Ben Carlson takes his fifth win in the series despite a hard crash. Darryl Atkins moves to third in the points chase with Aprilia now leading the manufacturers’ points.
Ben Carlson and Darryl Atkins showed off the inherent strength of their Aprilia SXV’s at the heavily banked Music City Motorplex in Nashville, TN pushing the team to a dominant position in the Unlimited class and facing the challenge of a unique track layout. The weekend started with some handling issues brought on by the extreme banking of the NASCAR short-track. Through Friday promoters practice the team worked to improve suspension and tracking along the high banks while not sacrificing handling in the critical dirt section.
Race day brought on another hot and humid afternoon in Nashville forcing many teams to carefully watch engine temperatures and tire conditions as the thermometer rose. Both team riders performed well in their respective heat races with Carlson topping his race and Atkins taking second place in his event. “Ben definitely had a better set-up for the banking,” said Atkins. “Our side struggled a bit finding a suspension setting for the rear end of the bike – this track is unlike any other we race on – and mine and Ben’s chassis settings are slightly different – I just couldn’t push as hard as he did.”
Carlson confirmed the on-track challenges. “There was a couple times on the banking the bike just kept sliding up the track – it’s incredible, the lean angles combined with the chassis-crushing banking made it difficult to make the bike work.” Carlson relished the high speed on the track however. “I love how fast we were going, and I guess my background in flattrack helped me ignore the walls on the banking.”
One wall was not to be denied in Carlson’s Supermoto (450cc) heat race when Micky Dymond’s machine failed in a fast right hand turn after the Parts Unlimited Urbancross section. “I was close to Micky in that race and his engine just let go – and I had nowhere to turn – I rolled right into his oil and hit the ground hard.” Carlson had to suffer the rest of the race day with a heavily “roadrashed” hand and sore shoulder. The red flag allowed the team to repair the damage to the machine, which had a badly dented rim and bent the handlebars from the force of impact. The restart of the 450 heat race proved a challenge as Carlson rode through the pain in his hand and shoulder to take third.
The team focus for 2007 is the Unlimited class. The Green flag saw Carlson and Atkins on the front row of the grid. Kurt Nicoll took the advantage off the start with Carlson in close proximity for the first three laps. Carlson hunted down his former team-mate making a strong pass in turn one in front of the race-savvy crowd. “I just got a great drive out of the last corner and had the speed to pass Kurt – the rest of the race I just put my head down and went as fast as I could.” With the fastest lap times within one second in the top five – racing was fairly close for most of the event.
Atkins, gridded on the outside of the front row was at a disadvantage on his line to turn one and entered turn one in fourth place where he held position the whole race. “I was just happy to get good points and really look forward to the next event, the speed and walls did not suite me in Nashville. I feel I am due for a win here soon, but need a track to work for me. Also I have the manufacturers championship and team championship which I need to consider and do not want damage any chance there by hanging it out for the win. We are looking strong for an outstanding season and Ben and our head mechanic Amauri Nunez have done a great job for us,” said Atkins.
Carlson’s 450 class hopes were dashed on the first lap when two other racers and he were caught up in a crash at the start of the dirt section. The accident took Carlson out of the race with another round of heavy damage to his SXV 450 including a punctured swingarm and damage everywhere on the bike. “It was a dumb crash,” says Carlson. “I think the other guys got antsy on the first lap and tried to make a big move – the crash beat me up and the really tore up the bike – we’re going to have a lot of work to do to get that machine fixed up again.”
The team rolls out of Nashville headed for its home base in Corona, CA to refresh motorcycles and the riders before the next round in Redmond, OR on Sept 29th. The success of the weekend can be seen in the points total – with Carlson holding a strong advantage in first place, and Atkins moving up into third position overall in the Unlimited class points. Carlson holds tenth position on the Supermoto class. The Factory Aprilia Rip It Energy Team currently holds first place in the manufacturers points chase.