As if the 2016 World Superbike title chase so far didn’t elucidate energy, round nine at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca bottled that energy even further.Friday WSBK practice began with the favorite topping the time sheets -Aruba.it Racing Ducati’s Chaz Davies, the man who doubled at last season’s Laguna Seca SBK round. The Welshman showed promise, but could only qualify fourth Saturday before crashing out in race one later that afternoon.
Taking the win – his eight of the season and 37th of his SBK career – was the reigning World Superbike Champion Jonathan Rea. The Kawasaki Racing Team ZX-10R Ninja pilot took his first-ever Laguna Seca win by 0.819 of a second ahead of the pole sitter and teammate, Tom Sykes. Earning the final podium position was the sole American in 2016 World Superbike, Honda World Superbike’s Nicky Hayden.
The Laguna Seca WSBK win provided Rea with 100-percent podium finishes in 2016, placing him 71 points ahead of 2013 World SBK Champ Sykes with four rounds remaining. As for the favorite, Davies crashed out while in the lead on lap five of 25.After a night of needed rest in Monterey, Calif., the 23-rider grid returned to the 2.32-mile circuit containing 11 corners for another 25-lap bout. This time the results would be much different – well, except for Sykes finishing once again on the podium.But this time – after a restarted 21-lap race due to a red flag – the Brit Sykes would claim victory after fending off the Aruba.it Racing Ducati team’s Davide Giugliano and Chaz Davies, the 1199 Panigale R pilots respectively finishing on the podium. This was Sykes’ fifth win of 2016, and the 31st of his World SBK career victory, tying him with the American Colin Edwards for wins.As for Rea, well, his 100-percent perfect podium finish of 2016 ended – not due to a crash, but a mechanical failure. This helped Sykes gain some momentum in the title chase; with 200 points remaining over four rounds, Sykes now trails Rea by 46 points, and is 62 ahead of Davies. Ahead of the two-month summer break, the title battle tightens.“That was quite exciting and I had a lot of pressure from the Ducati riders all race long. We struggled with edge grip today so I had to change my style a little bit to defend my line. It destroyed the lap time but gave us the 25 points,” Sykes says.“Overall, it was good race for the spectators and a close one between three riders. I am happy enough but it was a difficult race in some ways. The restart was one more thing to think about and we made some changes, making the best of the situation. We never had the perfect set-up but I feel we made a good compromise. We have made a good weekend, with pole position, a second place and a win. We will go into the summer break on a high and try to learn from the information we took from the previous Misano round and this one, and then try to put the jigsaw together for the last part of the season.”When the race began, Sykes got to turn one first, followed by Giugliano, who qualified third, and Rea, who qualified second. Slotting in behind were fourth-place qualifier Davies and sixth-place qualifier Hayden.Hayden’s teammate, 2014 World Supersport Champion Michael Van der Mark, was the first to lose control, though he rejoined from last place. MV Agusta Reparto Corse’s Leon Camier and IodaRacing Team Aprilia’s Alex de Angelis both had technical issues, forcing them to retire.Up front, Giugliano, who crashed out of last year’s Laguna round, took the lead on lap three, followed by Sykes, Rea, Davies and Hayden. But behind, a crash by Team Toth Yamaha’s Pawel Szkopek brought out the Red Flag. The restarted race – now shortened to 21 laps – began in the same order, with Giugliano starting on pole ahead of Sykes, Rea, Davies and Hayden.But Sykes held nothing back, immediately passing Giugliano. The Italian fought back, standing Sykes’ ZX-10R straight up, and the battles began. Behind, Aprilia’s Lorezno Savadori crashed out on lap three.The fights within the infamous Corkscrew at turn 8 began, Rea and Sykes giving it all they had to take over Giugliano. But on turn six Rea ran wide and experienced a technical issue on his Ninja, the Northern Irishman claiming his first and only DNF of 2016 SBK so far.Skyes took control, and a three-way fight began between him and the two 1199 Rs of Giugliano and Davies. The final five laps at Laguna Seca SBK had everyone standing as the top three fought to the checkered flag. Sykes would hold off the Ducatis, earning the win by 0.209 of a second ahead of Giugliano, and 0.786 ahead of Davies.As this battle up front ended, Pata Yamaha’s Alex Lowes tried to overtake teammate Niccolo Canepa, sending both into the gravel traps. Both would recover, Canepa earning ninth and Lowes 14th.Claiming fourth was the Barni Racing Team Ducati 1199 Panigale R piloted by Xavi Fores, who finished 11.379 of second behind Sykes. Fifth went to Hayden, who was followed by Althea BMW’s Jori Torres and van der Mark. Rounding out the top 10 were Pedercini Racing Kawasaki’s Anthony West and GoEleven Kawasaki’s Roman Ramos.The World Superbike series now breaks for two months ahead of round 10 of 14 at Lausitzring in Germany.Photos by Ara Ashjian
2016 Laguna Seca World Superbike Race 2 Results
Michael van der Mark
Raffaele De Rosa
Saeed Al Sulaiti
2016 Laguna Seca World Superbike Race 2 Photo Gallery