Living in California, we can’t help but get excited about this weekend’s superbike racing at Laguna Seca Raceway, near Monterey, California. Both the AMA Superbike Series (running on Saturday) and the World Superbike Series (running on Sunday) are in town, and both series feature some fascinating rider match ups.
First, let’s talk about the World Superbike race this weekend. It has been a strange and unpredictable year in WSB. Fogarty is out for the season with an injury, and Noriyuki Haga is serving a three-week suspension for an illegal substance appearing in a urine test taken much earlier in the year. Colin Edwards has the points lead, but hasn’t ridden well the last couple of rounds. Instead, Ducati has re-asserted itself with riders Troy Bayliss and, most recently, former AMA champion Ben Bostrom.
Frankie Chili has a freshly broken collar bone (that has been plated and screwed), and expects to race at Laguna (perhaps not at 100%, however). Juan Borja (another rider drafted due to Fogarty’s injury, and Bostrom’s demotion to a privateer Ducati team) has been fast, at times, but erratic.
Aaron Slight has made a remarkable comeback from a life-threatening brain condition and surgery, and looks a little bit more confident every week (despite some recent poor finishes).
So what’s going to happen this Sunday in the WSB races at Laguna Seca? Here are our fearless predictions. Without attempting to predict each of the two WSB race results, here are the riders we expect to excel this weekend.
American Ben Bostrom, coming off two second place finishes in the last round, knows Laguna Seca well, and won his first WSB race there last year. He will win at least one of the races this weekend.
Troy Corser (the talented, former WSB champion), has put Aprilia at the top of the podium several times this year already. We expect a strong ride from Corser at Laguna Seca, and wouldn’t be surprised if he won a race, as well. Colin Edwards doesn’t particularly like the Laguna Seca track, and it is not a track where the horsepower advantage of his Honda will be particularly useful. Edwards might make the podium in one race (then again, he might not).
Frankie Chili is a fighter, and his Suzuki should go well at Laguna Seca. Chili will be on the podium if his health permits it.
Troy Bayliss is fast, but he may have trouble at the slippery Laguna Seca track. Bayliss picks some odd lines, and he has a tendency to get a little bit wild. He could win a race at Laguna, but he could just as easily crash out.
Okay, let’s talk about the AMA Superbike race on Saturday. This race could be more hard fought than the WSB races on Sunday.
Suzuki’s Mat Mladin sits atop the points standings, and has won several races this year. Mladin should be very fast at Laguna Seca — a track he knows well. The horsepower and top speed deficit Suzuki experienced versus Nicky Hayden’s Honda in some of the earlier rounds shouldn’t be a factor at Laguna Seca. In fact, the Suzuki may be set up better than the Honda for some of the slow, tight corners at Laguna Seca.
Don’t count Nicky Hayden out, however. He finds a way to win when you least expect it. His teammate, Miguel Duhamel, is finally becoming more comfortable with the RC51 and could be in the mix for a podium finish, as well.
The Kawasakis of Eric Bostrom and Doug Chandler could easily run near the front, and it is just about time for Eric Bostrom to win his first Superbike race on a Kawasaki. His results have been consistently good the past few rounds, and Laguna Seca could be the right track for him to take his first victory this year. Chandler also knows the track very well and, although he has struggled a bit this year with bike set-up, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him up front this weekend.
Perhaps, the most interesting rider to watch this weekend is Ducati’s John Kocinski. Kocinski, drafted at the last minute to replace Troy Bayliss (who was sent to WSB to replace Carl Fogarty) is becoming more comfortable with his bike each week, and Kocinski has won at Laguna Seca before. We predict Kocinski will make the podium in at least one race, and we wouldn’t be surprised if he won a race this weekend.
Mat Mladin’s teammate Aaron Yates has been riding hard lately, as well. Yates can be somewhat unpredictable, but he has been fast lately and could even win a race this weekend.
These are our thoughts on this weekend’s action at Laguna Seca. We’ll provide same-day race reports, of course.