This Memorial Day weekend is packed with World Superbike action as seven manufacturers will compete in the high US deserts at Miller Motorsports Park in Salt Lake City, Utah, marking the halfway point of the 2010 WSBK season.
Practice begins today at the 3.04-mile track named for Larry H. Miller, owner of the NBA’s Utah Jazz, with both Superbike races occurring on Monday instead of the traditional Sunday, paying homage to Memorial Day, a holiday set aside for honoring soldiers who died in service.
With seven of 13 rounds down, this season has been extremely tight in both finishes in manufacturer standings. Going into Round 7, five different manufacturers hold the top-five spots in the championship.
Leading the Superbike series is Suzuki Alstare rider Leon Haslam with 222 points. The Brit is coming off a win at the last round in Kyalami, but is hoping for better results this year at Miller; last year he finished 10th in race 1 and DNF’d in race 2 on his GSX-R1000.
Leon Haslam says: "Last year Miller was not such a good event for me, so I am really looking forward to showing what I and the Suzuki can do and hopefully get another couple of podiums. Max (Biaggi) is a threat and I want to make sure I either beat him or at least leave USA still in the championship lead. May is a busy month for us, with three races on three different continents, so it will be good to end it on top of the standings (with a good lead maybe?) and have a good break before the next round."
And Biaggi is the biggest threat to Haslam, considering the Aprilia Alitalia rider trails by only 15 points in the championship. Biaggi already doubled at Portimao and Monza, and finished in sixth and fourth during last year’s Miller race.
Also, Biaggi may be using a different motor configuration this weekend, as Aprilia can officially use their new gear-driven cam engine on the RSV4. The Aprilia Team used the engine, which reportedly creates around three more horsepower, during Phillip Island qualifying, but other manufacturers argued that the engine wasn’t under regulations. After many discussions, World Superbike officials allowed the engine to be used, but not until this week’s race in Miller. Additionally, the team is determined to have good results in their second year competing.
Francesco Guidotti (Aprilia Alitalia Racing team manager) says "We are fully aware that the next few races could be decisive for the outcome of the championship. We began this adventure in World SBK last season by signing the best possible champion rider, with the right experience and determination to develop a totally new project, then we have all worked together to produce the best bike. Now we are heading to America and for this important phase of the championship we are confident that we can do well and satisfied that we are racing for top results both in the Riders’ and Manufacturers’ championships in just our second season."
Third in the championship is Jonathan Rea, who has 141 points, and placed his HANNspree Ten Kate Honda in first at both races in Assen. The Northern Ireland native also has ridden his CBR1000RR to a second-place finish at Kyalami after swapping the lead with race-winner Haslam numerous times.
Jonathan Rea says: "Now it’s time to get back to business at Miller which quite I’m optimistic about. We know the bike works well there and I really enjoy riding at the circuit, so we’re going with the intention of at least two podium finishes. We lost our way a bit on the Saturday at Kyalami but still managed to grind out two decent results. We’ll keep working around the good base setting that we’ve found this year, which is the one we usually end up going back to, but I definitely need to qualify well at Miller to ensure that I get away near the front in Monday’s races."
Standing fourth in the championship with the same points as Rea is Althea Ducati rider Carlos Checa, who is the only current WSBK rider with success at Miller, the Spaniard doubling there on a Honda in 2008. And when last year’s champion Ben Spies doubled at Miller, Checa piloted his 1198R to a second-place finish behind the current MotoGP rider in Race 1.
Sterilgarda Yamaha rider James Toseland sits in fifth with 125 championship points, making for five different manufacturers in the top-five spots. The UK native has four podiums this year, but comes into Miller with very brief experience on the 15-corner circuit.
James Toseland says: "I’m really looking forward to Salt Lake City. It’s a brand new track for me. I got to drive a couple of laps in one of the Miller Racing School’s Mustang’s this week which has given me an idea of the track layout, but there’s nothing like actually riding it on a bike to understand it. I’ve always enjoyed coming to American tracks to race, I love Laguna Seca and Indianapolis so I’m looking forward to the challenge of learning this one and getting up to speed as quickly as possible. I hope we don’t have the grip level problems as we did in Kyalami."
The only American currently competing in World Superbike, Roger Lee Hayden, is hoping for better results at the track in his native country. A former AMA Superbike and Supersport rider, the Pedercini Kawasaki knows the track very well, and is eager to compete this weekend.
Roger Lee Hayden says: "I’m looking forward to racing at my home circuit and I’m really happy to be here in Miller this weekend. It makes a big change to be heading towards a race with track knowledge, this will be the first time this year I’ve gone to a track I’ve raced at before. We have to work well to get a good race set-up because I know this track is different from all the others on the calendar. Of course I want to do well in front of my home crowd. A lot of friends will be coming along to see me race so I hope to be able to have two great races."
From a World Superbike Press Release: In the Supersport World Championship a whole five points separate leading trio Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda), Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar Honda) and Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki Motocard.com) on the eve of the Miller race weekend. Despite having won four races so far, Laverty finds himself second in the rankings, with Sofuoglu leading by one point only.
Both Sofuoglu and Lascorz have won a race apiece in 2010, while last year Sofuoglu won the Miller round of the series. ParkinGO Triumph BE-1 rider Chaz Davies has scored two podiums this year, in Spain and South Africa, helping put him fourth; one place up on his team-mate David Salom.
No fewer than five home-grown wildcard or one-event riders will be present at the Miller round; Melissa Paris (who raced here last year), Tyler Odom, Dylon Husband, Chip Yates and Jason Farrell.
Miller Motorsports Characteristics:
Length: 3.049 miles
Pole Position: right
Race distance: 21 laps (64.030 miles)
Superbike – best lap : Carlos Checa (Honda) – 2008
Superbike – lap record : Ben Spies (Yamaha) – 2009
World Superbike Standings (after 6 of 13 rounds:
1. Leon Haslam 222
2. Max Biaggi 207
3. Jonathan Rea 141
4. Carlos Checa 141
5. James Toseland 125
6. Noriyuki Haga 106
7. Troy Corser 105
8. Michele Fabrizio 95
9. Cal Crutchlow 86
10. Leon Camier 82
World Superbike Manufacturers Standings:
1. Suzuki 222
2. Aprilia 213
3. Ducati 185
4. Honda 150
5. Yamaha 135
6. BMW 108
7. Kawasaki 39
SPEED TV will air both World Superbike races beginning at 5 p.m. Monday, May 31. The World Supersport race will be aired at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 1.