Yoshimura Suzuki’s Pascal Picotte leads Thomas Wilson (and his Harley-Davidson VR1000) and Mark Miller en route to victory in a chaotic AMA Superbike race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 1996. Photo by Henny Ray Abrams

With MotoAmerica set to bring AMA Superbike racing back to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, August 16-18, we’re taking a closer look at past Superbike races at the iconic racetrack in Lexington, Ohio.

The soaking-wet 1996 AMA Superbike race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course was nothing if not a complete and utter debacle. The race was won by Yoshimura Suzuki’s Pascal Picotte after a second red flag stoppage when Vance & Hines Yamaha’s Jamie James crashed in spectacular fashion in the last corner, prompting AMA officials to finally put a stop to the proceedings.

James, who was leading the race at the time of his crash, suffered a broken lower leg.

Harley-Davidson’s Thomas Wilson led the race at the time of James’ crash, but when the race was taken back a lap in the final scoring, it was Picotte who was awarded the win. Still, Wilson’s second place finish it was Harley’s best-ever AMA Superbike National finish at the time.

Picotte’s victory also ended a five-year Superbike winless drought for Suzuki in the Superbike class. Picotte’s win also came after the French Canadian had crashed just after the first red flag was thrown and Picotte was able to make the restart. The initial red flag was thrown when Mike Smith crashed in the final corner, the site of James’ crash that eventually stopped the race altogether.

If Wilson’s runner-up finish on the VR1000 was surprising, then Brett Metzger’s third-place finish was downright unforeseeable. Riding a Supersport-trim Suzuki GSX-R750 in just his second-ever AMA Superbike race, Metzger earned the final podium spot after beating the likes of defending AMA Superbike Champion Miguel Duhamel and his Smokin’ Joe’s Honda.

“I just wanted to be smooth and safe,” Metzger told Cycle News post-race. “Duhamel passed me a couple of times on the back straight, but I just outbraked him in the next corner without pushing myself. I just tied it all together, stayed smooth and it paid off.”

Duhamel ended up fourth and was pleased to pull back some valuable points on championship leader Doug Chandler with the Muzzy Kawasaki rider ending up a careful seventh.

Pascal Picotte (center) sprays the bubbly with surprise third-place finisher Brett Metzger (left) and runner-up Thomas Wilson (right_. Photo by Henny Ray Abrams

“I didn’t think I was going to win when (Thomas) Wilson was behind me because I was really holding him back,” Picotte said. “He was definitely faster than me because I was really loose on the rear – really, really loose. I just did the best I could with what I’ve got. Our bike was a little slow on top speed there the entire weekend, and a little slow on the bottom also.

Fifth place went to Fast By Ferracci’s Alessandro Gramigni, the Italian racing a Ducati for the first time in his career in what was his first-ever AMA race.

How’s this to illustrate just how bad the conditions were at Mid-Ohio in 1996? Duhamel crashed four times on Sunday. Once on his Superbike in morning warmup, once on his 600cc Supersport bike in the morning practice and twice on the 600 in the race. Thanks to the red flags, Duhamel was still able to finish sixth in the 600cc Superport race – despite the two crashes.  

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