Laguna Seca WorldSBK Preview – What to Expect in the USA

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Laguna Seca is one of the world’s most famous race tracks, and it could play host to a memorable race this weekend.

Yamaha is on a roll, Kawasaki is in the midst of what could become a difficult break-up, and Ducati is looking to recapture lost form at a venue of past glories.

Can Yamaha keep it up?

Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes have combined to win three of the last four WorldSBK races, but few circuits have uncovered the Yamaha R1’s shortcomings in recent years like Laguna Seca.

A best result of solitary Top 5 in the past two years has seen the US become a round a round to forget in the past. However, the progress made this year could change their fortunes, and see the PATA squad head to California like the prospectors of 200 years ago.

There is glory in the hills of Northern California, and their confidence coming into this weekend could mean that we see Yamaha spring a surprise again.

Kawasaki Civil War

While Yamaha heads out West, hopeful of correcting past form at Laguna Seca, Kawasaki will head there hoping to avoid repeating past errors.

The KRT squad has been hugely successful over the last six years, but relationships between both sides of the garage took a battering in the Czech Republic.

Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes clashed in Race 2, and while there will likely be pronouncements of cordiality from both sides, it’s clear that the barbed comments after Brno won’t be forgotten.

In 2014, the team came apart at the seams when Sykes and Loris Baz clashed at Sepang. The remainder of that year was fraught with internal battles and the same could be expected now.

In the past, Sykes was the top dog asserting his dominance over the team by demanding that Baz be sacked and a replacement found. That replacement was Rea, and in the three and a half seasons that followed, Sykes has been out-fought and outclassed.

Now with internal strife in the team, the decision – like in 2014 – will need to be made as to whether it is best to placate a team leader and have a harmonious garage, or allow tension to fester before finding a replacement.

The Ducati Dilemma Facing Davies

The last three rounds have been a huge challenge for Chaz Davies and Ducati. The Welshman is without a win in that span, and having struggled to a solitary podium in Brno and Donington Park, he’ll know that bouncing back at Laguna Seca is crucial.

The problem for Davies is that the championship has been all but conceded to Rea, and while he is still in a mathematical shout of the title, he’s not in a realistic position just yet.

Doing the double at both Laguna Seca and Misano are crucial if he is to claim his first Superbike crown and force Ducati to focus attention on the 2018 project rather than developing next year’s all-new V4.

Given the gestation of previous models, Davies will know how important it is not to sleep on the present in the hope that the future brings with it success.

Photos: © 2016 Jensen Beeler / Asphalt & Rubber – All Rights Reserved

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Steve English

"Superbike Steve" is known best for his on-air hosting of the WorldSBK race feed, but when he's not looking pretty for the camera, he is busy writing stories and taking photographs for Asphalt & Rubber.