Round 5 of the 2011 World Superbike Championship will have motorcycle racing fans celebrating more than just Memorial Day.
As a new tradition for the US round of WSBK, both races will take place on Monday at Miller Motorsports Park, Utah, with Superpole on Sunday. This year’s event is also held in conjunction with AMA Pro Racing (American Superbike, Daytona SportBike, SuperSport and XR1200 Series).
Leading the pack heading into Utah is Althea Ducati Racing’s Carlos Checa. Twenty-seven points behind is Yamaha Racing’s Marco Melandri, with the reigning World Superbike Champion Max Biaggi only a point behind Melandri.
But things can change quickly in the WSBK series, just as it did last year when Biaggi took the points lead after doubling at Miller en route to his first WSBK title.
For a full preview of Miller World Superbike, click here.
Here’s what the riders are saying before this Memorial Day Weekend’s race:
Carlos Checa (Althea Ducati 1198R Superbike) says: “Miller is a track that suits me very well; it is perhaps the best track for me and my riding style. I’d say that, seeing how both I and my bike are performing right now, that we will be able to adapt well to the track this year.
“We’ll see which tires are made available and work to find the best combination – I’m feeling confident. We have to finish what we were unable to finish last year.”
Marco Melandri (Yamaha YZF-R1 World Superbike Team) says: “It’s another completely new track for me but I’ve heard plenty positive comments so I’m eager to go there and experience it for myself. On the down side, I know it’s one of Checa’s best tracks! I intend trying to close the gap between us in the standings but that won’t be easy in Miller. I’m pretty sure we will be very competitive, obtain good results and enjoy the weekend in Salt Lake City.”
Eugene Laverty (Yamaha YZF-R1 World Superbike Team) says: “I am really looking forward to the weekend at Miller Motorsports Park especially after my double win in Monza. It’s probably one of the tracks where I have performed best in the past so it should be an ideal place to pick up where I left off in the last race, just less than 3 weeks ago!
“I have always been immediately quite fast in Miller on the supersport bike and hopefully I will be again this year on my R1. The bike is working very well, so I’m feeling pretty confident that I can have a good weekend.”
Max Biaggi (Alitalia Aprilia RSV4 Superbike) says: “I have very good memories of the Miller track. The double win last year took us to the top of the standings and was probably the first important step toward bringing home the title.
“I’ve always enjoyed racing in the United States. There are a lot of fans and they make their welcome presence known. On top of that the track is very technical, with guided sections where it is very important to find the right compromise in the bike’s set-up. For this reason we need to start off right away on the right foot: from the first practice session to the last race, we need to be one hundred percent focused.”
Leon Camier (Alitalia Aprilia RSV4 Superbike) says: “It’s going to a tough weekend I’m sure, but I’m really looking forward to Miller. The start of the season has thrown a lot of bad luck at us and I’m sure some good luck has to come our way soon!
“Following the race weekend at Monza we had a two day test at Misano, and ok we didn’t do too many laps, but I think we made a positive step with the chassis. The field is really strong, it’ll be hard to know who exactly will come out on top. Checa was really strong here last year and is obviously on top form this season, then there’s Max, both BMW’s and both Yamaha’s, so it should be really interesting!”
Leon Haslam (BMW Motorrad S1000RR Superbike) says: “Salt Lake City is always a great race. It is fantastic to ride in the USA, particularly on ‘Memorial Weekend’ when there is a magnificent atmosphere there. The circuit itself is quite different and the layout offers a good mixture of everything. It is a circuit on which you have to fight and it is really difficult to ride. I enjoy going there and am pretty excited to ride the BMW S 1000 RR there.
“The test in Misano was good and we were able to work through an extensive programme. We also found a good set-up for the track there. That is important, as the next race weekend after the USA takes place in Misano. We were right up there at the front in terms of lap times, particularly on the race tyres. In general, we got an awful lot done there. My broken toe is fine again. We had a few days off that I spent with training and it all will be fine in the US.”
Troy Corser (BMW Motorrad S1000RR Superbike) says: “I hope that on the back of two solid results in Monza we can really push and go for the podium in Salt Lake City. Last year we had a few minor issues there, which held us back slightly. But now the bike feels a lot more balanced and I am hopeful we can do better this time around.
“I enjoy riding at this circuit. It is quite technical and fast and similar to Assen and Monza in some respects. So for sure I am looking forward to getting out there and seeing what we can do.”
Jonathan Rea (Castrol Honda CBR1000RR Superbike) says: “We nominated Miller as our test track this year because last season we really struggled with bike set-up. I really enjoy riding here in America but the bumpy nature of the track makes it very difficult to find the optimum settings for the bike.
