Double Fatality at Laguna Seca WorldSBK round
Unfortunately the visit by WorldSBK to Laguna Seca has been marred by a chain-reaction, multi-bike incident on the first lap of the MotoAmerica race on Sunday afternoon, which resulted in the deaths of two competitors. The MotoAmerica race was a support event staged after the second World Superbike race at the California circuit.
Bernat Martinez, of Alberic, Valencia, Spain, was transported from the raceway by ambulance to Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula (CHOMP) in Monterey, where he succumbed to his injuries. He was 35.
Daniel Rivas Fernandez, of Moana Galicia, Spain, was transported by REACH Medical Air Services to Natividad Medical Center in Salinas, where he also succumbed to injuries. He was 27.
“I really don’t have any words to describe what we all feel,” said MotoAmerica president Wayne Rainey. “First and foremost, is the loss to the families and loved ones. Our sincere condolences goes out to each and every one of them as well as the MotoAmerica family. They are in our thoughts and prayers.”
“We are deeply saddened to learn the news of the passing of Bernat Martinez and Daniel Rivas,” said Gill Campbell, CEO and general manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. “Our prayers and hearts go out to their families and teams.”
World SBK Race One
Chaz Davies has made history at Laguna Seca by taking the first double win for the Ducati Panigale and with it, wins number 11 and 12 for the Italian manufacturer at Laguna Seca, California.
For Davies it was an almost perfect weekend with him taking Pole Position, both race wins and the fastest lap in the day’s earlier race. Where after several days of sunshine on the Central Coast of California, raceday at Laguna Seca for the GEICO Motorcycle US Round, the ninth of the 2015 eni FIM Superbike World Championship season dawned with thunder and rain greeting the WorldSBK riders.
A wet warm-up saw the riders take to the track for the first time with Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) fastest in the tricky conditions but thankfully by the time race 1 was scheduled to start the sun was shining again and the track had started to dry.
Davies made the perfect start, taking the hole shot before opening up a 1.6secs lead at the end of lap 5. Despite the Kawasaki pairing of Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea giving chase they were unable to reel in the Aruba.it Racing Ducati rider who romped to the victory, his sixth career-win and the second-ever for the Panigale R machine.
At the flag and after a tense, race-long duel second and third went to Sykes and Rea, respectively, the pair pushing each other to limit throughout the whole encounter. Rea’s third place is ironically his ‘worst’ result of the season.
Davide Giugiano (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati SBK Team) finished a lonely fourth after regrouping from a poor start, the Italian who started on the front row eventually getting the better of Jordi Torres (Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils) after spending a significant amount of laps trying to pass the Spaniard.
Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) inherited sixth after Leon Haslam fell off his Aprilia on lap 21, while reigning Champion Sylvain Guintoli powered the Pata Honda to seventh ahead of his team mate and reigning World Supersport champion Michael van der Mark.
Leandro Mercado impressed in ninth aboard the Barni Racing Ducati, the Argentine rider recovering from a huge crash earlier in the weekend.
Leon Camier (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) rode to a solid tenth place finish, with Randy de Puniet (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) and Roman Ramos (Team Go Eleven) completing the top 12.
Race Two – Chaz Davies’ second WorldSBK double and the first one for Ducati since Imola 2012.
As he did in the opening bout, Davies took the lead from the start and tried to pull away immeditaly, but unlike race one he was closely followed in the early stages by the Kawasaki Racing Team pairing of Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea, with Leon Haslam (Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils) running strongly in fourth.
Behind Davies at the flag were Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea, the podium in race 2 being a carbon copy of the first encounter.
Aprilia Racing riders Jordi Torres and Leon Haslam were fourth and fifth, respectively, after a long and enthralling duel. Both riders finished comfortably ahead of Ayrton Badovini (BMW Motorrad Italia), who had a lonely ride to sixth after failing to finish in the first encounter.
Michael van der Mark (Pata Honda World Superbike Team) got the better of Niccolò Canepa (Althea Racing) in their hectic on-track tussle for seventh with Leandro Mercado (Barni Racing) once again ninth ahead of Leon Camier (MV Agusta Reparto Corse).
The remaining point scorers were Randy de Puniet (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki), Roman Ramos (Team Go Eleven), Matteo Baiocco (Althea Racing), Gianluca Vizziello (Grillini Racing) and Christophe Ponsson (Team Pedercini).
