Miller Motorsports Park, Utah, USA

2009 World Superbikes Miller FP1 Result - Kagayama Tops Very Close Field

Yukio Kagayama topped the first session of free practice for the World Superbike class at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah, taking the top spot from Carlos Checa with a minute to go. Checa had led for the second half of the session, taking over from Ben Spies, who had made the early running. Troy Corser put in a last minute effort to take 2nd spot, forcing Checa down to 3rd and leaving Spies in 4th.

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2009 Miller Motorsports Park World Superbike And World Supersport Preview

Both MotoGP and World Superbikes are in action this weekend, and both in spectacular locations. While Mugello nestles in a valley tucked tightly between the Tuscan hills, Miller Motorsports Park, not far from Salt Lake City, Utah, sits on a plain, surrounded by a ring of mountains, all part of the mighty Rocky Mountains, the barrier that splits the American continent in two. That spectacular location also has a downside: Like Kyalami, Miller is several thousand feet above sea level, and the lack of oxygen leaves both bikes and riders gasping for breath.

For Ben Spies, the US round of the World Superbikes at Miller Motorsports Park will be a breath of fresh, if somewhat thin, air. So far this season, every track the series has visited has been a relative unknown for the American rookie having at best tested there, at worst never seen the track before in his life. For the first time this year, Spies will have the psychological advantage of being both at a track he is familiar with and a race in his home country.

Spies will be hoping to exploit this advantage as much as possible. Though much of the public focus may be on breaking Doug Polen's impressive streak of 6 poles in a row, which Spies matched in South Africa two weeks ago, for Spies, there's only one thing that counts, and that's getting points back from the runaway series leader Noriyuki Haga. Spies' 88 point deficit is partly his own fault, and partly the fault of the Yamaha team, the Texan crashing out at Valencia and Assen, but technical problems robbing Spies of potential victory at both Monza and Kyalami. If Spies is to keep his title hopes alive - and an 88 point deficit is a big gap - he can no longer afford to suffer those kinds of mistakes. Spies really needs a double at Miller this weekend.

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Melissa Paris - Not The First Woman In Supersport, And Likely Not The Last

At Miller Motorsports Park this weekend, one wildcard rider will be receiving a good deal of attention, more perhaps than is warranted by her results alone. The key word there, and the reason for all the attention, is "her". For Melissa Paris will be making her debut in the World Supersport class, becoming one of a small number of women riders to have raced in international competition.

The team press release trumpeted the news that Paris will be the first female rider to have raced in the World Supersport Championship, a fact that was repeated unquestioningly by a large number of racing sites who ought to know better. Though technically they are correct, Paris won't be the first woman to race in the World Supersport class. In 1998, the year before the World Supersport Series became the World Supersport Championship, a matter mostly of nomenclature, the German racer Katja Poensgen raced as a wildcard at the Nurburgring in the World Supersport race, finishing a respectable 20th, and ahead of 16 other entrants in the class. Poensgen, now a TV presenter with German sports channel DSF, later went on to have two years in the 250 class, one with Shell Advance and Dark Dog in 2001, then a disastrous year aboard a severely underpowered Molenaar Racing Honda in 2003, in which she and her team mate alternated at the rear of the grid.

But Poensgen is not the only woman to have raced internationally: Dutchwoman Iris ten Katen just retired as European Women's champion at the end of last season, and after some respectable results in the Dutch Open Championship; Alessia Polita contested the European Superstock 600 championship, the entry class for World Supersport, scoring points in a large field; Maria Costello competes regularly in the International Road Racing series, racing on public roads in Ireland and the Isle of Man; And just two weeks ago, the 18-year-old Frenchwoman Ornella Ongaro entered the French 125cc Grand Prix as a wildcard.

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Lanzi To Replace Laconi At Miller WSBK Round

More news of replacements at the US round of World Superbikes at Miller Motorsports Park. After Regis Laconi's horrific crash at Kyalami, an incident in which the charismatic Frenchman fractured two vertebrae and leaves him likely to be out of racing for remainder of the season, speculation naturally turned to who would replace Laconi at subsequent races.

