WorldSBK returns to Laguna Seca but who will take the advantage into the summer?
Land of the free and home of the brave, America is the destination for Round Eight of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, as the circus rolls into the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Famed for the formidable corkscrew, Laguna is 3.610km of pure speed, and it’s not only turn eight that can make the hairs on your neck stand on edge. 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 success. 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.
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.
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. 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. 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?
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.
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. Follow all the sensational WorldSBK action on the WorldSBK VideoPass ahead of the summer break.