The Miller Motorsports Park outside of Salt Lake City, Utah will host Round 7 of the 12 part World Superbike Championship this weekend. The last round in Kyalami, South Africa, was swept by the Ducati Xerox factory team of Noriyuki Haga and Michel Fabrizio, who scored one and two respectively in each of the day’s two races. Haga expanded his lead to a dominating 85 points, while Fabrizio moved up to second place with a three point advantage over Yamaha’s Ben Spies.
Noriyuki Haga – Ducati Xerox - 1st, 250 points
"I didn’t have a good time at Miller last year, and it was very painful to ride with a broken collarbone but I needed to fight for more points so I went ahead with the races. I hope to have a better time of it there this year and I’m looking forward to riding my 1198 at Salt Lake. Although Ben will surely be the favorite to win at his home track, I intend to be up there fighting with him for the victory.”
Haga goes to Miller with a comfortable lead, but bad memories. A crash in free practice at Miller last year resulted in the Japanese rider breaking his right collarbone. Nitro Nori crashed again in Race 1 after deciding to participate despite the injury, yet proved the sheer determination of his championship ambitions by coming back to take sixth in Race 2. Fabrizio on the other hand faired very well at Miller with a pair of third-place podiums for Ducati.
If any man is better poised to throw a wrench in the factory Ducati 1198RR operation it would undisputedly have to be Ben Spies. The Texan is intimately familiar with the course, having won five of the six AMA Superbike races held at Miller Motorsports Park since the track opened in 2006. Spies has won five of the 12 races this year and finished on the podium in every race in which he did not crash (twice, once while leading and once while running third), run off the track (twice), run out of fuel while leading on the last lap (at Monza), or had his shift lever break while leading (at Kyalami). If his weekend is free of technical problems and accidents, Spies will likely be the man to beat. However, the 24-year-old will not be the only American expert at Miller this weekend.
AMA Championship rider Jamie Hacking will be wild-carding in place of injured Kawasaki rider Makoto Tamada, while Jake Zemke will once again take the place of John Hopkins (Stiggy Racing Honda), who is recovering from a broken hip sustained at the Assen round. Hacking, the AMA Supersport and Superstock champion in 2006, has raced World Superbike on two previous occasions, as a wild card at Laguna Seca in 1998 and 1999. He posted a best single result of seventh.
Carlos Checa – Hannspree Ten Kate – 10th, 73 points
“We’ve had a few problems this season – it started with a shoulder injury and there have been some small issues with the bike. However, we approach the halfway point of the season and we bring some positives from Kyalami to Miller. Of course, Miller was good last year but I prefer to look forward and the circuit should allow us to put the CBR near the front again. I like left-handed tracks and we have some good data from last year. The Ducatis will be strong and so will Ben Spies, but I think we should be in a good position too, and we will be going for a good result."
Although Carlos Checa swept the World Superbike competition at Miller in 2008 the Spaniard has not found his form in ’09, forcing Honda to look to Leon Haslam (Stiggy Racing) and Jonathan Rea (Hannspree Ten Kate) to place the Japanese Manufacturer on the podium again. Finding a points scorer will be harder for the Suzuki Alstare team, whose star rider Max Neukirchner remains out of commission with a broken leg. The Spanish rider Fonsi Nieto will once again act as the Suzuki replacement rider, attempting to improve upon the single point he garnered in South Africa now that he has a better feel for the 2009 machine.
The track at Miller Motorsports Park will be entirely new for the debuting Aprilia and BMW machines, but Max Biaggi (Aprilia), the returning Troy Corser, and his BMW teammate Ruben Xaus have all raced in Salt Lake City before. Aprilia experienced some problems with the RSV4 in South Africa, but was also buoyed by the better than usual success of Shinya Nakano. BMW will try and forget about the scoreless round at Kyalami to focus instead on what the return of Troy Corser means for the German manufacturer’s prospects.
Regis Laconi remains hospitalized following a serious vertebral injury at Kyalami. The French rider appears not to have lost function of his upper and lower limbs and is expected to return to France for full recovery within a week. Prior World Superbike rider Lorenzo Lanzi will race the DFX Ducati left free by Laconi at Miller.
Parkes, who was still suffering from the lingering effects of a testing injury in South Africa, expects to be much closer to 100% fit for the American round. He found the bumpy and intensely physical Kyalami circuit a difficult place to make his comeback, and is glad to have had a weekend off to allow his body to return to normal before heading to the US for raceday on 31 May.
