do so on a Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki GSX-8R.

Another to watch is 1-833-CJKNOWS Accident and Injury Law’s Kaleb De Keyrel, who returns to BellissiMoto Twins Cup racing on a Yamaha YZF-R7. De Keyrel won the Twins Cup title in 2021 and has 10 career wins in the class.

Ditto for Ben Gloddy who will get at least a one-off ride for Daytona on a third Rodio Racing – Powered by Robem Engineering Aprilia RS 660.

Wrench Motorcycles is also fielding a Yamaha YZF-R7 for former Junior Cupper Jack Roach.

Mission Super Hooligan National Championship – A Baker’s Dozen?

The big news for the opening round of the Mission Super Hooligan National Championship is actually the motorcycles themselves as 11 different manufacturers (and a total of 13 different individual motorcycle models) will be represented in the field of 35. Who knew?

Let’s see. There’s at least one of each of the following: Indian FTR1200s, BMW R nine T, Harley-Davidson XR1200 Pan America, KTM 890 DUKE R, Yamaha MT-09 SP, Suzuki SV1000, Ducati Monster SP and Hypermotard, Energica Eva Ribelle RS, Aprilia Tuono, Buell XB12XT and Victory Vegas.

Making its debut at Daytona will be the Yamaha MT-09 SP, a three-cylinder motorcycle that will be ridden by three different riders, including World Endurance Champion Niccoló Canepa.

Canepa and the rest will have to deal with defending class champion Tyler O’Hara and his new S&S/Indian FTR1200-mounted teammate Troy Herfoss, the three-time Australian Superbike Champion, Stefano Mesa on the electric Tytlers Cycle Energica Eva Ribelle RS and Andy DiBrino on the Competition Werkes/Gray Area KTM 890 Duke R.

DiBrino finished third in last year’s championship behind O’Hara and his then-teammate Jeremy McWilliams with Mesa ending up fourth in the title chase.

There’s a new team, or actually the revival of an old team, with Kyle Wyman Racing (KWR) fielding Cody Wyman and Hayden Schultz on Harley-Davidson Pan Americas.

Pre-Daytona Notes…

Josh Herrin earned pole position for last year’s Daytona 200 with his 1:48.741 set during the Time Attack qualifying session. Herrin’s best was .254 of a second faster than PJ Jacobsen’s best of 1:49.005 with Herrin the only rider to crack into the 1:48s. Tyler Scott completed the front row with his 1:49.027.

The fastest lap in the race went to two-time Daytona 200 winner Brandon Paasch with his 1:49.981. Paasch ended up 11th in the race after being docked 15 seconds for a pit-lane violation.

Yamaha and Suzuki lead the way in entries for the Daytona 200 with both companies represented by 17 riders each. Kawasaki is next up with 16 entries, followed by Ducati with 10 and Triumph with eight.

Yamaha is the winningest brand by far in Daytona victories with 27 wins since the first Daytona 200 was held on the old beach circuit in 1937. The winner of that first Daytona 200 was Ed Kretz, who was riding an Indian. Harley-Davidson sits second on the all-time manufacturer win list in the 200 with 16 victories, the last of which was Cal Rayborn’s victory in 1969. The third highest win total goes to Honda with 11 victories with Jake Zemke the last rider to win on a Honda in 2006.

The first Daytona 200 to be run at Daytona International Speedway was in 1961 with Roger Reiman taking victory on his Harley-Davidson.

The Daytona 200 switched to Superbikes in 1985 with Freddie Spencer winning his one and only Daytona 200 on a Honda. Superbikes were featured in the 200 until 2005 when 600cc Formula Xtreme bikes took over. The FX class ran in the 200 until 600cc Daytona SportBikes were used beginning in 2009 with Ben Bostrom’s victory on a Yamaha YZF-R6.

This year’s 200 will mark the start of MotoAmerica’s third season of using the FIM’s “Supersport Next Generation” rules, with the class featuring Yamaha’s YZF-R6, Ducati’s Panigale V2, Suzuki’s GSX-R750 and GSX-R600, Kawasaki’s ZX-6R, and Triumph’s Speed Triple RS. Last year, MV Agusta’s F3RR also made some appearances but there are no MVs entered in this year’s 200.

Thirteen countries will be represented in this year’s Daytona 200 so it’s worth noting that Welshman Chaz Davies is the last non-American to win the Daytona 200 in 2008 with Americans winning 65 of the 81 Daytona 200s.

With America leading the way in victories (65) in the Daytona 200, Canada is second with five wins – all thanks to five-time winner Miguel Duhamel. Australia is third on the list with three wins and, again, it was one rider who won the races – Mat Mladin.

Finland (Jarno Saarinen), Italy (Giacomo Agostini), Venezuela (Johnny Cecotto), France (Patrick Pons), New Zealand (Graeme Crosby) and Great Britain (Chaz Davies) all have one win apiece in the 200 and are the other foreigners to win the race. Sixteen Mission King Of The Baggers riders will take part in the opening round of the championship with two races slated for Daytona International Speedway. Eleven of those will be racing Harley-Davidsons with five aboard Indian Challengers.