The Superbike World Championship travelled Stateside this weekend, with the ninth round of the series taking place at the iconic Laguna Seca circuit in California.
Saturday’s race saw defending champion Jonathan Rea win to extend his title lead over Kawasaki Racing Team team mate Tom Sykes to 71 points.
In a race that was littered with errors and mishaps for most riders, Rea himself even conceded it as “not my most beautiful race.” One such mistake saw the Ulsterman lose so much time he conceded the lead to Sykes. Rea managed to recover his composure and caught Sykes, passing him with six laps to go and from there, he eased to victory. The two riders showed massive trust and respect in each other as they race hard late in the race, Sykes chasing his team mate to the flag but finishing +0.819s adrift when the chequered flag came out after 25 laps.
Not everybody had the same level of good fortune, the Aruba.it Ducati team had a torrid afternoon with Chaz Davies gifting the lead to Rea on lap four, crashing out of the lead as he lost the front at the fast turn six, while team mate Davide Giugliano crashed on the exit of the corkscrew.
The falls and run offs did give the home fans something to cheer about, fan favourite and all round US bike racing legend Nicky Hayden made a move up to take third and the final rostrum slot. If the ‘Kentucky Kid’ expected an easy ride to the podium from his team mate Michael van der Mark he was sorely mistaken. The 23-year-old chased Hayden hard and even made an ambitious lunge at the final corner. The faces in the Ten Kate Honda garage looked on in anguish as Hayden held on and brought the Honda duo home, some 18 seconds adrift of the leading pair.
Another noteworthy performance was that of Alex Lowes on the PATA Yamaha, as he scored a fifth placed finish, tantalisingly close to the battling Hondas in front.
The original running of Sunday’s race was stopped following a nasty crash involving Polish rider Pawal Szkopek. In the restart, Sykes took a healthy bite out of Rea’s lead after the champion’s ZX-10R suffered a rare technical problem while battling for the lead. After running wide through turn seven while leading, it became apparent there was a terminal issue with the Kawasaki. Speaking afterwards, Rea commented: “We need to analyse everything with the bike. When I went wide in turn seven I rejoined the track and it seemed I had a problem. As soon as I closed the gas the rear was locking and I heard some noise. I carried on through some corners, arrived in turn one and it was really locking a lot. Then in turn two something was wrong so I pulled in.”
The retirement ended Rea’s 100% podium record this season and left team-mate Sykes to uphold Kawasaki honour against the hard-charging Ducatis of Davies and Giugliano. You have to wonder if, had they not been squabbling among themselves, they would have been able to pressure Sykes for the win. They did keep the pressure on right until the last lap and the three riders eventually crossed the line covered by less than a second. Xavi Fores was best of rest bringing the Barni Ducati 1199R home in fourth place, chased hard by Hayden, Jordi Torres and Van der Mark.
Behind them, Lowes was involved in a bizarre last corner incident with stand in team mate Niccolo Canepa. The Brit lost the front as he charged through to try and take eighth. Lowes sliding down the road before remounting to take 14th, while the Italian acrobatically stayed onboard his YZF-R1 to maintain his position. Fellow Brit Leon Camier finished ninth in race one but retired with a mechanical problem in race two.
In the championship, Sykes' win sees him reduce the deficit to his team mate from 71 points going into the American round, to 46.
Championship standings after nine rounds (18 races) of 13
1 Jonathan Rea Kawasaki Racing Team 368
2 Tom Sykes Kawasaki Racing Team 322
3 Chaz Davies Aruba.it Ducati Racing 260
4 Michael van der Mark Honda Racing 185
5 Davide Giugliano Aruba.it Ducati Racing 185
6 Nicky Hayden Honda Racing 173
7 Jordi Torres Althea BMW 155
8 Lorenzo Savadori IodaRacing Aprilia 110
9 Leon Camier MV Agusta 110
10 Xavi Fores Barni Ducati 97
11 Alex Lowes PATA Crescent Yamaha 94
12 Marcus Reiterberger Althea BMW 68
13 Roman Ramos GO Eleven Kawasaki 60
14 Josh Brookes Milwaukee BMW 58
15 Sylvain Guintoli PATA Crescent Yamaha 58
Race one result:
1. Jonathan Rea GBR Kawasaki Racing ZX-10R 25 laps
2. Tom Sykes GBR Kawasaki Racing ZX-10R +0.819s
3. Nicky Hayden USA Honda Racing CBR1000RR +12.296s
4. Michael van der Mark NED Honda Racing CBR1000RR +13.067s
5. Alex Lowes GBR PATA Crescent Yamaha YZF-R1 +13.335s
6. Lorenzo Savadori ITA IodaRacing Aprilia RSV4 +13.816s
7. Xavi Fores ESP Barni Ducati 1199R +15.541s
8. Jordi Torres ESP Althea BMW S1000RR +15.838s
9. Alex de Angelis RSM IodaRacing Aprilia RSV4 +19.999s
10. Niccolo Canepa ITA Pata Crescent Yamaha YZF-R1 +22.832s
11. Leon Camier GBR MV Agusta RC F4 RR +24.065s
12. Anthony West FRA Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R +28.902s
13. Josh Brookes AUS Milwaukee BMW S1000RR +39.957s
14. Karel Abraham CZE Milwaukee BMW S1000RR +46.552s
15. Roman Ramos ESP GO Eleven Kawasaki ZX-10R +55.791s
16. Dominic Schmitter SUI Grillini Kawasaki ZX-10R +59.021s
17. Peter Sebestyen POL Team Toth Yamaha R1 +1 lap
18. Pawal Szkopek POL Team Toth Yamaha R1 +1 lap
Race two result:
1. Tom Sykes GBR Kawasaki Racing ZX-10R 21 laps
2. Davide Giugliano ITA Aruba.it Racing Ducati 1199R +0.209s
3. Chaz Davies GBR Aruba.it Racing Ducati 1199R +0.786s
4. Xavi Fores ESP Barni Ducati 1199R +11.379s
5. Nicky Hayden USA Honda Racing CBR1000RR +12.219s
6. Jordi Torres ESP Althea BMW S1000RR +12.465s
7. Michael van der Mark NED Honda Racing CBR1000RR +13.705s
8. Niccolo Canepa ITA Pata Crescent Yamaha YZF-R1 +20.449s
9. Anthony West FRA Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R +29.153s
10. Roman Ramos ESP GO Eleven Kawasaki ZX-10R +33.013s
11. Raffaele De Rosa ITA Althea BMW S1000RR +39.910s
12. Karel Abraham CZE Milwaukee BMW S1000RR +40.059s
13. Dominic Schmitter SUI Grillini Kawasaki ZX-10R +49.211s
14. Alex Lowes GBR PATA Crescent Yamaha YZF-R1 +51.347s
15. Saeed al Sulaiti QAT Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R +54.783s
16. Peter Sebestyen POL Team Toth Yamaha YZF-R1 +1m 03.249s
17. Gianluca Vizziello ITA Grillini Kawasaki ZX-10R +1m 25.191s
Did not finish
Jonathan Rea GBR Kawasaki Racing ZX-10R 5 laps completed
Lorenzo Savadori ITA IodaRacing Aprilia RSV4 2 laps completed