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).
Carlos Checa (1:58.315) took pole from Jakub Smrz on his last lap of Sunday’s Superpole qualifying for the 2011 World Superbike round at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah. Factory Yamaha riders Marco Melandri and Eugene Laverty completed the front row of starters in a Superpole session marked with damp and drying conditions and a couple of crashes. Leon Camier, who will start twelfth, nearly ended his qualifying before it began with a huge highside on his first lap. Also at the end of the session, Max Biaggi, who will start seventh, had a minor incident in which he fell over at slow speed in the muddy grass. Sylvain Guintoli, Troy Corser, Biaggi, and Ayrton Badovini will start on the second row for tomorrow’s races.
Checa was his usual fastest self in the first free and qualifying practices on Saturday, setting times well ahead of the rest despite issues with his Ducati. Camier, Biaggi, Smrz, and Fabrizio completed the fastest five riders in the first session, while the Aprilia duo were again second and third in the first qualifying practice. Sykes and Corser were the provisional fourth and fifth place starters. Waters, in his wild card entry for Yoshimura Suzuki, just squeaked through to Superpole in fifteenth fastest.
With AMA Superbike and World Superbike sharing the same venue, with the same course, for the first time since 2004, the comparison was bound to be made between the two classes this Memorial Day weekend. The last time the two series shared the same circuit was at Laguna Seca, and not at Miller Motorsports Park as you would think. This is because the has AMA typically ran the Full Course here at MMP, while World Superbike ran the shorter the Outer Course.
With both series running the Outer Course this year, our analysis can finally be updated. While there are obvious differences between the regulations governing both series and classes, not to mention a fundamental difference in funding and dare I say it, rider talent, the comparison is still interesting to make between the two Championships. Check out after the jump how the two compared during Saturday’s Qualifying Practice sessions.
After a wildcard entry at the season opener on Phillip Island, Josh Waters will again ride a Yoshimura Suzuki in the World Superbike series, with the Australian and team entering this weekend’s round at Miller Motorsports Park . Though the entry had long been announced, as A&R reported back in early March, there was some question after last season’s lack of racing that the team would actually make it to America.
In fact, the Japanese team is also planning to enter Waters in the Suzuka 8 Hour endurance race along with the possibility of other WSBK wild card entries in 2011. Though he had a poor showing in Phillip Island, “Josh showed he has the potential,” explained team owner Fujio Yoshimura in March, “I have told him we’d like him to ride again in America at Miller Motorsports Park. It’s a good start for the team and Josh and we will both get better.”