American Wildcard Rapp Ready To Take On MotoGP Elite At Indy
Steve Rapp has competed in nearly every division in AMA motorcycle road racing during his 17-year career.
Superbikes. SportBikes. Formula Xtreme. Superstock. 600 SuperSport. XR1200. You name the bike, chances are he has raced on it.
But even at age 38, there’s a brave, new world ahead for Rapp. He is racing against the world’s best riders Aug. 17-19 at the Red Bull Indianapolis GP, competing in the premier MotoGP class against World Champions Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo and Nicky Hayden.
Rapp, from Hawthorne, Calif., will ride on a 1000cc MotoGP machine built by American team Attack Performance one year after he stood on the podium twice at IMS after two runner-up finishes in the AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 Series races last August.
“As a racer, I’ve done a lot of cool things,” Rapp said. “I’ve won at Daytona, I’ve raced at Laguna Seca, and Indianapolis is definitely on the level, or higher, of all of those as far as the history and places you want to win and do well at. It’s definitely high on the list of things to do.
“I’ve been on the podium here, obviously, with XR, and it’s just the fact that you’re standing on the podium at Indianapolis on anything is pretty cool. That was awesome last year. This year it’s a different level, obviously, and it’s cool to be a part of the most popular motorcycle racing in the world. I’m hoping to qualify and be up with the guys and do well.”
Fellow American veteran Aaron Yates also will ride a wild-card effort constructed in the United States, racing in MotoGP on a bike fielded by Michigan-based team GPTech. Rapp and Yates tested Saturday, Aug. 11 on the 16-turn, 2.621-mile course at IMS, preparing for their big challenge next weekend against the world’s best. Approximately 20 Vance & Hines XR1200 Harley-Davidson riders also tested Saturday.
Rapp and Yates both will ride bikes built to the new Claiming Rules Team regulations, which allow teams to build or buy their chassis and power them with production-based 1000cc engines, reducing the cost of entry to the world’s most prestigious series. Rapp’s Attack Performance chassis will be powered by a heavily modified Kawasaki ZK-10R engine.
The team’s bike was finished just last month before Rapp competed on it at the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif.
Hampered by a lack of development time, Rapp was unable to get within 107 percent of pole sitter Casey Stoner’s time during qualifying and couldn’t race at Laguna. But the budget and staff of reigning World Champion Repsol Honda dwarf that of upstart Attack Performance, and Stoner is a two-time World Champion.
Considering that, Rapp was still pleased with the performance of the team and the bike.
“It’s more of a dream instead of a goal because the odds are against you that you would ever get to that level,” Rapp said. “If you look at how many people that are doing it and you look at how many people who want to do it, I don’t know what the number is, but it’s gotta be pretty big.
“I’ve always wanted to do it, and at Laguna (Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca) earlier this year it was the first time on the track with those guys and it was a little intimidating considering I’d never been on the bike I was riding before, and I was on new Bridgestone tires I had never ridden, and new carbon brakes that I’d never ridden on, and a bike that had never been ridden, and I’m going out there with those guys, and you know how good they are. So I got that out of the system now, and I got the tires sorted. I know the brakes and the bike’s feeling good, so I’m more confident now.
“I didn’t think I’d ever get the chance, to be honest with you, because I’ve been racing for a long time and you kind of like expect it, and then if it doesn’t happen you think it’s not going to happen, and then here I am.”
Although he didn’t start racing motorcycles until age 22, Rapp thinks his vast experience will serve him well next weekend.
“In recent years I’ve ridden a lot of different bikes, everything from Harleys to electric bikes to Superbikes to now CRT, MotoGP-type machines, and a lot of in-between as far as Ducati and BMW and Suzuki and Yamaha,” Rapp said. “It helps when you have a lot of experience now, especially when you develop into something like this because it takes every ounce of experience I have to try to get this sorted out in a quick and timely manner seeing that we only have two races with Laguna and Indy, so you don’t have a lot of time or the luxury of having the whole season or six races. It’s like it’s now or never.”
Rapp’s bike was designed and built from the ground up by the Attack Performance team, led by owner Richard Stanboli in his shop in Huntington Beach, Calif.
“I think it’s been the first one done, and I cannot remember since when, that a MotoGP bike has been built by scratch,” Stanboli said. “We didn’t copy any particular specification from any manufacturer; we basically used our own design from the ground up. We did everything in-house, and that makes us fairly unique in that regard.
“The only challenge, really, was time. Time was the biggest issue because we started this project April 1, so we didn’t have much time to get to Laguna Seca. We barely made it to that event. At Laguna, we didn’t have a chance to test, so our performance wasn’t as good as where it should be, but we have tested since then and we’re pretty pleased with the bike. It’s actually performing pretty well.”
Although Rapp had tremendous success last year at Indy by finishing second in the two XR1200 races, he knows that MotoGP is an entirely different class of racing in which the bikes are much lighter and travel about 70 mph faster.
“The lines will definitely be different, and I’ll be having to ride 110 percent the whole race,” Rapp said.
“When I was running the XRs, I was able to be one of the faster guys not running 100 percent. In this particular case, that won’t be happening. I’ll have to ride 110 percent, and I’ll still be having to work a little harder.
“It’s going to be totally different from last year, but I know the bike has a lot more potential in it, and we just barely scratched the surface at Laguna. So I’m hoping that when we come back for the weekend that things will be positive.”
Said Stanboli: “He has a lot of experience, and I’ve known Steve for a long time. He won the Daytona 200 for us back in 2007 and he finished second in 2008, so we have a lot of experience with him and we’ve been working with him for a number of years.
“He’s a stable rider. He knows his setup, and he knows what he likes. So it’s usually good when you
have an unknown quantity like a motorcycle, it’s better to have a rider you already know.”