The stunning Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will this weekend host the ninth round of the 2014 eni FIM Superbike World Championship.
Laguna Seca (USA) – 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 3.610kmlap. 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.