Laguna Seca AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike
A focused Roger Hayden got right down to business to kick off the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, out-pacing defending three-time AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike champion Josh Hayes in the day’s sole session to set the pace on Friday.
Seeking redemption following his deeply disappointing GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course one week ago, Hayden set his sights on storming to the top of the charts in the opening premier-class practice session and succeed in that aim.
Based on his impressive form at Barber Motorsports Park the race prior and his history at Mid-Ohio, Hayden was a hot pick to battle for the win last weekend. However, the event did not go to plan as Saturday tire issues and an off-track excursion suffered while fighting for the lead on Sunday resulted in just a pair of eighth-place finishes.
The Kentuckian, who also traditionally fares well at Laguna Seca, took full advantage of the short week to immediately bounce back and came out swinging on Friday. He traded fast laps with rival Hayes before finally claiming ownership to first place to end the session at 1:25.138. Hayes finished second with a best lap of 1:25.242.
An upbeat Hayden said, “It was definitely a good lap, but more importantly, I was consistent. I was consistently quick and came out the gate and led a session. I think that’s important for me to help my confidence. That’s what Josh does — he comes out and leads every session. I want to start leading some myself and try to push him a little harder than he’s been pushed.
“I got a good lap – I did a 1:25.2 and a 1:25.1. Things are looking good so far; it’s only one session, but it’s definitely a good way to start the weekend and it looked like we had a nice gap to third. Things are coming around pretty well this weekend.”
Happy to move past his Mid-Ohio performance, Hayden admitted, “This weekend couldn’t come soon enough after last week having a tire issue and then running off when I had the speed to run up front. I wish this weekend started on Tuesday, to be honest with you.”
He added, “I came in with (the mindset to open strong). I told my guys if I didn’t lead the first session I was going to be mad. I was going to be upset. As soon as they let us go I started pushing as hard as I could. I really studied our track map – what gears I used in every corner last year – and just started clicking it off right away.”
Second-fastest Hayes said, “For some reason, the first session is always tough for me here at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and I seem to ride a little tight in the beginning. I did 29 laps, so I was happy to get that much work in today. The Bridgestone rubber that the MotoGP boys are putting down may not be mixing too well with our Dunlop tires, but it’s the same for everybody. Rog was riding really well, and P2 isn’t too bad for me. We’ve got both qualifying sessions tomorrow, so we’ll be focusing on going faster in those.”
Mid-Ohio Sunday winner Josh Herrin moved up to third late on the second Monster Energy Graves Yamaha YZF-R1 but was more than eight tenths off Hayden’s torrid pace.
After the day’s lone SuperBike session, Herrin said, “We started the session by doing almost 18 laps on the same tires, which was around 40 minutes. With about 12 minutes to go, we put in a new rear tire and still didn’t change the front. That helped a lot, and I moved up. Towards the end of the session, I really focused on fast laps, and I was able to do a time good enough for third. I’m looking forward to tomorrow. We don’t often get to do both qualifying sessions in the same day, and that’s a little bit old-school, but I like it.”
Title hopeful Martin Cardenas was fourth best on the Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing GSX-R1000, followed by Hayden’s Michael Jordan Motorsports teammate, Danny Eslick, in fifth.
Taylor Knapp enjoyed what might have been his most impressive session yet on the KTM/HMC Racing RC8R, heading teammate Chris Fillmore as the orange bikes ran sixth and seventh around the idiosyncratic raceway.
Team AMSOIL/Hero’s Aaron Yates was eighth, followed by his Erik Buell Racing teammate Geoff May, while Foremost Insurance Pegram Racing’s Larry Pegram concluded the Friday practice top ten.
The AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike stars will decide their grid positions for Sunday’s 23-lap race in a pair of Saturday qualifying sessions.
Laguna Seca AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike
Cameron Beaubier led the weekend’s first AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike qualifying session by more than a second on Friday. The Yamaha Extended Service/Monster Energy/Graves Yamaha pilot topped regular rival Jake Gagne of the RoadRace Factory/Red Bull Yamaha team for the top spot in provisional qualifying with a laptime of 1:26.698.
Beaubier is looking to extend his pole streak this weekend, but it took him a while to uncork a lap and break the class record at Laguna Seca.
“This morning in first practice I struggled a little early getting up to speed,” Beaubier said. “I was having a hard time getting heat into the right side of the tire. We made some changes for qualifying. Jake (Gagne) was going fast. He got in the ’27s but I got in some solid laps at the end.”
The Californian said he struggled with traffic, too, but knew he’d go quick at the end.
“This year has gone great,” Beaubier continued. “I want to keep up the momentum and see where we wind up at the end of the season.”
Gagne’s time of 1:27.779 was clear of the other riders on the provisional front row, Latus Motors Racing’s Jason DiSalvo and Y.E.S./Monster Energy/Graves/Yamaha’s Garrett Gerloff.
The provisional second row includes JD Beach of RoadRace Factory/Red Bull, GEICO Motorcycle Road Racing’s Dane Westby, Meen Motorsports’ Jake Lewis and National Guard/Celtic Racing’s James Rispoli.
Laguna Seca AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport
RoadRace Factory’s Tomas Puerta topped provisional qualifying in AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport. Puerta was just 0.013 faster than Jeffery Tigert (Baby Appleseed CM Motorsports) and 0.062 faster than Joe Roberts (California Superbike School Roadracingworld.com) in one of the closest qualifying battles of the year.
The Colombian tried to improve his time late but was just a little short and had to stand on his impressive earlier time.
“It was a good qualifying today,” said Puerta, whose lap of 1:29.736 shaved nearly two seconds off his best in the morning. “I was struggling a little bit at the beginning but I did 1:30 so I knew the fastest lap would be a little better than that. I knew it was going to be pretty tough. I saw Tigert had tuned in a 1:29.7 also. We stopped for a new tire but got in a lot of traffic. With 12 minutes to go, I came in to relax a bit and to make sure I had a gap to go for it. I didn’t improve but we are looking forward to the race and hopefully I will be up there again.”
Puerta won in the East race last weekend in Ohio and is poised to improve his West points lead this time out.
East points leader and National Guard/Celtic Racing pilot Corey Alexander was fourth on Friday.
The 16-lap AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport race is scheduled for tomorrow at 3:30 local time.
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