WorldSBK Laguna Seca Preview – Past and Present
Laguna Seca will soon welcome Round Eight of the World Superbike Championship, with the track famed for the formidable corkscrew and 3.61km of pure speed and adrenaline filled racing.
Heading into turn one is enough to separate the men from the boys, and the GEICO US Round promises to provide a weekend of high action racing. Battling for glory, the WorldSBK riders will continue to ride in the memory of Nicky Hayden, as Laguna was the circuit which provided Hayden so much joy and succes
His podium finish last season will be something that will be fondly remembered by all in the WorldSBK paddock.
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) heads to the US with a 50 point championship lead, and has only finished off the podium once so far in 2017, a record which is enough alone to make his rivals concerned. With sheer outright speed and a comfortable base setting on his ZX-10RR Rea is a hard rider to beat, and after he secured his first victory around Laguna last season he will certainly be the man with the target on his back.
“After Misano I enjoyed some time camping with my family and also got together with the whole KRT team in Ibiza for some fun. I’m really looking forward to Laguna Seca this weekend as it is one of the most iconic circuits in the world, and one that I really enjoy. Our Ninja ZX-10RR has been working very well so far this season so I am confident we can find a good feeling when we hit the track in FP1 on Friday. Last year I was able to win my first race at Laguna and this time the target is to repeat that in both races. The American fans are very passionate about WorldSBK and the atmosphere around the paddock is something that I really enjoy. We are now past the halfway point of the season and I am focused on this next block of races, just to be as strong as possible and go into the summer break satisfied with our work so far.”
Hoping to make his comeback following recovery from his Misano race one crash, which left Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) with a fractured L3 vertebrae, he will be looking to make up for lost time at Laguna.
However with a 111 point deficit to Rea in the standings Davies has a lot of work ahead of him, and where better than Laguna Seca where the Brit has a strong history. Doing the double two years ago in California, the 30 year old has four podium finishes out of eight races run there, so it will be an intense comeback for the Welshman.
“I’ve been doing physiotherapy everyday for the past two weeks, and my conditions have constantly improved. I feel generally pretty good, and the back is not bothering me particularly. We just need to wait for the official ‘thumbs up’ from the medical staff. Honestly, I can’t wait to ride again. It’s been a bit frustrating not to be able to train since Misano, but I didn’t want to make anything worse. I want to take advantage of the next few days to wake my body up again. Laguna Seca is a great track, it triggers many a great memories, and its atmosphere is fantastic. Maybe I’ll be a bit limited physically, but if we manage to find a comfortable setup that allows the bike to hit the marks without forcing too much we can aim high, so I’m confident.”
Quietly creeping up in the championship standings is the consistent Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team). Following a tough start to the season with an illness, he has been decreasing the gap to the top of the championship and is beginning to feel more comfortable with his Kawasaki.
“The Laguna circuit is quite tight and twisty and the lap times are always very close. I have had some good results there and I remember I won the very first Laguna race I ever rode in. It surprised me at the time because I won it against a few guys who had been there before, racing in MotoGP or the American championship. I remember that I was proud of that because I thought it would be difficult to compete there the very first time. We have been making progress recently and I would like to keep moving forward and pick up a big bagful of points. That has to be the target this weekend. The American fans are fantastic and I just like the whole atmosphere and environment. I love the place!”
Still looking at finding some extra tenths in the beginning of the race and often playing victim to the new race two grid reshuffling rule, Sykes has won two of the last four races and finished on the podium on 11 occasions so far in 2017. Narrowly taking the victory at Laguna Seca in race two last season, the British rider has three wins under his belt in America and will be hoping his resurge can continue.
Italy’s 100th race winner Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) has now got the monkey off his back in terms of standing on the top step since his 2017 return, following the Italian’s sensational victory last time out in front of his home fans at Misano.
“Laguna Seca is one of my favorite races. I enjoy the track, and most of all the whole California vibe: the climate, the landscapes, and the fans’ attitude. The track itself is small but fast, with many direction and elevation changes. It’s complete and challenging. Also, the races there often get red-flagged. We’ll have to take this into account as well, from a tactical point of view. In the past two weeks I trained and recharged. I feel great and this is the right moment to resume action. I believe we stepped it up a notch at Misano, and we can be competitive on each track from now on. Now I ride a bike that is more suitable for my style.”
