RACE REPORT: THUNDERHILL RACEWAY, WILLOWS, CA

Turn 12 250 PRODimage (2)

PHOTOS: OxyMoron Photography

Ari Henning ran the Werkstatt Racing Honda CBR250R at Thunderhill Raceway in Willows, CA, on July 7th during the fourth round of the AFM season. Henning finished the weekend with a 3rd and a 7th against all-Kawasaki grids.

Henning ran his CBR250R at T-Hill last year when the bike was still in the early stages of development, and he was looking forward to giving the fast, 2.9-mile circuit another go with a faster, sharper machine. “The motor was stock last year, but it’s been modified since then, and the chassis is dialed,” say Henning. “The extra power is noticeable and definitely helpful, but I’m still down compared to the Ninjas, and this track has some crazy-long straights.” Last year, Henning finished 6th, 9th, and 12th in the various 250cc classes.

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The Werkstatt Racing Honda was clearly improved, as Ari clicked off numerous 2:11 laps in practice, a full second faster than his best race time from last year. Minor suspension changes and taller gearing allowed Ari to get down into the mid-10s by the end of the day.

Henning was gridded on the outside of row two for the 250 Superbike race on Sunday morning, and an excellent start saw him in 5th place going into Turn 1. The 250 Superbike class allows 450 singles to compete, and a converted motocross bike ran away with first place, leaving Henning and Ninja 250-mounted Bobbie Wetterau to battle for second. “Once that 450 pulled a gap on the straights and stopped slowing us down in the corners, Bobbie and I were straight hauling!” says Ari. “We were in the low 2:08s by lap two, and both of us clicked off laps in the high 7s, just a few tenths off the track record.” Henning managed to stay on the rear wheel of Wetterau’s Ninja 250 and pulled alongside him on several occasions, but wasn’t able to make a successful pass. He finished the race in 3rd.

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“I was really pleased with my finish in 250 Superbike. I kind of considered that class practice for 250 Production, so I was optimistic heading in to that race.” Things didn’t go well for Henning in 250 Production, however. An unfavorable grid position and sloppy start saw Henning stuck in a knot of riders heading into Turn 1, and he floundered in traffic throughout the race. “It was frustrating,” recalls Henning. “I’d pass one or two riders in the infield, but then two or three of them would motor by me between turns.” Ari was in 4th heading onto the front straight on the last lap, but three riders slingshotted past him on the way to the checkered flag, relegating him to 7th.

“This isn’t an ideal track for the Honda, but it’s really a fantastic circuit. There’s a ton of variety, and the blind, crested turns are such a blast,” says Ari.

Henning’s next race is with M1GP at the Streets of Willows in Rosamond, CA, on July 28th.

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