The eni FIM Superbike World Championship returns to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca after a nine-year hiatus for Round 12 of the 2013 season. Kawasaki Racing’s Tom Sykes managed to extend his championship lead from one to eight points during the previous round in Istanbul and he’s looking to add to his advantage in California. Aprilia Racing’s Sylvain Guintoli only has three rounds remaining to best Sykes if he wants to regain his position at the top. Guintoli’s teammate, Eugene Laverty, still retains hope of the title as well after his perfect showing in Turkey.
This will be Sykes’ first time racing at Laguna Seca. To-date, the Kawasaki ace has earned 13 podiums, seven pole positions and nine fastest laps. The British rider will be joined by a new teammate at Laguna Seca, David Salom, who replaces Loris Baz while the Frenchman recovers from injuries sustained at Nurburgring.
Guintoli, on the other hand, competed at Laguna Seca in 2007 and 2008 while in the MotoGP World Championship. Any edge will likely be welcomed by the Frenchman since the previous round served only to aggravate the shoulder injury he sustained mid-season during training.
“Istanbul was a difficult race day and my shoulder was in a very bad shape after the races,” said Guintoli. “I gave everything and more and manage to get back on the podium, but to win the title I need better results. Laguna is a very physical track so I know I will suffer but, as they say here, no pain no gain!”
Laverty moved from fourth to third overall thanks to his 1-1 finish in Istanbul and cut his gap on the leader from 40 points to 26. With six races remaining, the Irishman will need to finish ahead of Sykes and Guintoli to maintain his climb up the ranks.
Sykes, Guintoli and Laverty all stand to make history since there’s never been a British, French or Irish rider to score pole position or earn a race win in World Superbike at Laguna Seca.
Fourth in the standings, BMW Motorrad GoldBet’s Marco Melandri, has 33 points to cover to match the current leader. Supermarco raced Laguna Seca six times during his tenure in MotoGP and finished on the podium twice. He’s confident the S1000RR will perform well at the circuit and hasn’t given up hope yet of claiming the 2013 title.
Melandri’s teammate, Chaz Davies, has a history at the California circuit as well, having raced there a number of times while in the AMA Pro Road Racing series. He also made his MotoGP debut at Laguna Seca in 2007.
“Laguna Seca has been consistently a very good circuit for me,” said Davies. “For some reason I find the rhythm quite easily at that track. I have done quite a few laps there in AMA so maybe I have a little bit of an advantage this year. It is a very good circuit and along with Portimao, I would rate it as one of my favorite tracks. It has the challenge of the ‘Corkscrew’ which is very steep and I think very exciting to watch. It is one of the most physical circuits I have ever raced on. You don’t get any time to rest and you really need to know how to handle the bike because the circuit is just built into the terrain – there were no computers used or any designers! It is just some tarmac in the hills following the natural landscape.”
Pata Honda’s Leon Haslam is the only rider on the current grid that raced at Laguna Seca in World Superbike prior to the nine year hiatus. His last time out at the circuit on a Superbike ended badly, however, and he was forced to pull out of the round after breaking his wrist. Haslam will once again be joined by teammate Michel Fabrizio, who has replaced the injured Jonathan Rea. Fabrizio went 10-10 in his first outing for the Pata team in Istanbul and he’ll be keen to improve his results in California.
Toni Elias took over Fabrizio’s spot on the Red Devils Roma team, posting a respectable 6-5 result in his first World Superbike outing in Turkey.
The list of riders new to this year’s Superbike grid expands further as Niccolo Canepa steps in to replace Carlos Checa on Team Ducati Alstare after Checa’s big crash in Istanbul. The 2011 SBK champ fractured his pelvis in the incident and is out for the remainder of the season. Canepa joins current Ducati Alstare rider Ayrton Badovini, who suffered a crash of his own in Turkey that left him with a badly bruised ankle.
On the FIXI Crescent Suzuki team, Jules Cluzel will be joined by former AMA Pro Road Racing competitor Blake Young. Young takes over Leon Camier’s seat following the English rider’s off in Turkey which left him with seven broken bones in his right foot.
Two additional Suzuki riders will be in competition as well, with Michael Jordan Motorsports opting to forgo the AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike race at Laguna Seca to enter riders Roger Hayden and Danny Eslick into World Superbike as wildcards.
The schedule of events has been altered for the American round. Instead of the typical two-race program on Sunday, there will be a 45-minute practice Friday followed by two qualifying sessions in the afternoon to determine the riders in Superpole. On Saturday there will be a morning practice, followed by Superpole and then Race 1 scheduled for 2:00 p.m. PST. Race 2 will take place on Sunday, also at 2:00 p.m. PST.