Back at Laguna Seca for the first time since 2014, the 34 year old has welcomed success in California in the past, both in his time in MotoGP and WorldSBK. Two podiums in MotoGP were followed by a podium and victory in the WorldSBK class. With a new found pace with his Panigale, will the confidence continue into America?
The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team of Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark cannot wait to get back on track at Laguna Seca this weekend for round eight of the 2017 FIM Superbike World Championship after an impressive showing in Misano.
Lowes crossed the line in second position in race one at Misano to record his best result for the Pata Yamaha Team and continue the excellent progress he has made throughout 2017. The 26-year-old British rider has two podiums to his name in the last four races and has established himself as a regular rostrum challenger. Last year at Laguna he finished fifth and 14th (after a last-corner incident) in the two races, but knows this year he can be a lot more competitive at a circuit he really enjoys.
Heading into another tough weekend, Stefan Bradl (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) will experience the exhilarating Laguna Seca on his Superbike machine for the first time. A circuit in which he has stood on the podium around, the German rider will continue to be making improvements on the CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2. As always, he will be racing in the honour of Hayden, at a circuit which was always very close to the Americans heart.
The Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team also announced that 24-year-old American rider Jake Gagne will team up with Stefan Bradl to take part in the US Round on board the team’s Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2 machine.
Born and raised in Ramona, California, Gagne is currently competing in the MotoAmerica Superbike Championship on the Genuine Broaster Chicken Honda CBR1000RR SP2 (Fireblade) and brings with him a wealth of success in various competitions. Jake won the Red Bull Rookies Cup at the age of 18 in 2010, before a year in the CEV Moto2 Championship. He then returned to America where he won the Daytona SportBike Championship (2014) and the MotoAmerica Superstock 1000 Championship the following year, showcasing his talent.
“For me this is a dream come true and a huge honour to get an opportunity to race in the World Superbike Championship with such a prestigious team. This is a huge opportunity and I am going to do everything I can to do the best job possible and learn as much as I can. The loss of Nicky was very difficult for us all but I know he will be watching over us and I hope I can make him proud. Laguna Seca will always be a very special track for him and I’m honoured to get out there in front of our home crowd and show what I can do. It seems like a great fit coming off a Honda Superbike here in the States, as well as having Red Bull as the team sponsor, as they have supported me throughout my whole career. I would like to express my huge thanks to Honda, Red Bull and Ten Kate for this incredible opportunity. And thanks also to Broaster, RoadRace Factory and my whole team for allowing me to chase this dream!”
Fresh off the back of Misano heartbreak, both Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) and Jordi Torres (Althea BMW Racing Team) will be out with a point to prove, as they were unable to convert their stunning performances into podium finishes last time out in Italy.
In race one and race two respectively, the pair fell victim of a tyre issue which put them both out of contention of a podium finish. Both Van der Mark and Torres have only made two appearances around Laguna Seca; the Dutch rider has consistently secured top eight finishes which he will be hoping to build on in 2017 whilst Spaniard Torres took two top five finishes in his first weekend around Laguna, before two top eight positions last season.
Leon Camier (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) is another rider heading to America looking for redemption, as the British rider was able to get a strong start to his weekend at Misano, but he was unable to capitalise on his early pace. Leaving Europe with an 11th and DNF on the time sheets, he will be hoping to improve on this ahead of the summer break. Heading to America where his record is varied, Camier will be eager to make some big steps.
US WorldSBK action gets underway on Friday 7th July 09.45LT (-7 GMT) as riders head out for Free Practice one, before the race one battle commences at 14.00LT on Saturday.
WorldSBK Championship Standings after Round 7
- Jonathan Rea Kawasaki GBR 296
- Tom Sykes Kawasaki GBR 246
- Chaz Davies Ducati GBR 185
- Marco Melandri Ducati ITA 163
- Alex Lowes Yamaha GBR 141
- Michael van der Mark Yamaha NLD 115
- Xavi Fores Ducati ESP 110
- Leon Camier MV Agusta GBR 89
- Jordi Torres BMW ESP 85
- Eugene Laverty Aprilia GBR 79
- Román Ramos Kawasaki ESP 65
- Leandro Mercado Aprilia ARG 50
- Lorenzo Savadori Aprilia ITA 49
- Stefan Bradl Aprilia DEU 46
- Randy Krummenacher Kawasaki CHE 44