Ducati Austin rider Neil Hodgson had never set eyes on Infineon Raceway prior to Thursday's manufacturer-sponsored motorcycle test session, but the native of Great Britain liked what he saw.
"This is my first day here and the track is awesome," said Hodgson, who took second place in last weekend's AMA Superbike feature at Daytona International Speedway. "One of the main reasons I came to America from World Superbike is to race on tracks like these that have a lot of character. A lot of the tracks in Europe are flat. This track is unbelievably physical."
Hodgson was one of 17 riders participating in the two-day test session, which concludes on Friday and features teams from Yoshimura Suzuki, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Ducati Austin, Honda, Erion Honda, Attack Kawasaki and Mat Mladin Motorsports. It is the largest turnout ever for a motorcycle test session at Infineon Raceway; the test also attracted approximately 200 race fans, who watched the action from the main grandstand.
This will mark the only major test session prior to the Kawasaki AMA Superbike Showdown, presented by Supercuts, at Infineon Raceway, May 13-15.
Suzuki's Mat Mladin, coming off a victory at Daytona last weekend in Superbike, posted the top Superbike time of the day at 1 minute, 36.41 seconds. Other top Superbike times were posted by Suzuki's Aaron Yates (1:36.76) and Ben Spies (1:36.80), Hodgson (1:36.90) and Honda's Miguel Duhamel (1:36.68), who won last weekend's Daytona 200. All times are unofficial. The track qualifying record is 1:36.916.
Riders encountered the same road course from one year ago - 12 turns, 2.22 miles - but will benefit from additional safety enhancements. Three Musco light poles, which were previously at the exit of the Carousel (Turn 6), have been moved back 40 feet onto a slope, and two areas of runoff will be paved by May (exit of Turn 6 and Turn 9a). Moreover, a new storm drain system has also been installed at Turns 1-2, which should aid rain runoff.
"I always enjoy coming to this place," said Ducati Austin rider Eric Bostrom, a Petaluma native. "You've done so much for the riders; it's a great thing."