The stunning Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will this weekend host the ninth round of the 2014 eni FIM Superbike World Championship. This is the second year in a row that the Californian venue welcomes the series after an eight year absence from the calendar. Its fast and flowing layout, the lack of long straights and the elevation changes represent a real challenge for the riders, who have little time to catch a breath during the 3.610km lap. Furthermore, one of the most iconic corners in the world, the “Corkscrew”, with its blind crest followed by a quick left-right and a steep downhill section, will put to the test the riding abilities of the World Superbike stars.
Like last year reigning champion Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) enters the US Round as the points leader but this time with a much wider margin on his closest rivals. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team), Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team) and Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike Team) are chasing with a 42, 43 and 48 point gap respectively and they all hope to make some ground to the top before the summer break.
Sykes came out victorious in last year’s first encounter after edging Chaz Davies in the 12 lapper that took place after a second restart. The KRT rider was then fourth in in the second race after leading for the most part.
2013 pole sitter Sylvain Guintoli and his teammate Marco Melandri are looking forward to putting things straight after coming together in the wet second at Portimao whilst closing the gap to the leader. Both riders were major players in the battle for top honours in California a year ago, with the Frenchman missing the opportunity for a win due to the two red flag situations that characterised the first race. Melandri has stepped three times onto the Laguna Seca podium: once in WSBK last year and twice in MotoGP (2006 and 2007).
Second race winner at Portimao Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike) will make his debut at Laguna Seca this weekend, as the Ulsterman had to miss the US Round due to the femur injury suffered at the Nurburgring two rounds before, which put a premature end to his 2013 campaign.
Davide Giugliano (Ducati Superbike Team) had one of the best moments so far in his career last year at Laguna Seca, as he was second at the finish line in race 2 after battling for first place with early leader Sykes, before Eugene Laverty stole the show by getting the better of both rivals in the latter stages.
The Voltcom Crescent Suzuki rider is hoping to finally return to his early season form, although he is currently dealing with the foot injury sustained in Sepang a month ago. Alex Lowes, on the other hand, will take on the Corkscrew for the first time ever after another encouraging performance in Portugal.
Team MV Agusta Reparto Corse has selected Leon Camier to replace the injured Claudio Corti. Unlike the Italian, Camier has never raced at Laguna Seca before as he was unable to race due to the foot injury he had during free practice in Istanbul in 2013, whilst racing for the Crescent Suzuki squad.
Team Hero EBR arrive at their home race after equalling their season best race finish in Portugal after Aaron Yates finished 16th in race one. Both Yates and his teammate Geoff May are confident of a stronger race weekend on home turf after further development to the EBR 1190RX machine.
The all new EVO category has provided some excellent racing already this season and with the US Round approaching any of the current entries could be in with a shout of securing the best classified award and at the same time could well mix it at the front of the overall race. Current EVO leader David Salom (Kawasaki Racing Team) heads Niccolò Canepa (Althea Racing Team Ducati), who started both races from the second row in 2013. The Spaniard has also lately being challenged hard by the returning Sylvain Barrier (BMW Motorrad Italia Superbike Team), who has shown impressive speed despite missing more than half of the season while recovering from injury.
An already full grid of 27 riders will increase to 29 with the addition of two American wildcard riders, Larry Pegram (Foremost Insurance EBR) and Chris Ulrich (GEICO Motorcycle Road Racing Honda). For Pegram it will be his third WSBK appearance after wildcarding here at Laguna in 1996 and 2000 on Ducati machinery.
Standings (Round 8 of 13): 1. Sykes 284; 2. Guintoli 241; 3. Baz 236; 4. Rea 235; 5. Melandri 192; 6. Davies 159; 7. Giugliano 140; 8. Laverty 121; 9. Elias 115; 10. Haslam 115; 11. Lowes 111; 12. Salom 74; 13. Canepa 46; 14. Camier 30; 15. Guarnoni 26; 16. Barrier 17; 17. Scassa 16; 18. Foret 14; 19. Morais 14; 20. Corti 13; 21. Andreozzi 10; 22. Allerton 6; 23. Bos 5; 24. Staring 5; 25. Goi 5; 26. Russo 5; 27. Toth 2; 28. Fabrizio 2; 29. Lanusse 1. Manufacturers: 1. Kawasaki 301; 2. Aprilia 273; 3. Honda 235; 4. Ducati 207; 5. Suzuki 179; 6. BMW 53; 7. MV Agusta 13.
- Tom Sykes last year hit the spotlight in both races: qualified in second, he won race one and in race two he led until two laps to the end, then he began to struggle with his tyres and was passed by Laverty, Giugliano and Melandri, finishing fourth.
- Sylvain Guintoli last year started on pole and finished twice fifth: in race one he held fourth place until the last lap, when he was passed by Laverty, while in race two he ran a solitary fifth, closing the gap to the leading group only towards the end. Sylvain had two big opportunities cut short by the red flags, as he was leading by a good margin when the races were stopped.
- Marco Melandri last year managed to hold second place for half of the first race, then he was passed by Davies and Laverty, finishing fourth. In race two he managed to clinch the podium on the last lap, passing Tom Sykes, and finishing third. Third place is also the best result in his six MotoGP races here: in 2006 behind Nicky Hayden and Daniel Pedrosa and in 2007 behind Casey Stoner and Chris Vermeulen.
