Discovering The San Juan Villicum WorldSBK Track With Eugene Laverty

The Circuit San Juan Villicum has surprised everyone in the WorldSBK paddock this weekend. With the Andes Mountain range offering one of the most picturesque backgrounds in all of racing, this brand new facility has instantly added a unique circuit to the championship.

The 4.2km circuit has received positive feedback from the riders and teams, and Milwaukee Aprilia's Eugene Laverty offered us his perspective of the track.

“I think that they've done a really nice job with this track and I've been quite impressed with it,” said the Irishman. “It took a day to rubber the track in, but in FP4 it has really started to offer more grip and we could start to push on. Over the start finish line we're able to hold fourth over the start finish straight, it's a bit too slow an exit from the final corner with low RPM to need fifth gear for us, but we're back to first for turn one.

“There's a steep descent into this corner, like at Portimao, and it's tricky going into that corner, but coming around Turn 2 it opens up and we're into second and then through the kink we'll hold second gear even though some riders are able to get into third for it. It's really nice through the faster section as you take third and fourth gear through the sweeping corners, and it's similar to Misano into Turn 6 and 7.”

Passing spot

Turns 7 looks to be one of the potential overtaking spots of the lap. With few corners where you can truly attack the rider in front, expect to see action onto the back straight.

“Turn 7 is like the Tramonto at Misano in reverse. It opens up, it's so nice through there, and then you just bury yourself down the back straight. There's a slight incline on the straight and with the altitude you lose you some power and top speed. I expected it to be closer to 200mph rather than the 190 or so that it is.”

At the end of the back straight the riders have to attack Turn 8, an open left hander that precedes a tight hairpin.

“Into the kink of Turn 8 it's very difficult to spot your braking marker in the afternoon, at the time of the race, because the sun is falling, and it's very tough to see with the glare into that corner with the sun setting. You're back to second through the kink, Lorenzo is actually in third, because I like to use as much engine braking as possible and let the engine sing into that corner.

“It's tough through there because you have to run through the corner, because you don't have to think as much about setting up the exit of the next corner for acceleration. It's a risk, though, because if you carry too much speed you run wide over the kerbs. The exit of Turn 9 is perfect for our bike because the Aprilia is really good when you're getting on the gas at an angle, and you just punch your way through the exit for fourth gear on the straight.”

Last chance

Turn 10 is the last real overtaking opportunity of the lap, after this you'll need to rely on a mistake in the Esses or an aggressive move at the final corners.

“Down into Turn 10 you go back to first gear. It was tough on the first day, but as its rubbered in we've gotten stronger. The Aprilia needs rear grip to slow down and yesterday there was none, but today with rubber down I'm braking later and later into that corner. The next section reminds me of Russia and I'll hold second all the way through here. Some riders, Toprak for example, is back to first to get the bike to stop, but I like to flow through this section.

“There's a lot of lines through this section into Turn 12 because some riders use the kerb on the entry, but you need so much confidence in the bike because you'd have to pick the bike up off the kerbs. The key is to hold momentum through this section because it's kerb to kerb, and you carry that speed all the way down to the final corner.

“Into the last corner I was struggling yesterday because it was so dirty, but now that I'm attacking it I love it. It's so aggressive because you use all the road on the entry and hook it into the corner. You brake deep in second gear through there and as the grip improves we're all a lot more aggressive. It's good fun into it but it's so slow coming out of the last corner with the low RPM.”

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Thanks Steve that helps a bit with getting my head around the new circuit. Some of what Eugene says takes a bit to understand, I think it is worth reading.