If you have watched World championship roadracing as long as I have, you have seen the occasional, fast, local rider shake things up when appearing as a “wild card”. It has happened a number of times in the WSB championship where locals have made it to the podium more than once.
This weekend, two very fast “locals” will race in the Laguna Seca MotoGP contest. They not only know the track like the back of their hand, they will be on full factory machinery, not “satellite” or “privateer” bikes. Ben Spies (Suzuki) and Jamie Hacking (Kawasaki) have the potential to surprise some of the MotoGP regulars.
Spies, of course, has already raced the Suzuki at Donington Park earlier this year where he qualified well, but finished near the back during the race. Donington was completely unfamiliar to him, however, and he now has much more seat time on the MotoGP weapon he will use this weekend. Hacking, meanwhile, has not raced the Kawasaki MotoGP bike, but has tested it in Japan where he lapped very quickly at the Autopolis circuit (reportedly breaking the lap record). As AMA Superbike regulars, Spies and Hacking will have the added advantage of taking additional laps while practicing, qualifying and racing their superbikes.
Could either of these guys make the podium at Laguna Seca? It isn’t likely, of course, but it would not be surprising to see at least one of these riders finish in the top ten.