- Chaz Davies was second in race one last year: he passed Melandri and stayed with Sykes, but he wasn’t able to overtake him. In race two he retired for brake failure.
- Davide Giugliano was sixth last year in race one, at the tail of the leading group, while in race two he managed to climb from the seventh place he was on the opening lap to second at the flag, recording the fastest race lap.
- Toni Elias was eighth and seventh last year, despite starting from fifteenth. He raced six times here in MotoGP, obtaining a sixth as best result, both in grid and in the race in 2006.
- Eugene Laverty is the only rider which last year was able to climb on the podium in both races: third in race one, thanks to the overtakes on Guintoli and Melandri, while in race two he was passed by Giugliano and Sykes early on but was able to retake the lead two laps to the end, going on to win.
- Four Superbike races for Leon Haslam in Laguna Seca: a ninth and a fall in 2004, again a fall and an eleventh last year.
- David Salom was eleventh and ninth last year in Laguna Seca. That ninth place is to date his best career result, obtained this year also in Phillip Island race one and Sepang race one.
- Niccolò Canepa obtained here one year ago the one that is, to date, his best grid spot: fourth. In race one he fell after the second start: the race was then stopped, but he wasn’t able to take the third start; in race two he was fifth when, on the second lap, he fell on the first turn and was fifteenth at the flag.
- Luca Scassa raced here in the American championship, finishing 30th and 23rd in the 2007 races.
- Last year’s experience in MotoGP for Claudio Corti was short-lived: fourteenth on the opening lap, after two laps he had to retire for engine failure.
- Bryan Staring last year for many laps was fifteenth in the MotoGP race, but towards the end he had to slow down due to pain in the foot he injured in the race before, finishing seventeenth.
- Geoff May took part in many races of the American championship in Laguna Seca: in recent times he was able to finish in sixth in 2012 and last year in race one.
- Ayrton Badovini was ninth last year in race one, suffering from pain in his ankle, while in race two he fell while running fourteenth.
- Aaron Yates ran eight Superbike races in Laguna Seca, scoring his best results in 2003, when he was sixth in race one from the fourth grid spot, that at the time was on the front row. Last year he raced on the American championship in this track, finishing seventh and fifth. His last podium in the aforementioned AMA championship dates back 2009, when he was third behind Matt Mladin and Blake Young.
- Aprilia won twice in Laguna Seca: in 2000 race two with Troy Corser and last year, always in race two with Eugene Laverty. In the latter Giugliano completed an Aprilia double finishing second. Aprilia was on pole last year with Sylvain Guintoli;
- Two podium places last year for BMW in Laguna Seca: Davies second in race one and Melandri third in race two.
- Ducati, thanks to their constant presence in the Championship, has the record of wins here, ten, to Honda’s five and three for Kawasaki. Their last win dates back 2003, when Ducati locked the podium in both races, with Frankie Chili, Neil Hodgson and James Toseland in race one and with Ruben Xaus, Neil Hodgson and Chris Walker in race two: in this race Ducati’s domination went as far as fourth place (Regis Laconi).
- Five wins for Honda in Laguna Seca: the last two scored in both 2004 races, with Chris Vermeulen, at the time the only Honda rider in the whole field. Last year Honda, without Jonathan Rea, obtained as best result a tenth by Michel Fabrizio in race two: both Hondas failed to qualify in the top-10.
- Three wins for Kawasaki in Laguna Seca: Anthony Gobert won here in race one in 1995 and in race two the following year, while Tom Sykes won last year in race one. That win by Sykes is the only podium placement for a Kawasaki bike in this century at Laguna Seca.
- Suzuki never won here, scoring only one podium placement: it was Frankie Chili, in third on the second 1999 race. Last year the best Suzuki result was the sixth from Jules Cluzel in race two.
Kawasaki Video Preview
Aprilia Racing Preview
With just enough time to catch their breath after the Portimão races, it’s already time for the Aprilia Racing Team to take to the track again. In fact, before the summer break begins the World Superbike calendar has scheduled rounds two weekends in a row: leaving Portugal behind the teams go immediately to Laguna Seca, the factory derivative American round.
The Californian circuit certainly needs no introduction. Historic and decidedly particular, it’s most representative section is the “Corkscrew”. But there are many exciting spots on this old school track that always provide for adrenaline filled races.
Marco Melandri loves the Californian track and the special feeling in the air at Laguna Seca. On the American track he will have the opportunity to continue his trend of consistent improvement which has him more and more of a protagonist in recent rounds: “Laguna is one of my favourite tracks, plus I love the atmosphere that you can feel in the air there. It will be nice to have three days of good weather and to be able to demonstrate what I am really capable of. I have nothing left to lose, so I’ll be on the attack from start to finish.”
Last year it was red flags that decided the day’s results. It was Sylvain Guintoli who paid the price after starting from pole position on his RSV4 and, twice in a row, was on his way to a win, riding alone at the front of the pack. After the second red flag the Frenchman was unable to find the right pace and he is eager to redeem himself this weekend: “Laguna is our last race before the summer break. Just like in Portugal, we need to attack and take risks so the championship fight stays open. At this moment, only this kind of attitude can help us. I am looking forward to it because last year I did the lap record in Superpole but then in the races I lost my focus feeling frustrated by the multiple red flags. I really think we can do a good job in California on Sunday”.