March 20, 2017
Valentin Debise rides the M4 The Project 22 ECSTAR Suzuki.
Photo by Lisa Theobald.
HIGH DRAMA FOR TEAM HAMMER IN 76th DAYTONA 200Team Hammer survived a pitfall-laden 76th running of the Daytona 200 to claim two spots in the top six at the checkered flag, which became two spots in the top five after post-race technical inspection. The gritty performance in the historic race was a fine way to kick off the 2017 racing season and one that promised even greater success to come.Kyle Wyman battled up after qualifying eighth on the grid at 1:51.170 aboard the #33 M4 The 22 Project Suzuki GSX-R600. The New Yorker held down the lead near the 100-mile mark before eventually finding himself in a spirited dogfight for third as the laps wound down.Wyman ultimately came home in fourth position, missing out on the final spot on the podium by a meager 0.052 seconds, which became a moot point after another competitor was disqualified.“It was a long race and the red flags helped with finding the last bit of comfort,” said Wyman, who rode the bike for the first time on Friday. “By the second half of the first stint, I had found what I needed and I had a lot of confidence in the bike. After the first pit stop, I was able to battle for the lead. (Danny) Eslick, (Cory) West and I were rolling along and clicking off some good laps out front. About five laps before I was going to pit again, I felt something and thought there was an issue with the bike. I was losing a lot of time and I didn’t know exactly what was happening. I pitted three laps early thinking our race might be over so the team wasn’t ready for me. We got some new tires on and I went back out. The bike felt great again and I made up three or four seconds to catch back up with (Michael) Barnes.“I thought I could break away from him but I couldn’t. For the rest of the race, we were sizing it up for the last lap. We’d done this before at Daytona but this time he got me. I was trying to draft off a slower rider and just couldn’t get there. It was a good weekend and doing ’49s at Daytona is not bad.”Meanwhile, Valentin Debise rode like a proven veteran around the high banks despite participating in the arduous Daytona 200 for the first time. The Frenchman qualified second overall at 1:49.526 despite lacking the benefit of a draft to punch a hole in the air for his Dunlop-shod M4 The 22 Project ECSTAR Suzuki GSX-R600. He then went one better and threw down the fastest time of anyone in the morning warm-up.Unfortunately, Debise looked set to be an early victim of the chaotic opening stages of the race, which was marred by multiple red flags and restarts. After running at the front of the pack early, Debise’s machine suffered a rear wheel lock-up after a possible collision on the track. He was forced to miss the second restart and the problem threatened to end his day early.However, his Team Hammer crew battled furiously to get him back out on the track, and then Debise repaid their efforts by putting his head down and carving his way up through the field. Surging up from the back of the pack, he slashed his way to an eventual sixth-place finish which became fifth after technical inspection. In the process, Debise caught, passed, and left the lead pack. During his charge, Debise clocked a blistering 1:48.903 lap time, which was not only the fastest of the race but better than any 600cc pole lap in Daytona 200 history.Debise and his Team Hammer teammates will now turn their attention to the 2017 AMA/FIM North American Road Race Championship. The MotoAmerica season opens with Round 1 on April 20-23 at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, alongside Round 3 of the MotoGP World Championship.The 22 Project is a registered 501c3 nonprofit, established to support our returning veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).The 2017 season will mark Team Hammer’s 37th consecutive year of operating as a professional road racing team. Racebikes built and fielded by Team Hammer have won 61 AMA Pro National races, have finished on AMA Pro National podiums 153 times and have won five AMA Pro National Championships (the most recent in 2012), as well as two FIM South American championships. The team has also won 134 endurance races overall (including seven 24-hour races) and won 13 Overall WERA National Endurance Championships with Suzuki motorcycles, and holds the U.S. record for mileage covered in a 24-hour race. The team also competed in the televised 1990s Formula USA National Championship, famously running “Methanol Monster” GSX-R1100 Superbikes fueled by methanol, and won the F-USA Championship four times.