From a press release issued by Road Race Southwest's Jack Frost, Jan. 14, 2008:

Lightweight GP
The first Lightweight GP of the CCS Southwest 2008 season saw the usual suspects take the grid at Firebird Main. As the flag dropped Matt Hartlieb #100 got his trademark awesome start and took the holeshot into turn one ahead of Ted Rich #62, and Joe Devine #317. In the back section on lap one, Jamie Bubeck #13 riding a Honda CRF450 passed Devine for 3rd and set off after the leaders. He managed to stay with Rich and Hartlieb for three laps, but the lesser powered Honda was not able to keep the pace down the long main straight.

On lap six, Hartlieb checked over his shoulder to see Rich was still there, he then turned up the heat and ran three very fast laps to break away and pull out a sizable lead on the rest of the field. Mark Kochman #72 a first year expert, had managed to work his way through the field after a poor start. Bubeck still running third had about a five second gap on Kochman with six laps remaining. Kochman ran five very clean fast laps and managed to catch Bubeck entering turn one on the last lap. Bubeck, quicker in the back section on the lighter Honda, pushed Kochman as hard as he could and showed him a wheel several times, but was unable to make the pass. Kochman got the better drive exiting the tower turn and claimed third place with an impressive ride. Rich had cruised home for a lonely second, and Hartlieb claimed the top spot on the podium after leading the race from flag to flag yet again. After Hartliebís dominating performance thereís no doubt he will definitely be a force to be reckoned with during the 08 season.

Middleweight GP
Most of the top ten overall CCS SW finishers for the 2007 season are Middleweight GP riders, so the first MW GP for the 08 season was set to be a closely contested event. Ray Thibedeau the reigning #1 plate holder took the holeshot, closely followed by Rory Palmer #2, Rick Bucher #31, and David Siminski #10. Thibedeau immediately went to work and set a very fast pace. Palmer held on for a couple of laps but did not seem prepared to push his Triumph 675 harder than he already was. Palmerís pace was quick enough to gap third place Bucher, but Thibedeau was by now already beyond his reach. Siminski followed Bucher for several laps obviously sizing him up to make a pass. On lap seven, Siminski passed Bucher into turn one and attempted to pick up the pace. Bucher with some speed in reserve pushed Siminski for the rest of the lap, and re-passed him coming into the tower turn. The places remained unchanged until lap nine, when Siminski again passed Bucher in turn one. Bucher spent the remainder of the race looking for a way to get back past Siminski. On lap 11, Bucher ran wide in turn 12 and ran across the infield, this seemed to upset his rhythm a little and Siminski managed to pull a few bike lengths to hold onto third place. Thibedeau was in a race of his own in first, and Palmer ran a solid second. In the post race interview Palmer commented that he didnít want to push too hard, as his Euro Motorsports Triumph 675 was up for sale, and he was switching to a Ducati 848 for the rest of the season. The February round at Firebird East will see if Palmerís new Italian mount will give him the speed he needs to push the dominating Thibedeau.

Unlimited GP
At the end of the 2007 season, the King of Firebird Mark Ledesma decided to retire from racing and spend more time with his family. But he could not stay away from the track, and made a welcome appearance as a guest commentator, assisting Cory Stem on the mic for the Unlimited GP. Scott Bergen #319 got a great start to narrowly lead Rick Bucher #31 into turn one. Bucher and Bergen quickly dropped the rest of the field and began to pull out a gap. Bucher, under powered in the unlimited class on a Honda 600 could not match Bergenís speed and Bergen pulled further away with each passing lap. Patrick Bertinelli #93 a first year expert who has recently returned to racing, got a very poor start and was in 8th place on lap one. Bertinelli rode superbly, and was definitely the man on the move for the entire race. He picked off riders very cleanly, and with apparent ease as he attempted to chase down the leader. Bergenís lead was a good one, and he was obviously just trying to run consistently as the laps wound down. Unfortunately for Bertinelli, time ran out and he followed Bergen home by about three bike lengths as the riders took the checkers. One more lap would have seen a great battle for the win, and Iím sure Bertinelli will be working on his starts before the February round.


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