"From the first lap of Thursday promoter practice I knew it would be a tough weekend to dial in the bike," said Darryl Atkins. "The course lay-out seemed to suit our machine, but the challenge was getting the bike to hook-up on the surface."
As the track built in the parking lot of the Invesco Stadium began to bed in, the team made adjustments to the bike to suit the course. "We changed the suspension set-up quite a bit, and were still tweaking the fuel injection to gain better traction," said Atkins.
Friday practice in the afternoon was not enough to fully cure the traction problems, also a big problem for every other team in the paddock. Riders normally on top of the standings were struggling along with the Aprilia team. Atkins pushed hard towards the end of the qualifying sessions and landed a spot on the front row. The unique night race was a spectacle indeed. With the stunning backdrop of downtown Denver, and thousands of cars per hour passing by on Interstate 25, visibility was great for the Aprilia team.
Sitting in fourth position on the start line, Atkins dropped the clutch on the green. Some wheel-spin off the line and a predictably messy start into turn one pushed Darryl back one space. As riders became accustomed to racing under the lights, the field strung out. Still slipping out of the critical last corner, the SXV was unable to put all its power to the ground, however Darryl managed to hold on to a fifth place position in the end.
The second race of the weekend was predicated by spotty rain in practice. The slightest rain drop on the tarmac proved to create a truly slick surface. The team tried tire combinations and further tweaked fuel injection to try to gain position, however the track proved too tough to tame in the conditions, and Atkins qualified seventh for the Saturday afternoon race.
As the prior race finished up, the skies opened. The entire grid was fitted with rain slicks, however despite the super-soft rubber conditions proved treacherous. Continuous rain further degraded conditions, and handicapped the SXV. A fouled spark plug eventually led to the withdrawal of the machine resulting in a very disappointing 22nd place finish. "The bike was OK at the start of the race, but pretty soon I lost a lot of power," said Atkins. " I pushed on as long as I could because racers were crashing left and right, and thought we may get some points by simply finishing."
The push to finish was was ultimately thwarted by the worsening conditions, and Atkins was forced to withdraw. "The results were not what we wanted - we are here to win, and will continue to push. What was awesome was the number of people coming up interested in the new Aprilia machines. With bikes now on dealer floors more attention is coming our way, and the team is working hard to get the results we all expect."
Some time off before the next event will allow the team to re-group.