2019 Round 5 Race Report
The AFM was back in action Labor Day long weekend at its spiritual home, Sonoma Raceway, for Round Five of the AFM Championship.
Jayson Uribe rushed back from a gruesome injury last round at Thunderhill to keep his AFM number one plate hopes alive. Current AFM number one, Andrew Lee, fresh off his MotoAmerica win at Sonoma just two weeks ago, put up two wins and a strong second-place finish to ensure the title fight continues back to Thunderhill. Lee’s Graves Motorsports teammate, Frenchman Valentin Debise also impressed, securing a hat-trick of wins at Sonoma.
After four rounds split between Thunderhill and Buttonwillow, the AFM rolled into Sonoma for its only stop at the famed race track. Every year Sonoma is an exceptional round for the AFM. The track on Sears Point is a place where many riders make their debut, and many more veterans dust off the leathers for a comeback. This year the throwback feel was stronger than ever, with the AFM teaming up with CSRA to bring Vintage Superbike racing back to the Bay Area. The grids were stacked and great times were had by all, both young and not so young.
The weekend's racing kicked off with the marquee CSRA Vintage Superbike race. Kevin McKee put on a dominant performance aboard his Kawasaki Z1, putting in a fast lap that was nine seconds quicker than second-placed Paul Kiefer's best. Peter Hokenstad secured the final podium spot on his Kawasaki KZ 1000, just edging fourth-placed Andrew Gray.
In the 400 classes, we saw a new winner. Rocco Landers opted to sit out Round 5, giving others a chance to get their hands on a big trophy. That chance was snatched up in all four races by Marc Edwards. Edwards dominated the first event of the weekend, 400 Superbike, and never broke stride. Nik Thompson, Brian Bartlow, Brenden Ketelsen, and Paul Johnson all tasted the podium, but no one could shake Edwards.
On the 600s the weekend belonged to none other than AFM president Berto Woolridge. "El Prez" would take four wins, and a second-place finish in 600 Superstock behind the supremely talented Valentin Debise. Debise also got his hands on the 600 Superbike trophy, ahead of Graves Motorsports teammate Braeden Ortt. Ortt struggled with issues throughout the weekend but appeared to be pleased with his second-place finish behind Debise. Ortt announced Monday that he would be making a switch away from Graves Motorsports for the remainder of the season, contesting the final MotoAmerica races of 2019 aboard a Tuned Racing R6, the same bike he campaigned in 2018. There has been no announcement so far in regards to Ortt competing in the final two AFM rounds of the season.
Once again on the big bikes, it would be the same three riders leading the way. The Graves Motorsports duo of Valentin Debise and Andrew Lee were the clear favorites heading into the weekend. Lee was fresh off his MotoAmerica Stock 1000 win at Sonoma two weeks earlier and looked incredibly confident on his ZX10R, as did Debise. Uribe was another story. At AFM Round 4 Uribe suffered a gruesome injury, grinding his arm along the track and subsequently losing several bones from his elbow. Uribe was very clearly not in top form but put in a courageous effort to finish third behind the Graves tandem. Uribe even took the win in Open GP, a race the Kawi pair did not compete in. Uribe was quick to praise his medical team and family, “I can’t even explain how thankful I am to my doctors, family, and sponsors for helping me get back on a bike just five weeks after a major elbow reconstruction. We went from having a six-month recovery, to racing a motorcycle in less than one third the time”
Lee would come out on top in two of the three races, with Debise taking the crown in Open Superstock, adding to his two 600 wins to complete the hat-trick. Speaking with Lee at the end of the weekend, he was delighted with his results, "I had a great weekend with the Graves Kawasaki crew. They are getting my ZX10R dialed in. I had a lot of laps this weekend with Valentin Debise; we were both learning from one another. In the two races I won, Open Superbike and Formula Pacific, I led every lap. He threw some good passes at me in FP, but I held him off. In Open Superstock he had better pace, I was right with him and still had a fighting chance, up until the point we hit lapped traffic."
The AFM will be back in action for Round 6 at Thunderhill Raceway Park September 21-22.
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*Photo by Max Klein/OxyMoron Photography, courtesy of AFM.
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