Episode 81 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and in it we see Steve English and Jensen Beeler on the mics, as they talk a little bit more World Superbike action, before the season returns from its nearly two-month long summer break.
In the show, the boys talk about some of the big stories going on in the World Superbike Championship right now, and we chased down a number of riders to get their perspective, while at the Laguna Seca round.
As such, the show includes interviews with Tom Sykes, Alex Lowes, Eugene Laverty, Jake Gagne, and Jonathan Rea. The topics cover things like the rider silly season, the new rules for the year and how they’ve affected the race results, and how to improve “the show” in WorldSBK.
Of course the show is full of behind-the-scenes insights and analysis, which should be a welcomed resource for both seasoned World Superbike followers, and those who have missed many of the season’s races.
As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on Facebook, Twitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!
It’s always good to come home. That’s how I feel every time I return to Laguna Seca.
Driving off of Boundary Road, and onto the perimeter of the track, then cresting the big downhill that descends behind Turn 2, towards the green parking area, I always get a big smile knowing that a great weekend of racing is about to begin.
This weekend was no different, with bright, sunny skies, a good crowd, and lots of great racing in both the World Superbike and the MotoAmerica series.
The 2018 WorldSBK season is just around the corner, and Asphalt & Rubber has you covered for the latest within the paddock. After a winter of change for the WorldSBK paddock, normality will resume with the opening round of the season.
The biggest technical shake-up in series history should ensure closer competition throughout the field and the goal is to ensure that Jonathan Rea and Kawasaki are given a stern test throughout the campaign.
With rev limits imposed on a manufacturer by manufacturer basis, the performance weighting of each bike can be adjusted throughout the season.
The changes have been criticised by some Kawasaki brass recently, but for Rea the changes are a source of motivation.
With the holiday season receding into the rear view mirror, that means that we are getting closer to seeing bikes on tracks.
Testing starts this week for both the MotoGP and WorldSBK paddocks, and before testing, the Movistar Yamaha team will present their 2018 livery later on this week as well.
The action starts on Tuesday in Jerez, where virtually the entire WorldSBK paddock is gathered for a two-day test.
The Andalusian track will see the first real test of the 2018 WorldSBK machines, with the teams all having had the winter break to develop their bikes under the new technical regulations – new rev limits, and better access to cheaper parts.
All eyes will once again be on triple and reigning WorldSBK champion Jonathan Rea, the man who dominated at Jerez in November.
The 2018 World Superbike season will another American on the grid, as Jake Gagne has been announced as Red Bull Honda’s second rider for next year.
The news comes after Gagne impressed with several wild card appearances throughout the 2017 season, as well as post-season testing stints.
The move up from the MotoAmerica Championship to the World Superbike Champion is a big one for Gagne, and for American road racing, as it is the first such transition for the rebooted American series.
Though for Gagne it means a great opportunity, 2018 will still certainly be a test for the 24-year-old. Not only will he have to contend with a grid full of world-class riders, and race at a number of unfamiliar circuits, Gagne will have to contend with the Honda CBR1000RR SP2 superbike platform.
Stefan Bradl is to miss the rest of the 2017 WorldSBK season. The Red Bull Honda rider’s wrist injury, sustained in a crash at Portimao, is more serious than initially thought, and the recovery period required means he will not be fit for either the Jerez or Qatar rounds of WorldSBK.
The decision was taken after surgery on Bradl’s right wrist. Pins were inserted and a torn scaphulonate ligament reattached, damage sustained in the crash.
The surgeons who performed the operation have ordered Bradl to keep his wrist immobilized to allow the damage to heal. This effectively makes it impossible for him to ride for the rest of the season.
American racer Jake Gagne will get another shot in the World Superbike Championship, as he is set to replace the injured Stefan Bradl at the upcoming Magny-Cours round.
Gagne made an impression on the WorldSBK paddock during his one-off ride at Laguna Seca, where he scored twice in the points, with two 15th place finishes.
“First of all, I would like to wish Stefan a speedy recovery: I’ve been there before and it’s never nice to have stay away from racing due to injury,” said Gagne. Obviously I would like to thank Honda and the team for the opportunity to come back and get a second shot at World Superbike.”
“Laguna Seca was a dream come true for me, and the knowledge and experience I gained from the team throughout that weekend was massive. It will also be nice to have some experience with this version of the Fireblade going into FP1.”
“Magny-Cours is a completely new track for me but I look forward to the challenge of racing on a new circuit and continuing to learn and grow. I have also never been to France, so it will be an exciting week!”
It looks set to be a quiet year on the rider market for World Superbike, with the leading seats already filled for 2018, but there will still be some significant deals announced in the coming weeks and months.
Jonathan Rea, Tom Sykes, Chaz Davies, and Marco Melandri are all secure in their seats for next year, but Sykes had been linked with a move away from Kawasaki earlier this summer.
Prior to winning two races before the summer break, the 2013 World Champion had been touted as a potential target of Yamaha, but with wins in the bag it looks highly unlikely that he will make a switch.
For Ducati there is little reason to change their status quo, and the only change in their ranks could be the addition of a second bike to the Barni squad.
The Italian entry has thrived with Xavi Fores in the last year, and came close to adding a second machine for this year. If there is a fourth Ducati on the grid it will likely have a rider bringing money to the table for Barni.
Last weekend’s World Superbike race at Laguna Seca was one of mixed emotions for American race fans. On one hand, it was an opportunity to say goodbye to Nicky Hayden, a man who left this life too soon and was revered at this iconic race track.
On the other hand, it was a chance to see another American, Jake Gagne, make his debut in World Superbike as part of the same team of which Hayden was a member.
As I walked around the track, there were tributes to Nicky everywhere. The number 69 was ubiquitous throughout the weekend, with flags, banners, t-shirts, and stickers displayed by proud fans who now miss him so much.
Both Chaz Davies and Toni Elias flew Hayden flags on their respective victory laps; a moving tribute to a man they held in such high esteem.
Additionally, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca sponsored a track walk in memory of Nicky. Hundreds of fans lined up to remember Nicky and support the memorial fund that bears his name.
Both American Honda and Laguna Seca had murals, on which fans could leave messages of remembrance for Nicky and words of support for those he left behind. Nicky’s impact on road racing, and American road racing in particular, was obvious throughout the event.
While the memories of Nicky Hayden were palpable throughout the weekend, Jake Gagne quietly went about the business of adapting to a new team, learning a new motorcycle, and racing in a new series.