“My team have pulled out all the stops though, and we had a lot of new items to test. The weather wasn’t on our side, so the track conditions were pretty dirty out there. I found a better feeling for corner entry with a new swing-arm and this really helped the feeling when the tyre life starts to drop. I also had some new suspension items to test and, while we found some positives, it will take more time to get it dialed in properly. We are in much better shape now to start the weekend and as always we will do our best.”
Ruben Xaus (Castrol Honda CBR1000RR Superbike) says: “We know that Miller has some difficult features because it’s very bumpy due to a lot of cars using this track. We experienced a lot of chatter on the first day which we struggled to find a solution for. I tried to adapt my riding style a little to improve the lap times but unfortunately had a small crash in the afternoon which stopped our progress.
“The morning of the second day we worked hard to improve the set-up and lap times in between some pretty bad weather conditions and in the end found something better. We tried a new brake system and a softer chassis which made a really positive step forward, as well as helping me find a longer life for the tyres, which is really important for this track. I’m pleased to say that I finally found a good base set-up for the race weekend so hopefully I can help to push the whole team forward.”
Roberto Rolfo (Team Pedercini Kawasaki ZX10R Superbike) says: “I don’t know the Miller track very well having only ridden there in 2008. I really liked it though as it has fluid turns and is set in amazing ‘lunar’ surroundings!
“The track is 1500m above sea level and so the engines struggle a bit but it’s great to have to make quick changes in direction and some violent braking, with corners that you take in first and in fourth with your knee on the ground. I love the atmosphere at Miller, there’s a party atmosphere that surrounds the racing and a sun that burns due to the altitude! I feel ready and want to do well; I need to get back on board after the disappointing Monza results…I’ll give it my all.”
Mark Aitchison (Team Pedercini Kawasaki ZX10R Superbike) says: “I am really looking forward to arriving and getting started in Miller Park, Utah. The bigger fly away races are always fun on the calendar. The fans are always excited to watch the racing and even though I love Europe, it’s cool to travel to the US and race.
“My main aim for the race weekend is to get the bike working consistently again like our Assen round. If we can do this and understand the important parts of the Miller racetrack, then I think we can put the Pedercini Kawasaki further up the order.”
Michel Fabrizio (Team Alstare Suzuki GSX-R1000 Superbike) says: “The first time we went out on the track here, I thought there was something wrong with my bike, because it seemed slow. But we all soon realised that it was because we were so high up and the engine performance was affected. It’s the same for everybody of course and now we are much more used to it.
The track is quite technical and there are a variety of curves to keep you on your toes.
“Last year was not so good for me, but the year before that I got a second and a third place. It’s a very tough season this year and our team has been working very hard to give me a competitive bike and that’s why I was so happy to get on the podium at Monza – I felt that we deserved it.
“It’s always a mixed blessing being in a one-rider team because although you get a lot of attention, there is nobody to exchange information with. For sure, if there were two riders in the team, we would probably progress more quickly. But that’s not the case, so we all just have to get down to it and do the best we can. After the last round, I am thinking that more podiums are possible and it would be great to get one – or maybe two!”
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team ZX10R Superbike) says: “Personally, I really look forward to this race, it is a beautiful part of the world and it is massive bonus to go racing there. We struggled there last year but we have a new bike this year and I am positive about that. I am hoping we can go there and certainly improve on last year but also improve on our previous results this year and move forward again.
“Hopefully we can make our hard work at the previous rounds count in America. The challenges for the rider there are the time zone change and the massive increase in altitude. You lose a bit of power from the bike at the high altitude but what you need is a bike set-up which turns and holds a good line at Miller. There is little of this circuit where you are completely upright. It sounds obvious but the more time we get on the bike the better we will be.”
Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki Racing Team ZX10R Superbike) says: “The idea of testing in Japan is to try some new ideas and give some feedback. I have my crew chief with me and I hope we can give good input into the development program. Our bike is so young and has more potential than we have been able to demonstrate so far.
“The track at Miller is exciting. The altitude means there is less power, but that is the same for everybody. The track has some fast corners that I like very much, so let us see if we can make it an easy bike to change direction with and then we can go as fast as the best ones. The team, Kawasaki, my crew chief and I are all learning the set-up steps we should avoid and the steps that give us something positive.
“Is not been easy for me to be competitive immediately, with no winter test, a new bike and new staff to work with, but I’m quite sure we are working with passion and motivation to improve race by race. We are preparing the base for a great future winning bike.”
Chris Vermeulen (Kawasaki Racing Team ZX10R Superbike) says: “It is disappointing to not race in America but my injuries are still healing. The good thing is they are improving. The decision was taken with the team and Kawasaki to miss the race and concentrate on testing.
“That’s not only for myself to get some time under my belt away from the racing, but also to get more information about the bike. That means I should hopefully come back strong at Misano which is a track I know quite well. I have never ridden at Aragon before so it will be good to get some track time in and learn the track before we go there after Misano.”