The Post-Journal

About Conquering A Dream

Higbee To Make AMA Superbike Debut Today

When Shawn Higbee wrestled for Walt Thurnau at Sothwestern Central School, he learned about goals.

He learned not just how to set goals, but also how to work and persevere to achieve those goals.

This afternoon, the Southwestern graduate, now 25, will make a most impressive debut - having achieved one of his ultimate goals.

Higbee will be one of 80 starters in the AMA-sanctioned Daytona 200 today at Daytona International Speedway.

For the first time in his already impressive career, Higbee will be piloting a 155-horsepower Superbike.

He is now in the most elite road racing motorcycle class that the United States has to offer.

"I'm real excited to be where I am right now," said Higbee from his California home before heading to Daytona. "I want to try to take advantage of it right away. I am pretty anxious to go to this level."

Higbee, who is the 1994 Harley-Davidson Twin Sport national champion and runner-up last year, will be racing with the prestigious Fast By Ferracci Ducati team this season.

The Ducati team, owned by Eraldo Ferracci, boasts several legendary riders over the years such as three-time world champion Freddie Spencer and Superbike champion Troy Corser. Two-time AMA Superbike champ Doug Polen also raced the popular Italian motorcycles.

For Ferracci to choose Higbee - who replaces Spencer - says quite a bit about the talent the former Harley champ possesses.

"Riding the Harleys got me noticed," said Higbee, who finished either first or second in eight of eleven races last season. "I set out to get noticed by the factory teams. I felt the way to do it was to win as many races as I could and to have some convincing wins by a large margin. I was able to do that at a few events (Road America and Sears Point)."

It was at the end of last season when Higbee received an unexpected phone call. On the other end of the line was Eraldo Ferracci.

"He called me up and asked if I wanted a pre-test tryout." Said Higbee. "I was very excited. I couldn't believe he called me."

Higbee was impressive in the test and was invited back for an official tryout for one of two open Ducati rides.

Under extreme pressure, Higbee earned one of the factory rides based on his riding talent, ability to set up the bike and the manner in which he was able to work with the crew.

Larry Pegram of Ohio was chosen for the other spot.

"I've never had to go through anything like that," said Higbee, after signing a one-year contract with the Ducati team. "They have been supporting me right along."

The FBF Team is based out of Willows Grove, PA, which isn't far from Philadelphia.

"I'm really happy for him and anxious to see him do well," said Higbee's father, Paul. "It's something he thought all along that he could do."

"He was always a competitive person," Paul added. "I relate his racing to his high school wrestling years. He goes about it the same way. He'll sit down and write out his goals and give them a lot of thought."

Even as the waving of the green flag today at Daytona signifies just the beginning of Shawn's Superbike career, Paul Higbee already sees his son accomplishing a great deal in the popular motorsport.

"I believe he will win a national (event) this year," Paul stated boldly. "That's something a rookie has never done, but it is a fantastic bike. What I would like to see is for him to win a national and for him to turn around and race again for Ferracci and win a championship."

Shawn would have liked to sign a contract to ride for FBF for more than one year, simply providing for more job security.

However, he does feel that the short-term contract has its benefits as well.

"I won't be tied (to the team) if things don't work out," he said.

Meanwhile, the bike itself is a 916 Ducati. Many of the custom parts come directly from Italy.

The motorcycles in the Superbike class weigh approximately 350 pounds and are highly modified from production motorcycles. At high-banked tracks like Daytona, they can reach speeds up to 185 miles per hour.

The technology involved with the bike is something Higbee has become astounded with. The bike, which can cost anywhere from $60,000 to $150,000, features computerized telemetry which records lap times, wheel speed and other data beneficial to the rider.

If there is any negative aspect about the Ducati factory ride, it's that Higbee won't be able to serve as his own mechanic, as he did in the past.

"I enjoyed working on the bikes, but it had its disadvantages, too," he explained. "Now that I don't have to work on the bikes I can focus on riding and the particulars of setting up the bike - more of the fine adjustments."

"The team is pretty much self-sufficient," he added. "My job is to show up and race the bike. When I get to the track, I get to set up the bike to my style."

At age 25, things couldn't be better for Shawn Higbee.

Today's race brings in the best motorcycle racers from across the world. Higbee has always wanted to be a part of that.

Now he has a factory ride - the same factory that has won four World Superbike championships in the past six years.

"It's every racer's dream to get a factory ride," he said. "I can appreciate this chance to race the very best motorcycles available. It drives me to do the very best I can and use this opportunity to its fullest potential."

Higbee realizes there is a lot to learn before he can consistently run up front.

Who knows, should he excel at this level in the U.S. there very well could be more opportunities to race worldwide. He could get approached by other factory teams.

So when you see Higbee drafting through the tri-oval at Daytona today at about 185 miles per hour in The Nashville Network's live broadcast, realize that he made it all happen.

He wouldn't have it any other way.

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