Other World Superbike Rider Quotes
Michel Fabrizio – Ducati Xerox - 2nd, 165 points
"I really got on well at this track, which was new for us all last year. Although I didn’t know the place, I went better there than at many of the other circuits last season, finishing third in both races, it seemed to be something of a “lucky track” for me! Now that I’m second in the championship, I plan to consolidate that position at Salt Lake, by taking the results I scored here last year and improving on them this year."
Leon Haslam – Stiggy Racing Honda – 4th, 116 points
“The Miller track will be a new track to us, but I am confident we can get the bikes ready quickly enough, without having to play catch-up with the other teams that much. We have been successfully developing the bike and get ideas on how to improve it in every round, so it will be interesting to see what we can do at Miller. I hope I can qualify well, like I did in South-Africa, and take an even better result in the races.”
Jonathan Rea – Hannspree Ten Kate Honda – 5th, 106 points
“I’m really looking forward to this trip; there’s something about going to a new circuit that gets me really motivated. There are no negative thoughts to take with me to Miller. In fact, after Carlos’s double win there last year, it’s only positive. I’ll do a couple of laps with the team and try to pick up some tips from local riders. We’ve being doing pretty well in the last five races and I think the whole crew deserved that podium at Kyalami – but we’re here for more than that. I feel that it’s time to step up to the plate in the second half of the season and keep up the momentum we’ve found since Valencia.”
Tom Sykes – Yamaha World Superbike – 7th, 103 points
“Kyalami certainly didn’t go completely to plan. I went into the race weekend fifth in the championship and was looking for fourth place. I’m still close but now in seventh position. Anyway, that’s all done now and I’m looking forward to the USA. I think both Ben and I are going to go very well there. The track is supposed to be very similar to Qatar so I’m quite excited, hopefully the Yamaha will work very well and we’ll get two strong results to get back on track and start to build towards a strong finish to the season.”
Ruben Xaus – BMW Motorrad Motorsport – 16th, 40 points
“Kyalami was such a big disappointment for me and the team because we all felt we could get some good results there. To be taken out once is bad, but to be taken out twice was incredible! But we have to forget about Kyalami and focus on USA. Miller racetrack is very different o Kyalami and has hardly any change of elevations. It is fairly flat and the run-offs are big, so it is a safe circuit. Although Troy and I raced there last year, we are now both on new bikes so will have to start the race weekend afresh. We have no data with our bike at this track and will have to try and get a good set-up as soon as we can. If we can find good set-ups quickly, do well in Superpole and get on to the third or even maybe the second row of the grid that would be a good base for the races.”
Troy Corser - BMW Motorrad Motorsport – 17th, 35 points
“Missing Kyalami has given my hand a chance to get better and although I dont like missing any races, I think it was the right decision because Kyalami is such a physical circuit. Its going to take a bit of time for the hand to heal fully, but at least Miller is not such a demanding track. That doesnt mean that it is an easy track, just that it is not so bad as some others. At Miller, we will have the usual problem of racing at a circuit from which we have no previous data for our bike. Its our usual disadvantage and we have to try and get a good set-up for the race, a good set-up for Superpole, and qualify better. We have been having to work so hard in the early part of the races so far, because of our grid positions, so it would interesting (and a nice change) to see what would happen if we could qualify on the second or third row of the grid.”
Broc Parkes – Kawasaki World Superbike – 18th, 20 points
“I'm grateful to have a two week rest between Kyalami and Miller to give my body a break and to get back to a decent fitness level as I really struggled in Kyalami. I'm looking forward to seeing how we go when I'm back to myself as the bike has been improving each race and we're showing good progress with solid points scoring finishes. I didn't race at Miller in World Supersport last year so this will be my first visit but I'm looking forward to it and also welcoming another new team-mate who is a local and will have experience he can bring to the team.”
Tommy Hill – Honda Althea Racing – 21st, 6 points
“I came away from the last round in Kyalami extremely disappointed and so I'm hoping to have a much more positive weekend now at Miller. This is another track that I don't know at all, so again we will have to learn as we progress through the weekend in order to find the best set-up for the races. Hopefully both my team and I will have a good weekend and we can fight for some points.”
Jake Zemke – Stiggy Racing Honda – Replacing John Hopkins
“I am definitely excited to be back on the Stiggy Honda at Miller Motorsports Park. I was real disappointed with our results at Monza; I know that the team and myself are capable of much more than what we showed. Now with a better understanding of the team and also the Pirelli tires, we will be looking at fighting inside the top 10.”
Jamie Hacking – Kawasaki World Superbike – Replacing Makoto Tamada
“I rode World Superbikes back when I first started racing at Laguna Seca. Obviously a lot has changed and I have more experience. I can't really say what a realistic expectation would be without riding the bike, but Miller does seem to suit my style. Last year, it was our best track on the ZX-10R and I hope that we can try for a top ten.”