In two thrilling races set on the world stage, a pair of international wildcard riders split the AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson series double-header races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the Red Bull Indianapolis GP round of the FIM MotoGP World Championship
In Saturday’s Race 1, Northern Ireland’s Jeremy McWilliams (H-D of Bloomington Indiana) won a wild four-way shootout on the draft heavy 2.6-mile road course at the famed Brickyard. The MotoGP veteran, who last raced in the Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson series at Indy in 2011, started from second on the front row and fell back as far as fourth as polesitter Steve Rapp (Aerostar Global/Suburban Motors H-D) built a gap at the front, amassing nearly a one-second lead by the fourth of the race’s 10 laps.
But by mid-distance, just as it appeared Rapp might be on his way to a fifth-straight class win, the chasing pack of McWilliams, Eco Fuel Saver/Scrubblade’s Tyler O’Hara, and Malaysian rider Hafizh Syahrin (PETRONAS/KWR) had reeled him in, and by lap seven, McWilliams was at the front. Rapp reclaimed the lead on the next lap, but was swallowed up in the draft as the white flag flew, falling back to fourth place at the start of the final lap. McWilliams held on for the win, just 0.039 second ahead of O’Hara, with Syahrin in third. Rapp came home in fourth, only 0.188 second behind the winner. Harv’s Harley-Davidson’s Travis Wyman chased hard to keep the leaders in sight, finishing in fifth about one second back.
“I was just in the right place at the right time,” McWilliams said. “I sort of lost my way a little bit at the beginning and these guys started moving ahead. I thought I better dig in or it wasn’t going to work. I just wanted to be in a position at the end to give myself half a chance. Hafizh passed me and at that stage I thought Tyler and Steve were going to get away. Luckily it came back with the draft and if it wasn’t for the draft, I don't think I would have got back on their tails.”
Sunday’s Race 2 quickly turned into a two-rider affair between Rapp and Syahrin after O’Hara crashed on the opening lap, which slowed up McWilliams. The leading pair quickly checked out as McWilliams battled with Wyman and 2012 defending series champion Michael Barnes (Spyke’s H-D). McWilliams would eventually also crash out of the race on lap nine, allowing Wyman to cruise onto the third step of the podium as Barnes went backward and was passed for fourth by Suburban Motors’ Benny Carlson.
If the battle for third was somewhat anti-climactic, the fight for victory was anything but, with Rapp and Syahrin rarely separated by more than a tenth of a second on any lap past the start-finish line. Each led five of the race’s 10 laps, but it was Syahrin who led the most important, drafting past Rapp to take the win by a mere 0.060-second margin
“I tried to keep improving every session,” said Syahrin, who was racing in the Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson class for the first time at Indy. “We found a very good setting in the first race and then we just tried to improve the rear suspension just a little bit for today’s race because yesterday I had just a little bit too much slide. It improved a lot and that’s why I was able to run up front. Steve Rapp and I were the only two in the front and I kept in the second position until the very end. I passed him in the slipstream.”
With wildcards McWilliams and Syahrin not factoring into the XR Showdown that began this weekend, Rapp was the big winner in the four-race playoff competition that reset the points of the top ten riders after the regular season to 1,000 each. He now leads the XR Showdown standings with 1,045 points, 8 points ahead of Wyman and 15 points clear of Barnes, with two races remaining.
The next race in the AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson series is Sept. 14-15 at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, NJ.