Posted: 24 Sep 2013
The World Superbike Championship returns to Laguna Seca this year for the first time in nine years. Just one rider currently on the World Superbike grid lined up with the boys the last time the series visited Laguna, Leon Haslam, who would have been just 21 years old!
A few other riders have experience of the circuit from series such as MotoGP or AMA. Goldbet BMW’s Chaz Davies is perhaps the rider with the most experience of the Californian circuit. Davies spent several years over in America racing in AMA and also got the chance to ride the d’Antin Pramac Ducati in MotoGP at Laguna in 2007. Having already taken three wins this season, Davies has shown he is a strong contender.
Out of the series four title protagonists, only two have previous experience at Laguna. Sylvain Guintoli raced there in 2007 and 2008 in MotoGP with a best result of eighth. Having not won a race since the first round at Philip Island, the Frenchman is starting to feel the pressure heading into the final few rounds, knowing to win the championship he’ll need to start finding his way back on to the top step. The other rider in contention of the championship to have ridden Laguna before is Marco Melandri who visited the podium at Laguna Seca twice in his MotoGP career. Currently thirty-three points behind championship leader, Tom Sykes, Melandri is under pressure this weekend. Two strong results at Laguna Seca could see the Italian thrown right in to the battle for the title; two poor results would see BMW’s hopes of taking the title before they withdraw from the series drift away.
After a stunning double victory last time out in Istanbul, Eugene Laverty will be hoping to get to grips with Laguna Seca as soon as possible. His success in Istanbul saw him elevated to third in the title fight and on strong form the Irishman is a definite threat.
Championship leader Tom Sykes showed he has no issues with learning new circuits in Istanbul as he took pole position and two podium finishes. Now leading the championship by seven points, he will be keen to add to this as World Superbikes enters the closing stages of the season.
Outside the championship fight, Toni Elias will be one to watch this weekend in his second round with the Red Devils Aprilia outfit. The Spaniard is familiar with Laguna from his MotoGP days and after a positive debut in Istanbul he could well be up there at Laguna too.
Two-time AMA runner up, Blake Young will be on board the FIXI Crescent Suzuki this weekend in place of the injured Leon Camier. Young has a wealth of experience of the American circuit so if he can gel with the Crescent GSXR1000 it will be interesting to see what he can do.
Take note of the revised schedule for the weekend though, as the series is racing alongside the final round of the American championships, it's a little different to usual. Both qualifying practices will take place on Friday, with Superpole on Saturday morning. Race 1 will take place on Saturday afternoon and Race 2 on Sunday.