AFM ROUND 1 - BUTTONWILLOW RACEWAY - MARCH 16-17, 2019

It has been a long winter; obviously, it feels this way every winter, time is fixed. After the close of our 2018 season at Thunderhill the waiting game was on. A game that would seemingly never end; I can not recall a wetter start to the track season in California.

But that is all in the past now. The only evidence of the slow start to 2019 at Buttonwillow was the lush green grass. The paddock was full, and the level of competition on track was stunning, from top to bottom.

Starting at the top, with the Hustle Hard Racing Formula Pacific class, things were tight. Andrew Lee was always going to be tough to beat, he took a hat-trick of wins home from the 2018 AFM opener at Buttonwillow, and with a Graves Kawasaki hauler behind him in the pits, knocking him off the top step was going to be a frightful task. Lee was not the only Motoamerica rider on the grid; however, first, he was joined by his new Graves Motorsports teammate, Canadian Braeden Ortt, although Ortt will be riding a 2019 ZX6R.

Bryce Prince was back with his Tuned Racing R6, and he too was ready to embarrass some big bikes. Omega Moto was present with their gorgeous R1 SBK, now with the incredibly quick Cameron Peterson on board. Jayson Uribe was back racing with the AFM on his personal Honda CBR, with some off-season improvements made to the bike, Uribe was a man to be reckoned with, he was quick all day on Saturday, and near the front of every race, he competed in. Wyatt Farris also looked very quick all weekend, and then there were the three ADR bikes on the grid. Aussie Dave Anthony, the teams' namesake, is joined for the 2019 Motoamerica season by Brit Bradley Ward, and Giya Myshlyayev is back once again on an ADR ZX10 to torture us writers with his four y's. Sebastiao Ferreira is back on his very own ZX10rr, and Chad Swain will fight for the Championship on the Hustle Hard Racing S1000rr.

After qualifying the front row was set with Uribe, Prince, Peterson, and Ortt leading the field. Off the start Bradley Ward got an amazing launch from a few rows back before coming together with a pair of riders, all three stayed upright, but Ward's boss Aussie Dave was sent into the dirt, at the exit of turn one. I would have loved to have been present for that post-race conversation in the ADR semi! The boys would not have to wait long for that chat as the race was quickly red flagged. Upon the second restart, it was clear that this race was going to be a battle between five bikes. Lee, Anthony, Uribe, Petersen, and Prince were all fast, and the lead was changing hands more times than I could keep count of.

Uribe and Petersen both looked very strong early, but Uribe was unable to keep up his initial pace and dropped back as the race progressed, eventually finishing in the fourth spot. Speaking with Uribe post-race, he gave the following insight; “ I love riding my Honda. I’m lucky enough to have some support from HRC to help improve their CBR1000rr, which is where the HRC bits and pieces have come from. The bike that Honda and I have created is an animal in the corners and can keep up with the other manufacturers down the straights, which for me is a dream come true! I started FP battling for the lead with Peterson. I knew that we’d be locked in a fight pretty much the whole race, but I had no idea that Anthony had joined the party. We all went back and forth until about the 7th lap when unfortunately I ran into some serious front end chatter issues. We haven’t found the exact reason yet, but my mechanics and I believe that it’s down to warped brake rotors. I chattered myself off the track at about 80mph..." All in all, I had a good weekend...That being said, none of my supporters care about a second place, and neither do I. I’m here in AFM to win races. I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that happens.”

Petersen was unable to finish the 15 lapper, paving the way for Anthony to take the win. Speaking with Omega Moto Team Principle, Ken Chewey after the race, I was able to find out that an ICM/ECU issue sent the bike into limp mode. Hopefully, the lads can get that issue sorted before the Motoamerica opener at Road Atlanta. CP looked quick around the course; hopefully, he and the Omega Moto team can put a little pressure on the factory boys. The demise of Petersen allowed 19-year-old Braeden Ortt to get his 2019 Graves Kawi ZX6R into the top five. The battle for the final spot on the podium was the tightest battle at the front of the pack, with Bryce Prince edging his R6 just four-tenths of a second in front of Uribe. Andrew Lee brought home second place behind race winner David Anthony. Anthony looked proper quick out there and clocked the quickest lap of the race, a 1:44.033 on lap two, helping him secure the eventual victory four and a half seconds in front of Lee. Bradley Ward, Wyatt Farris, Jordan Edgington, Chad Swain and Mathew Orange all impressed with their top ten finishes. We can only hope that the Hustle Hard Racing Formula Pacific class continues to deliver this quality for the remainder of 2019.

In the other podium feature, 450 Superbike, it was a classic case of old vs. new. Young Rocco Landers took the win, from Paul Johnson in second and Dave Moss in third. Speaking to Moss post-race, he was delighted to have a great young talent like Rocco to help pull him to faster lap times. "On lap three little Mr. Rocco came past me on the outside of turn one doing a Malcolm McLaren Buffalo Gals... and I thought, this is awesome!" I am not sure Rocco will be familiar with the 1982 reference, but the point is clear. The boy is quick, and he isn’t afraid to drive around the old guard. Dave hoped to Cling on to Roccos rear tire and break down into the 1:55's but the pair hit traffic in the bus stop, and Paul Johnson, who had been a few seconds adrift, was brought into the fray. Paul managed to keep Mossey at bay and secure the second spot, Dave attempted to make a last lap charge, but a mistake in the sweeper ensured that there would be no drag race out of thefinal corner.

There is nothing better than seeing a kid who doesn’t even know how to pull the cork out get handed a beautiful bottle of Valley of the Moon champagne. The future is bright for Rocco; hopefully, we will continue to see him at AFM, but there is obviously a lot in store for him in in the very near term.

The race of the weekend had to be the Open Superbike race. The six-lap sprint was far from decided as the bikes took the white flag. Andrew Lee, Jayson Uribe and Cameron Petersen were all in contention. CP would end up taking the win with Uribe second and Lee third. This race also saw the fastest lap of the weekend with Petersen turning a 1:43.497 on his Yamaha. We will call it "unofficial" at this point, but that is almost certainly a new lap record around Buttonwillow. Conditions were perfect with cooler air and a hot track, and the boys did not disappoint. Uribe proved that given the right circumstances he could push that Honda hard enough to fight for the win.

AFM will be back at Buttonwillow for Round Two of their 2019 season on April 13/14. Hopefully, with the winter rust shaken off this past weekend, the racing will be even tighter.

For the full Round One race results, across all classes check AFM MyLaps Results

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