Carlos Checa took the Race 1 victory at Miller Motorsports Park but a crash in Race 2 left the Ducati mounted rider with a DNF.
The FIM World Superbike Championship made its way to the United States this past Memorial Day weekend. Miller Motorsports Park hosted Round 6 of the series as we saw Europe’s top road racers give it their all in front of the Utah crowd. Folks were also excited about rumors of World Superbike returning to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the near future after the MotoGP World Championships moves to the new racing facility in Texas. After the end of a five-year contract between MMP and Infront Motors Sports this could be very likely. The last time the race was held in California was eight years ago in 2004.
Considering there is only one U.S. stop the entire WSB paddock was excited about their visit to the States. Chaz Davies flew into San Francisco, California, rented a sports car and motored out to Utah road trip style.
“I landed in San Fran,” said Davies. “I hopped in a car and took a bit of a road trip down the coast into Santa Cruz and hung out there for a bit. Then we saw a track in Pahrump and stopped there to check it out. There was some kind of auto event going on there. We made a pit stop in Vegas then made our way out to the circuit.”
Liberty Racing’s Jakub Smrz set the pace in every session including Superpole but could not put it together come race time.
The weekend started out wet for the riders as rain played a factor in Free Practice. Liberty Racing Ducati rider Jakub Smrz’s time of 2’02.138 set him on top of the time sheet, over 2.5 seconds faster than Factory BMW’s Marco Melandri who posted a 2’04.832. Smrz would go on to top both qualifying sessions and eventually grab the fastest lap in Superpole.
“I’m really happy,” said Smrz. “All the practices we are doing a great job, my bike was perfectly prepared and unfortunately I had a small crash in free practice but I was able to get back into qualifying and superpole and stay in first position. I’m happy and I think we are well prepared for tomorrow for the race, we have a good pace so I hope to be in front tomorrow as well. It’s a really nice track and I really like it here.”
Over the weekend motorcycle road racing legend and ‘93 World Superbike Champion Scott Russell and seven-time World Superbike race winner Ben Bostrom were inducted into the Superbike Hall of Fame. A ceremony was held just before the first World Superbike race where Russell and Bostrom were presented medals by the folks from IMS.
Tom Sykes got out front early in Race 1 but faded back to end up eighth. Sykes is now tied for second in points with Marco Melandri.
Race 1 got underway smoothly with Tom Sykes looking good out front early on until Lap 5 when he lost four positions. On Lap 8 Carlos Checa made his way to the front and never looked back winning the race with a comfortable margin of victory (2.313 seconds) then dedicated the win to 500cc Grand Prix racing legend Wayne Rainey, who came out to cheer him on.
“I would like to dedicate to him and to many other people, but especially him,” said the reigning champ. “We spend some good time; we have a lot of fun together for sure. For me it’s a great pleasure to win when people and special people like Wayne came here for the first time. Yeah, for sure we will have some good moments tonight to talk and celebrate.”
Marco Melandri took second in Race 1, two seconds behind Checa and three in front of Max Biaggi who finished third. This was BMW’s best finish in America to date. Melandri stated: “I was struggling a lot last year so to get a good race was amazing. Second place was good for me after such a tough qualifying.”
Utah’s own Shane Turpin was the top finishing American in Race 1. The Boulder Motor Sports/Ducati rider used his track knowledge to finish in 18th position, while other Americans John Hopkins and Jake Holden both went down in separate incidents (both unhurt).
Marco Melandri (33) and Johnny Rea (65) had a pretty good battle going in Race 2. In the end it was Melandri with the victory.
The first part of Race 2 ended just after four laps had been put in the books. Honda pilot, Hiroshi Aoyama, took a tumble just after The Attitudes which dropped slippery bike fluids on the racing line. The race was then restarted after about an hour was burned cleaning up the mess.
The second start of Race 2 was a lot cleaner until Lap 6 when Race 1 winner Carlos Checa tossed away his Ducati running up front. The crash handed the lead to Marco Melandri who would go on to win the race and give BMW its second World Superbike victory.
“It’s amazing to be here for sure,” said Melandri after the race. “I had a little bit of luck in this race because Carlos fell down and it’s been an amazing race for me. I struggled a little bit at the beginning but after Johnny passed me I lost some concentration and I need time to catch the guys. When the field dropped down I felt so much better on the bike and fortunately I could pass Johnny on the straight because my engine was so strong, otherwise it was very difficult for me to try and make a pass but last year in Miller it was the worst track for me and the worst for BMW but to get two podiums and one win it is somewhat like a dream. I am so happy to be here and proud to be with BMW.”
Johnny Rea put his Honda CBR1000RR in the runner up position at the conclusion of Race 2 right on the back wheel of Melandri, pressuring him the entire final lap.
“Marco made some mistake in the middle of the race and then I was making some mistakes at the end of the race,” said the Irish rider. “I am just so happy to come out of Miller with a fourth and a second. It’s nice to be up here on the podium in America. I grew up watching AMA Motocross and it was my dream to come to America and race.”
Max Biaggi scored a pair of third place finishes over the weekend in Utah. The Aprilia pilot still sits atop the championship point standings.
Third place in Race 2 was Aprilia’s Max Biaggi who took control of the final podium position from reigning World Supersport champion Chaz Davies. Said Biaggi: “To come all the way to Utah and finish on the podium—twice is not bad, but my dream was to win a race. There were some other guys that did a better job than me so third position is not so bad.”
Davies, an ex-AMA Daytona SportBike competitor with plenty of Miller experience, would eventually claim fourth place. Tom Sykes rounded out the top-5 with Eugene Laverty sixth and Davide Giugliano seventh.
As for the American talent, John Hopkins finished Race 2 in a respectable sixteenth while Jake Holden took his wild card BMW machine to an eighteenth place finish after a Race 1 crash. Boulder Motor Sports American wild card entry Shane Turpin finished 19th.
Max Biaggi now leads the championship point standings with 160 points over Marco Melandri and Tom Sykes who are tied for second with a total of 142 points each.
Round 7 will take place in San Marino, Italy at the Marco Simoncelli Circuit June 8-10.