Pirelli WSBK Track Day 2017 | An Aprilia Tuono on Supercorsa SPs

For just about any motorsport enthusiast, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is a bucket-list track. Built 60 years ago, it has been a favored stop by riders in the FIM World Superbike Championship, the AMA Superbike Championship, the FIM/AMA MotoAmerica Road Racing Championship and, until 2013, riders in the MotoGP paddock.

The circuit itself is legendary, utilizing the natural hills and valleys to form what has become one of the most iconic courses in the world. And though I’ve been a lifelong California resident, I had never actually had the opportunity to roll out onto that hallowed bit of tarmac myself to test my nerves through the Corkscrew—until the Pirelli WSBK Track Day.

Pirelli WSBK Track Day directly followed the GEICO US Round of the FIM World Superbike Championship and AMA/FIM MotoAmerica Road Racing Championship Series racing in July. The best part—there was no noise restriction, which meant that a few surprises were able to be rolled out on track without triggering the decibel limiters.

Pirelli WSBK Track Day 2017 Aprilia Tuono Nic de Sena
Pirelli WSBK Track Day 2017: Author putting the Aprilia Tuono to good use.
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Pirelli hosted this year’s event mainly as a “thank you” to dealers, distributors, and other industry members that keep the wheels of the motorcycle business turning, allowing everyone to turn some laps in a safe environment and experience Pirelli products first hand. Mixed in with that group are a few celebrities and, of course, members of the motorcycle media.

Taking care of safety precautions was TrackDaz, a local track day organization that has an experienced team of instructors on hand, giving people two-up rides around the circuit and also offering some help to riders that didn’t have much track riding on their resumes. In short, they’re the ones who kept us all in line, whether we knew it or not.

Though representatives from most major brands turned up with test bikes—all shod with Pirelli rubber—we opted to bring a 2017 Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory, which was most likely the best bit of decision making all weekend. With a fresh set of Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tires slapped onto Tuono’s cast aluminum wheels, I was a little bit more than anxious to get out on track.

Alpinestars, Dainese, and AGV also brought out their wares, outfitting guests with equipment as necessary.

Pirelli WSBK Track Day 2017 Valentino Rossi GP11
Pirelli WSBK Track Day 2017: Kaming Ko rides his Ducati GP11 Valentino Rossi bike

The Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SPs we had on hand, although a street-legal tire, are more than suited for track riding. Now, depending on your skill level, one might want to bump up to the Supercorsa SC or even a slick, but for the average track day enthusiast, the Supercorsa SP is a performance minded option that will be able to satisfy any track riding aspirations and easily exceed any desires that you’d have on the street.

Throughout the entire weekend, I tried to analyze the track while planted in the media center. I did my best to study the course so that I’d be a bit more prepared when I finally locked my faceshield down and set out.

Studying a track layout will help, but watching riders such as Chaz Davies, Jonathan Rea, and Tom Sykes blast around Laguna Seca make it look all too easy. The pass that Chaz Davies made in The Corkscrew during Saturday’s race was solidified in my mind as one of the most daring passes in the 2017 WSBK season. However, being able to see The Corkscrew from the seat of the Aprilia Tuono raised my regard for that move even higher.

Laguna Seca’s 2.238 miles of track has to be one of the most flowing circuits I’ve ever ridden. It’s also one of the most engaging tracks, as it never allows a rider or driver to have much of a respite. Blind corners are abundant, but once you begin to settle in and find some sort of rhythm, it all becomes clear as to why this track is hallowed ground in world motorsports.

Pirelli WSBK Track Day 2017 RC51
Pirelli WSBK Track Day 2017: Check out this beautiful RC51!

I most definitely struggled to connect the dots on my first lap out, making full use of the painted section of the bottom half of The Corkscrew before eventually finding a safe line through. And, as much as The Corkscrew is talked about, it isn’t the toughest section of track at Laguna Seca.

If you want to see riders test their mettle, send them down the front straight, which isn’t all that straight, and forces the fastest riders to crest over a hill and fade left with throttles open wide.

By the end of the day, I was holding wide-open throttle through the start/finish straight, but it took plenty of sessions to get to that point. It’s equal parts terrifying and entertaining.

A wide assortment of riders were invited to Pirelli WSBK Track Day, and with that came experience levels that ran the gamut. On one end, you had Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing’s Toni Elias turning laps on a stock 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000; on the other end were riders who had never set foot on a track. Skill levels were broken up into groups, of course, so there were few red flags and most were attributed to running out of fuel. A rider or two went for a small off-road adventure, but at the end of the day, everyone went home safe.

Whenever I parked the Tuono to go for a quick stroll through the paddock, the vibe was jovial. There wasn’t a face without a smile, unless it was some steely-eyed superbike riders, securing their helmets before setting out. But upon their return, they’d be positively beaming like the rest of us.

Pirelli WSBK Track Day 2017 Mounting Tires
Pirelli WSBK Track Day 2017: Pirelli staff busy changing tires.

Ultimate Motorcycling Consultant At Large Kaming Ko brought out his Ducati GP11, which was campaigned in MotoGP by Valentino Rossi. If you’d like to read the story of how Kaming acquired Rossi’s Ducati, he has shared the story with us. Rossi’s former MotoGP bike garnered a good bit of attention in the pits, and once it was fired up, many of us strolled out of the paddock just to hear it rip by.

The sound of the desmodromic V4 is truly intoxicating and, as someone that has never been that close to a MotoGP machine in action, I can tell you one thing—they’re absurdly loud. The raspy, vicious sounding machine roared by and, regardless of the actual lap times that were collected that day, you will never look as fast as Kaming does while cruising on Rossi’s Ducati MotoGP bike—and looking fast is what really counts, right?

Renown fabricator Michael Woolaway brought out his Pikes Peak build. Woolie’s PP bike started its life out as a late model Ducati Hypermotard, but was quickly transformed into something far more thrilling. The Hypermotard’s engine was swapped out in favor of a raucous 1198RS powerplant and the result should be music to the ears of any motorcycle enthusiast.

Suter North America also had their MMX2 on display. The ex-Moto2 race bike is equipped with a 600cc Honda motor that produces roughly 129hp. The most impressive aspect of this nimble Moto2 machine is its weight – only 308 lbs when dry.

If you’re a regular to riding public track days, you’ll know that by about 3 p.m. the paddock begins to thin out and riders begin stowing their motorcycles away. Still, many of us ran to the final checkered flag was flown, late into the afternoon.

Pirelli WSBK Track Day 2017 Keanu Reeves
Pirelli WSBK Track Day 2017: Arch Motorcycles Keanu Reeves and Dax Shepard

The experience of riding at Laguna Seca was absolutely unforgettable and, as demanding as the circuit is, I learned a massive amount in a single day of riding. Thanks to great weather, great people, and a clear view of one of the world’s finest raceways, I was able to carry much more speed and built a bit more confidence on the Tuono. Those feelings weren’t only my own—many riders felt the same and had similarly positive experiences.

If you’d like to check out some of the happenings of the Pirelli WSBK Track Day, be sure to peruse the Pirelli Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages. You can also find a whole host of pictures and videos from the Pirelli WSBK Track Day by searching out the following hashtags: #pirellitrackday, #pirelliSBKTrackDay, #pirellimoto, and #pirellimotousa.

Pirelli WSBK Track Day 2017 | Photo Gallery