INDIANAPOLIS, IN (August 27, 2011) – Tyler O’Hara joined a select group of racers today by taking his career-first AMA Pro victory in the augural AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 presented by Harley-Davidson Insurance race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Though O’Hara led eight of the ten laps, his win was anything but easy, as Tyler — running under his own team banner — battled Parts Unlimited’s Steve Rapp, series points-leader Chris Fillmore (Bruce Rossmeyer Daytona Racing GEICO), 2010 British XR1200 Trophy Champion Jeremy McWilliams, and Latus Motors Racing’s Jason DiSalvo throughout the pass-laden contest.
“It just feels really good right now,” said an emotional O’Hara, who ran down pit lane on foot — waving the checkered flag — after his bike stopped on course during the victory lap. “This is my first AMA Pro win, and I feel phenomenal right now; it’s been a long time coming. I’ve been racing pretty much my whole life, about eighteen years, and I’ve had a lot of upsets, led a lot of big races, and never really caught a break, and it seems like this weekend I was in the right place at the right time and caught a break there at the end.”
A dramatic start to today’s race saw eight bikes crash out within seconds of leaving the line, Kyle Wyman one of the quickest of the unlucky riders. At the front, O’Hara and Fillmore tore through corners followed closely followed by Rapp, McWilliams, and DiSalvo, the five-rider group kicking off one of the classically intense passing-and-drafting battles the Vance & Hines XR1200 class has become known for.
While O’Hara and Fillmore traded the lead over and over again — O’Hara drafting by Fillmore on the Brickyard’s long front straight, Fillmore answering back in the corners immediately after — Rapp and McWilliams both signaled their intention to be podium contenders, with DiSalvo ramping up his own times as the laps clicked off. After sinking momentarily back to fifth, Rapp surged up to third and immediately engaged fellow 2011 XR1200 Championship contender Fillmore. McWilliams, however, wasn’t inclined to sit back and watch — he joined the slicing-and-dicing of Fillmore and Rapp and the trio headed into a corner three-wide.
Contact looked inevitable, and it was. “I saw McWilliams trying to come down on me,” said Rapp, “and there wasn’t enough room. I knew Fillmore was on the outside of him, and I figured there definitely wasn’t enough room for him. I touched Jeremy slightly, and after that, I don’t know what happened.”
McWilliams, having split Rapp and Fillmore, tangled with the latter, Fillmore getting the worst of it and going down. Though he tried to rejoin the race, Fillmore’s damage machined forced him to retire, resulting in serious damage to the Michigan native’s championship hopes. McWilliams himself was down moments later, though he was ultimately able to reenter the race and finish tenth.
Up front, meanwhile, Rapp had gotten by O’Hara and looked prime to take the win, but Tyler absolutely refused to be denied. Instead, the cagey former AMA Pro SuperSport Top Gun champ was able to draft by Rapp at the line to take the historic victory by a margin of just .048 of a second.
DiSalvo, who’d put himself in perfect position to take advantage of the last-lap incidents, took third. “I saw [the contact and resulting crash] coming but I didn’t think it was going to be there; I figured it would be off the back straight. I thought guys were going to get a little bit wild, and when it happened, it definitely opened the door for me. I’d been kind of swinging wide there in Turn 2 all race long, and on the lap it happened, I was in the right place at the right time and was able to take advantage of it, for sure.”
Drag Specialties’ Michael Barnes earned fourth after a solid race, followed across the line by 2011 Canadian Harley-Davidson XR1200 Cup Champion Steve Crevier. Local rider Gene Burcham made his dream of racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway come true today with a nineteenth-place finish, followed by the first female rider both to compete in the Vance & Hines XR1200 class and to race at the Brickyard, Shelina Moreda.
Today’s race results have blown the championship points-race wide open, as Fillmore — who earned only a single point, for pole position — has seen his prior thirty-point advantage over Rapp dwindle to just six. Race 2, which goes green at 3:30 p.m. ET tomorrow, will provide one of only three opportunities remaining for Fillmore to strike back.
Full coverage of the Indianapolis AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 presented by Harley-Davidson Insurance double-header airs Sunday, August 28, at 6 p.m. ET on SPEED. To see tomorrow’s race in person, find Red Bull Indianapolis GP tickets and information at www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com.
For Live Timing & Scoring, detailed results from today’s racing, and additional information about AMA Pro Racing, visit www.amaproracing.com. To be a part of the AMA Pro Road Racing Championship, join us on facebook.com/AMAProRoadRacing and twitter.com/AMAProSBK.