There is not a lot of betting that goes on in Utah, but Miller Motorsports Park has a good feeling about its upcoming World Superbike round. The only American venue on the WSBK calendar, track officials are hoping to see the 200 mph barrier be broken on Miller’s long straightaway by the production race machines. Standing over 3,500 feet long, Miller’s front straight makes for some daunting first-corner entries, which will challenge WSBK and AMA Pro Racing riders alike during the BigM Weekend.
After AMA Pro Racing and Virginia International Raceway had their little hubbub over hosting one of the last road racing events on the AMA calendar, the news that the two parties had fallen-out meant that the TTXGP round scheduled to piggyback off the VIR round was by proxy also cancelled. With TTXGP’s New Hampshire round (yes, you read that right…New Hampshire) also cancelled because of worries over competitor attendance, TTXGP’s joint-round with the FIM e-Power Championship at Laguna Seca threatened to be the series’s final running of the 2011 season.
With rumors swirling at the US GP that TTXGP was hard at work securing a final round, we get word tonight that the final round will be held at the venerable Miller Motorsports Park on the weekend of September 3rd & 4th. With MMP hosting Bike Fest (a regional gathering of motorcycle enthusiasts) during that weekend, TTXGP will presumably become a part of the Fests’ festivities. That is of course if anyone actually shows up to the racing event.
In 2009, I interviewed Marco Melandri after he’d done seven races on the Hayate Kawasaki, and was impressed by his earnest desperation to show he was still a viable GP rider in spite of the previous season’s debacle on the Ducati GP8. This was, after all, a rider who had finished second in the World Championship in 2005 and 4th & 5th in the following seasons. Since then I’ve always hoped for Melandri to find a good situation, one that allows his talents to shine.
That was not on the Gresini Honda last season, unfortunately, but it appears that he has finally found a position in WSBK where he can again fight for the title. After a win and a second place at Brno, Melandri is 53 points behind Carlos Checa and 30 behind MAx Biaggi, but with some serious momentum for the second half of the season. It’s great to see him at the front where he belongs.
Nestled between two mountain ranges and in the high desert, Miller Motorsports Park provides one of the most striking and beautiful backdrops to any race course I’ve ever attended. The fact that both World Superbike and AMA Pro Racing race during the same weekend makes the BigM weekend, as the locals call it, increasingly special, and accordingly our access to the course and riders this past Memorial Day was especially gracious.
While I like to let our resident Nikon-hauler Scott Jones do the hard work behind the lens, every now and then my camera catches a photo in focus, so I thought I’d share some of those rare occasions during my first time in the World Superbike paddock. Enjoy them after the jump.
The story of the 5th WSBK round at Miller Motorsports Park was all Carlos Checa. Last year he had the pace but not a reliable machine. This year he had both, dominating the weekend with the triple crown: Superpole and victories in Race 1 and Race 2. MMP provided a formidable challenge with wildly varying weather, from pouring rain to bright sunshine to freezing cold winds. Adaptable, patient, and just plain the fastest rider of the weekend, Checa rose above all difficulties and earned a well-deserved double victory.
A pair of Utah wins that has been long overdue since he had to retire twice out of commanding leads last year due to mechanical problems. Checa also extended his lead in the Championship, and seems well on his way to his first world title. His amiable personality and good humor will surely make him a popular champion should he reach the season’s finish line in first place.
The weather gods were appeased this Memorial Day weekend, as not a single drop of water rained down from the heavens on the World Superbike Race 1 and Race 2 that were being held at Miller Motorsports Park. This statement is of course only true if you’re not watching WSBK according to Oregon Trail rules, as riders still had to ford the river at the “Black Rock Hairpin” in Turn 5 of the Outer Course. While no oxen were lost in the attempt to cross the water feature, a bull was on the loose in the form of Carlos Checa. Would 2011 be redemption or disappointment for the Spaniard? Find out after the jump.
After a rainy Saturday Superpole, the sun blessed the Miller Motorsports Park for World Superbike’s Race 1. Carlos Checa returned to the Utah track in dominant form, though problems early on in the weekend gave glimpses of last year’s mechanical snafus. With both the factory Yamahas and Liberty Ducatis looking very quick in Superpole and in the practice sessions, Checa’s dominance for this year remained to be seen, with the pre-race predictions being anyone’s guess. Having standing water still in Turn 5 or the “Black Rock Hairpin” as it is called here at Miller, and mud at virtually every run-off, the Outer Course had a few tricks still up its sleeve for this race day Monday, despite the improved weather conditions. Click past the jump for spoilers on how it all panned out.
It all started innocently enough, as I was having dinner with some friends from Dainese before the West Coast Moto Jam, they suggested that I do a two-up ride with Jason Pridmore on the National Guard Suzuki Superbike. “Yeah, that’d be really cool,” I said in response, trying not to burst with excitement as to how awesome and unique I thought the experience would be. Barely sleeping the night before, I arrived Saturday morning at Infineon Raceway, and got decked out in the Dainese/AGV gear that was provided, and headed over to the National Guard Jordan Superbike team pits where we met up with Jason Pridmore.
I was accompanied by several National Guardsmen and some fans (you can win a two-up ride by following Jason on Twitter), and before we got started the AMA & FIM World Endurance veteran introduced the program to us. “Before we start has anyone here been drinking?” asked Pridmore – the day had been hot, and this was a NASCAR venue after all. Raising his hand and looking at the ten of us, “Oh, so just me?..let’s get started” continued Pridmore. Yeah…it was going to be like that.
Swinging my leg over the pillion seat on the Suzuki GSX-R1000, Jason gave me a run-down again on the instructions, and asked me how I was feeling. “I’m pumped,” I replied. “Go as fast as you can.” Now let us take a moment to evaluate who this is the point where I made my critical error in the day, as I suspect Pridmore takes a special joy in scaring the life out of hapless moto-journalists who find themselves on the back of his motorcycle.
Actually, Jason makes it a point to say in his briefing that the goal is to make the ride fun for every passenger, and consider that a goal achieved, as you’d be hard pressed to find someone getting off the back of Jordan Suzuki without a grin that stretches ear-to-ear. However, I suspect that if you’re a motorcycle blogger with more ego than commonsense, this whole concept is forfeit, and it’s at this point in time that I would like to apologize to every pillion I’ve ever had on the back of my street bikes (you know who you are).