With a host of talented riders currently available due to a dearth of sponsorship, forcing teams to pull out of already signed deals, the list of possible replacements for Laconi is long. The two prime candidates for the ride are former BSB champion Gregorio Lavilla, who filled in for the injured Brendan Roberts at Kyalami, and the Italian Lorenzo Lanzi, who was scheduled to race a KTM for Stefano Caracchi in the Italian Superbike championship, but withdrew after Lanzi claimed he was close to securing a ride in World Superbikes.

It now looks like Lanzi will be getting the ride. According to GPOne.com, DFX Corse manager Daniele Carli told the Italian TV program "Paddock, Uomini e Corse" (Paddock, Men And Racing) that he was already engaged in contract talks with Lanzi to take Laconi's place. Lanzi is very familiar with the Ducati 1098R, having raced one for the R.G. team last year in World Superbikes.

This does not mean that Gregorio Lavilla is definitely out of World Superbikes, however. Rumors have been growing that Guandalini Racing want to drop their current second rider Brendan Roberts, the reigning Superstock 1000 champion having difficulties adapting to the World Superbike spec version of the bike he won his title on last year. According to the paddock gossips, Lavilla is still very much in the frame for Roberts' ride.

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Hacking, Zemke And Paris To Race At Utah World Superbike Round

As MotoGPMatters.com revealed last week, Jamie Hacking has been confirmed as Makoto Tamada's replacement at PBM Kawasaki for the US round of World Superbikes at Miller Motorsports Park, Utah. The American - born in Oswaldtwistle, in the north of England - has seen action in the World Superbike series before, running as a wildcard in 1998 and 1999 at Laguna Seca, his best result a 7th place finish. However, Hacking has been one of the few riders in the world to make the Kawasaki ZX-10R truly competitive in Superbike racing, and Miller is a track where Hacking has an outstanding record. Hacking has a tough act to follow, after South African Sheridan Morais scored a 13th and 11th place finish in his World Superbike debut in Kyalami, and beating his team mate Broc Parkes.

Hacking won't be the only AMA rider acting as a replacement, as Jake Zemke has been called up to sub for John Hopkins. Hopper's recovery from the horrific crash at Assen - the second year in succession he's been savaged by the Dutch track - is proceeding well, but it is far too early for the American to start racing again. As a consequence, American veteran Zemke will be riding Hopkins' Stiggy Racing Honda. Zemke is currently riding a Honda CBR600RR in the AMA Daytona Sportbike class, and is the reigning champion in the now defunct AMA Formula Xtreme championship. Zemke raced a Honda CBR1000RR in AMA Superbikes from 2004 to 2007 with American Honda.

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Jamie Hacking To Replace Makoto Tamada At Miller WSBK Round

The World Superbike paddock has been welcoming an increasing number of Americans this year, with several riders following where Ben Spies has led. John Hopkins ousted Roby Rolfo at Stiggy Honda earlier this year, and after Hopper suffered a serious leg injury for the second year running at Assen, he was replaced by another American, Jake Zemke at Monza.

After the first corner pile up at Monza took out Brendan Roberts, Troy Corser, Max Neukirchner and Makoto Tamada, the need for replacement riders has become pressing, and yet more opportunities are being opened to American riders, especially with the US round of World Superbikes due to take place at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah two weeks from now. Jake Zemke looks to be almost certain to take the place of John Hopkins again, Zemke only missing from Kyalami because of a calendar clash with the AMA at Infineon Raceway this weekend.

Zemke and WSBK regular Ben Spies are to be joined by another American at Miller Motorsports Park: According to sources close to the PBM Kawasaki team, Jamie Hacking will replace Makoto Tamada in Utah, as the Japanese rider is still recovering from having a metal plate inserted in his hand after sustaining a wrist fracture at Monza. Hacking already has international experience, having replaced John Hopkins at Kawasaki during the 2008 USGP at Laguna Seca. More significantly, he is one of the very few riders on the planet capable of making the Kawasaki ZX-10R competitive, having campaigned it with relative success against Mat Mladin and Ben Spies in AMA Superbike last year. Elsewhere, the bike has had huge problems just scoring points, completely outclassed by the other bikes from both Japan and Italy.

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