Team Shift Motul Suzuki claimed fifth place in both the Pro Open and Pro Lites classes in this weekend's opening round of the 2007 Supercross Masters Championship at Wayville Showgrounds, Adelaide (SA).
Fresh from his New Zealand Supercross Championship victory, Luke Burkhart was on the pace from the outset of the evening and kept his RM-Z450 among the front runners throughout his two qualifying heats to progress smoothly into the Superpole to determine the Pro Open Final starting positions.
The five-lap Superpole battle saw Burkhart caught up in other riders' crashes, which left the talented New Zealander in a compromised position for the start of evening's main event.
Despite his poor starting gate position for the 20-lap Pro Open Final, Burkhart managed to charge his way into fifth place before the race was stopped on lap 13 due to a crashed rider.
Restarting the race to complete the remaining seven laps, Burkhart's excellent endurance fitness came to the fore and he again marched through the field to fifth place as other riders fatigued.
Combining the race times from both portions of the Final race, Burkhart maintained his fifth place position at the conclusion of the opening round.
Returning to the Suzuki squad, Danny Ham was in strong form and looked set to sail easily through the qualifying heats before an error on the final lap saw him stall his race bike and drop back down through field.
Subsequently, Ham had to contest the Last Chance Qualifier in order to secure a berth in the Pro Open Final, but an incident trying to avoid a collision with another rider saw Ham re-injure his knee and forced the Suzuki racer to withdraw from the event.
Undergoing a knee reconstruction just seven months ago, Ham will now seek medical attention to ascertain whether he is able to race for the remainder of the Supercross season.
Debuting the all-new, all-Suzuki RM-Z250 in the Pro Lites class, Timmy Weigand cruised easily into the 15-lap SX Lite Final.
Scoring the holeshot in the Lites Superpole, Weigand was pushed wide by Ryan Marmont and slipped back to seventh place, garnering a reasonable gate pick for the all-important Final.
Making yet another scorching start in the SX Lites Final, Weigand was again in conflict with Marmont and dropped back to third. Later in the race, a split-second error put Weigand back to fifth place where he remained to the chequered flag.
Preparing to build on the foundations laid in round one, Team Shift Motul Suzuki will contest the second round of the Australian Supercross Masters at Avalon (VIC) on Saturday 24 February.
Luke Burkhart – Team Shift Motul Suzuki
"Fifth is not what I'd hoped for from round one but it's a solid start to the season and I'm glad to have some points on the board.
"It's really good to have the first round out of the way and to see where we in relation to the other teams. I've had good season preparation and the new RM-Z450 is awesome and with a better gate pick I would definitely have been further up the field.
"That one incident in the Superpole hurt us badly, but Suzuki has an incredible race package so we'll put this behind us and move on to round two and aim for race wins."
Danny Ham – Team Shift Motul Suzuki
"The RM-Z450 was running really well and I felt very comfortable throughout the qualifying sessions.
"It's so disappointing to have the season start this way, but I'll get my knee checked out and hopefully I can come back to race with Suzuki for the remaining three rounds."
Tim Weigand – Team Shift Motul Suzuki
"The RM-Z250 is awesome – we made some changes throughout the night and managed to find even more speed from it.
"I just need to keep building up the strength in my hand after last year's injury so that we can get the results that the bike deserves."
Jay Foreman – Team Shift Motul Suzuki Team Manager
"Given Luke's terrible gate selection in the Final, he did a great job to come through for fifth place and salvage a solid haul of points from the evening.
"On both starts of the Final Luke was ahead of other leading riders who had good gates for the best run into the first corner which was impressive given where he started from.
"Danny was riding really well – he was fast and aggressive and it's a shame to see an injury end his night. Now we have to wait to find out the extent of the damage to his knee and see whether he is able to complete the rest of the Supercross championship.
"The RM-Z250 is a totally new race machine and so early in its development phase we already have a very strong race package. We made more set up changes and improved the bike throughout the night.
"Timmy was quick; he made great starts and rode really well but began to struggle a bit with arm pump as the night wore on because of his old hand injury from last year. More miles on the bike before the next round should fix that problem and have him back up the pointy end of the field.
"The Supercross season is so short this year it will be difficult to reel in the leaders in each class, but the championship is a long way from decided – we will fight to the end and push hard for both titles."
2007 Australian Supercross Masters Championship
Round 1 – Pro Open Top Ten Results
Daniel Reardon, Cheyne Boyd, Craig Anderson, Cody Cooper, Luke Burkhart, Shane Metcalf, Troy Carroll, Jay Marmont, Josh Demuth, Nicholas Geck
Round 1 – Pro Lites Top Ten Results
Ryan Marmont, Cameron Taylor, Robbie Marshall, Daniel McCoy, Tommy Weigand, Lawson Bopping, Adam Monea, Luke George, Bronte Holland, Mitchell Hoad