As the rain began to fall at the start of lap two Davide Giugliano (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati SBK Team) was caught off guard, and the Italian crashed heavily at Turn 6; he was taken to the Medical Centre for precautionary checks. The Italian rider escaped major injuries having been diagnosed with only right knee and heel contusions.
It was an unfortunate race for the reigning Champion Sylvain Guintoli, who was closely tailing Alex Lowes when the Briton decided to slow down to enter the pits in order to go for an early tyre change. A collision was almost inevitable and, despite returning to the track, Lowes had to retire shortly after, as the decision did not work in his favour.
Despite losing a handful of points from Tom Sykes, Jonathan Rea still holds a solid 125-point lead over his team mate Tom Sykes, while hero of the day Chaz Davies has consolidated the third place in the standings with four rounds remaining. WorldSBK action will resume in a fortnight’s time at Sepang.
Chaz Davies – 1st and 1st – “I’m really, really happy with these results, and we’ve definitely seen the fruits of our labour here. The track here perhaps limits our weak points and plays to our strengths, and we were able to put together two really good races that went almost exactly to plan. I didn’t think we’d be able to lap in 1.23s but I was able to make some really quick first laps in Race 1, pushing hard for the first twelve or so and then it was all about gap management. We made a few small tweaks for race 2 and I think those changes were useful. I took a lot of risks with the rain, and was very worried about crashing but luckily the rain stopped and things went smoothly from there to the finish line. I thank my entire team, Ducati and our sponsors – it’s been a really solid weekend, and a lot better than last year’s outcome of course.”
Tom Sykes – 2nd and 2nd – “Jonathan and I had a great battle for the entire first race. I had plus zero on my pit board, so I just had to manage the situation. I felt the rear tyre drop and had to compensate in some areas, trying to do some things slightly differently. It was not ideal but overall I am happy with second position considering the circumstances. We made two small changes for race two and it was strange because at the beginning I felt I had a really good bike set-up but in the rain Chaz took a couple of more risks. It paid off because he made a big gap and I think that was probably the deciding factor in the race. We had a couple of warnings and I was just not able to stick with Chaz. Overall, I am fairly satisfied but we were just not close enough. Two second places are acceptable but another rider took the prizes this weekend.”
Jonathan Rea – 3rd and 3rd – “I tried a lot but there was nothing I could do to go through on Tom in race one. He also had a good pace but I am sure I had a higher pace. I just could not get through him. I tried a few times and ran wide and it was very clear if I was to stick a pass it had to be an aggressive one and in the last laps I did not get an opportunity. He was riding quite smart. In the final corner I was a little bit behind and it was one of those where you had to be clever as well, because 16 points is a lot better than zero. We also had a good pace in race two but it was a little bit my fault because I made too many mistakes. Tom and I both lost a lot of time to Chaz when the rain was coming but we ended up with a really good pace together. Today we played the long game a little bit and third is where I could finish.”
Davide Giugliano – 4th and DNF – “It was not my day. In race one I lost a lot of time trying to get past Torres and then, once I’d done that, there was no chance to catch the three guys up ahead and so I had to be happy with fourth. We made some changes for race 2 but they were not needed in the end as I crashed almost immediately. To be honest, I was really scared as I thought I’d hurt my back again, but the doctors assure me that I am ok. I’m really sorry as we had a good chance to do well…”
Leon Haslam – 13th and 5th – “Unfortunately in Race 1 we struggled. I had trouble maintaining the pace and after the crash the only thing on my mind was finishing the race, given the damage to my bike as well. We took a big step forward for Race 2. I rode much better, especially in the initial phases of the race. Then our pace dropped off a bit and I’m disappointed about that because I know that my bike had great potential. The biggest problem was consistency, in addition to a couple of turns where I was struggling. We’ll evaluate some further changes now that we can make for Malaysia, which is a track where we can definitely be very competitive.”
Jordi Torres – 5th and 4th – “Today we did a great job. We knew we would be able to do well after our third place time in qualifying. Our pace wasn’t the best, especially in Race 1 where I struggled with rear grip and wasn’t able to keep up with Giugliano. In Race 2 things went much better. In the first few laps I struggled in the braking sections because of the new pads, but once they worked themselves out I was able to set my pace to overtake Leon. The changes we made between the two races allowed me to do the times we had expected. I’m also pleased because we identified one of the areas where we’ll make some changes for the coming races which will make my RSV4 perform better in mid-turn.”
