A spectacular three-day crowd of 61,052 filled the hills and grandstands of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to witness some of the closest and most exciting racing ever. Two racers took place one over the weekend on the 11-turn road course during the Motul FIM Superbike World Championship. Laguna Seca is typified by the infamous Corkscrew, where the circuit tumbles by 59ft in only 450ft of track.
The FIM Motul Superbike World Championship GEICO Motorcycle U.S. Round is the ninth of 13 rounds of the international road racing series and the only stop in North America. The series is paired this weekend at Mazda Raceway with the MotoAmerica Honda Superbike Showdown of California, the U.S.-based series that provides a competition ladder through five different classes of racing.
In race 1 it was current Superbike World Championship point leader and reigning champion Jonathan Rea who swapped the lead back and forth with Kawasaki Racing Team teammate and Superpole 1 winner Tom Sykes before taking over for good with five laps remaining for his first WorldSBK victory at Laguna Seca. The Ulsterman recovered from two mistakes at the Corkscrew to see off teammate Sykes, Rea beat his teammate to the finish line by 0.819-of-a-second.
American Nicky Hayden, the 2006 MotoGP World Champion now in his first full season of WorldSBK, started sixth on the grid for his Honda World Superbike Team and battled hard for a third-place finish in his first race at Mazda Raceway since 2013.
After claiming his seventh pole of the season, all eyes were on Sykes and despite being outdragged by Rea on the approach to turn two, the Yorkshireman forced his way back into the lead on the exit of the corner. Chaz Davies moved straight into second on the leading Aruba Ducati and was looking dangerous on the tail of the no.66.
The Welshman dived past Sykes to snatch the lead on lap four, his block pass allowing Rea to also power past the former leader, but any hopes Davies had of repeating his 2015 double disappeared. Unfortunately for Davies, who had the quickest laps in the practice sessions and won both Mazda Raceway races last season, crashed in Turn 6 while leading on Lap 5. The rider of the No. 7 Aruba.it Racing Ducati Panigale was uninjured but not able to continue and was the first rider to retire from the race. As if that wasn’t bad enough for Ducati, Davide Giugliano crashed out of third at the bottom of the Corkscrew eight laps later.
The iconic corner also caught out Rea on lap seventeen and although the championship leader stayed aboard his ZX-10R, Sykes was able to sweep past and regain the lead. The Kawasaki battle was settled six laps from the finish though with Rea repeating Davies’ earlier move at turn three and this time, Sykes would have no answer.
Hayden took advantage of the Ducati disasters to take third despite a last-corner lunge from his Honda teammate Michael van der Mark. The Dutchman followed him home in fourth with Alex Lowes and Lorenzo Savadori close behind in fifth and sixth respectively. Jordi Torres took seventh for Althea BMW ahead of Xavi Fores and Alex de Angelis while Niccolo Canepa rounded out the top ten on the second PATA Yamaha.
In race 2 of the WorldSBK it was Kawasaki Racing Team’s Tom Sykes who took victory, heading the Ducati duo of Davide Giugliano and Chaz Davies over the line in a race that would have been impossible to script.
Giugliano took the lead on Lap 3, with the two Aruba.it Ducatis sandwiching the KRT pairing of Sykes and Rea, before a fall for Pawel Szkopek brought out the Red Flag. With the restarted Race set for 21 laps, the quick restart procedure soon saw bikes back on track, with Giugliano on pole for the restart from Sykes and Rea, with Michael van der Mark able to restart, but from the final row.
The Italian lost the lead off the line to Sykes, before standing himup and taking it back, with Hayden able to take Rea and move himself up into P3. The reigning Champion fought back, overtaking Hayden he then set off to hunt down the leading duo.
Lorenzo Savadori was a high profile casualty soon after, as the impressive Italian rookie lost his Aprilia and crashed out on Lap 3.
An incredible tussle down the Corkscrew then saw the Kawasaki duo attack Giugliano and fight it out, before a lap later Rea went wide at Turn 6 and ran on – out of the front-running battle as he then stopped on track with a technical problem.
The lead trio of Sykes, Giugliano and Davies pulled away, and a six bike train of Hayden, Forés, Lowes, Torres, van der Mark and Canepa battled over P4, with positions swapping and the Corkscrew hosting another classic moment as Forés took the inside line after running a little deep, and Hayden refused to be overtaken.
A three-way fight for the win ensued with the two Ducatis fighting it out in a modern classic behind Sykes as the laps ticked down, Sykes stood firm in the face of pressure from the two Ducati’s behind. There was however last corner drama for those behind, with Lowes trying to take teammate Canepa and sending both off track before the chequered flag.
Motul FIM Superbike World Championship. Laguna Seca Race 1:
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 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 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
Did not finish
Saeed al Sulaiti QAT Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R 16 laps completed
Gianluca Vizziello RSA Grillini Kawasaki ZX-10R 16 laps completed
Davide Giugliano ITA Aruba.it Racing Ducati 1199R 12 laps completed
Raffaele De Rosa ITA Althea BMW S1000RR 12 laps completed
Chaz Davies GBR Aruba.it Racing Ducati 1199R 4 laps completed
Motul FIM Superbike World Championship. Laguna Seca Race 2:
1. Tom Sykes GBR Kawasaki Racing ZX-10R +0.819s
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 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 R1 +51.347s
15. Saeed al Sulaiti QAT Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R +54.783s
16. Peter Sebestyen POL Team Toth Yamaha R1 +1m 03.249s
17. Gianluca Vizziello RSA 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
Did not start (after initial race)
Pawel Szkopek POL Team Toth Yamaha R1
Alex de Angelis RSM IodaRacing Aprilia RSV4
Josh Brookes AUS Milwaukee BMW S1000RR
Leon Camier GBR MV Agusta RC F4 RR