Michael van der Mark – 8th and 7th – “It’s been quite a difficult weekend and, together with trying to learn this amazing circuit, we have struggled to get the bike set up properly, so I had to come a long way from 15th on the grid. I made a really good start in the first race and moved forward about five places. But I couldn’t keep up with the guys in front of me and ended up in a lonely and boring race for eighth. In race two I had another good start and had a better feeling with the CBR. I was able to keep pushing throughout the race so, in the end, I’m quite happy to get two solid top ten finishes. I’m in a good frame of mind for the 8 Hours now, which I’m really looking forward to.”
Sylvain Guintoli – 7th and DNF – “I had a really good start to race one but I wasn’t able to keep the pace after the first few laps. I felt I was losing out on corner exit and having to try really hard to make it up on the brakes, which was difficult. In race two, the start was OK but on lap two I was lining up to pass into the last corner when [Alex] Lowes entered the pit lane without any signal and I crashed. It was a really, really upsetting way to finish the weekend, but we’ll just have to come back fighting in Sepang in two weeks.”
Alex Lowes – 6th and DNF – “I felt good in race one. I made a small mistake in the first turn, but I recovered from that and it was great to race, catch and pass Sylvain and close down on Leon on the factory Aprilia. The bike felt much better than it has done recently and we made good progress over the course of the weekend. The second race I was fully fired-up for a good fight to try and get involved at the front but immediately on the first lap it felt like I had a front puncture, the bike was folding everywhere and I had no choice but to come into the pit. The bike itself felt perfect, the same as race one, but we will have to investigate the situation with the tyre. Because it was spitting with rain and the race was effectively over having come in, we threw wet tyres on just in case the rain got heavy which would have allowed us to get back involved. Unfortunately the rain didn’t come, I was out for a few laps but it was clear there was nothing more to be gained. A disappointing end to a really good weekend but the first race has set me up well for the 8-Hour next week and I will be coming back to WSBK in Sepang knowing that we can fight with the group.”
Randy de Puniet – 11th and 11th – “Two 11th places, so it’s better than the previous races, but I am a little disappointed because we started the weekend very well. I crashed in FP4 when I had a very good place and qualified 17th on the grid. To start on the sixth row here is not so easy and the feeling was not quite as it was before the crash so I tried to manage as best I could. We made some small adjustments between the two races but it was not enough. I also struggled a little for the second half of race two with the brake, race one was ok, but race two was not as easy, so we will look to improve this and a little more with the chassis for a better corner-entry feeling. Now with this base we can look to improve further at Malaysia. It’s a track I know well and enjoy, after my time in MotoGP™, so I can get into the rhythm quickly and look to have a better feeling with the GSX-R.”
Paul Denning – Suzuki Team Manager – “As Alex said, the weekend has ended disappointingly with a strange problem with the front tyre feeling in race two, but we still have to take the positives from the improvements that have come over the course of the weekend. A far more competitive showing in race one, catching and passing Sylvain – who we have to remember is the current World Champion – and closing down the factory Aprilias shows very good progress. On Randy’s side, two points scoring finishes is a good step in the right direction. Less than we had hoped for after a good start on Friday but the huge crash in FP4 took the wind out of Randy’s sails a little bit and it was difficult to rebuild to the same level after that but we will look to continue the progress in Malaysia in a fortnight’s time.”
WorldSBK Laguna Seca – Race 1
1 – Chaz Davies Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike Team
2 – Tom Sykes Kawasaki Racing Team +1.798
3 – Jonathan Rea Kawasaki Racing Team +2.107
WorldSBK Laguna Seca – Race 2
1 – Chaz Davies Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike Team
2 – Tom Sykes Kawasaki Racing Team +1.406
3 – Jonathan Rea Kawasaki Racing Team +1.982
Standings (9 of 13 rounds completed)
1 – Jonathan Rea Kawasaki Racing Team 407
2 – Tom Sykes Kawasaki Racing Team 282 (-125)
3 – Chaz Davies Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike Team 263 (-144)