Notes from Portimao from our man on the ground:
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Notes on WorldSBK race 1 from our man on the ground at Portimao:
After the tragic death of Nicky Hayden, the Red Bull Honda team has struggled to fill the American's place in their WorldSBK team. Jake Gagne filled in at Laguna Seca, putting an American on the bike at the US round. Davide Giugliano had a modest outing on the Honda CBR1000RR at the Lausitzring, but he was not the long-term solution for the Ten Kate squad either.
The first round after the summer break is always one that fans and paddock personnel get excited about. But the German round of the WorldSBK calendar hasn't captured the imagination, because of its remote setting and, for the riders, the bumpy track surface.
With Jonathan Rea easing his way towards the history books as the first rider to win the championship three years in a row, there was a feeling from some quarters that it was merely a matter of marking time rather than making a mark. That being so, once the weekend got underway it did throw up plenty of excitement in what appears to the final race at the Lausitzring.
Notes on the second WorldSBK race of the weekend from our man on the ground at Lausitzring:
Notes from the first WorldSBK race in Germany from our man on the ground:
The Aruba.it Ducati team has signed Marco Melandri for a second season. The factory-backed Ducati World Superbike squad has extended Melandri's contract through 2018, and the Italian will once again line up alongside Chaz Davies next season.
Yamaha today confirmed their rider line-up for 2018 with Alex Lowes re-signed to the Japanese manufacturer.
Despite having consistently being the man most likely to break the Kawasaki and Ducati monopoly Lowes' future had been uncertain until his Suzuka 8 Hours success. Having stood on the WorldSBK rostrum twice for Yamaha this year it had looked like a foregone conclusion that a new contract would be signed, sealed and delivered early in the summer. As it was patience was key for Lowes but in the end he got the deal that he had been chasing.
It looks set to be a quieter year on the rider market for WorldSBK with the leading seats already filled for 2018 but there will still be some significant deals announced in the coming weeks and months.
Jonathan Rea, Tom Sykes, Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri are all secure in their seats for next year but Sykes had been linked with a move away from Kawasaki earlier this summer. Prior to winning two races before the summer break the 2013 World Champion had been touted as a potential target of Yamaha but with wins in the bag it looks highly unlikely that he will make a switch.
For Ducati there is little reason to change their status quo and the only change in their ranks could be the addition of a second bike to the Barni squad. The Italian entry has thrived with Xavi Fores in the last year and came close to adding a second machine for this year. If there is a fourth Ducati on the grid it will likely have a rider bringing money to the table for Barni.
After Laguna Seca the future of WorldSBK was once again questioned. Asking the right question may be more important than finding the right answer immediately
“I've said it before and I'll say it again, democracy simply doesn't work,” so said this intrepid reporter when faced with reports that Bart's Comet would bring destruction to Springfield. It was a time of uncertainty and peril for America's greatest city but one from which it recovered by maintaining the status-quo.
While the WorldSBK paddock isn't standing on Mount Springfield singing Que Sera Sera and waiting for the comet to hit, it is facing a moment of truth about where the series is heading. It's always easier to swim with the tide but for WorldSBK patience and thoroughness are more important than being swift and decisive in making the wrong decision.
Since Imola the paddock WorldSBK has been filled with rumor and counter rumor about the direction that the series will take. Will there be a spec ECU? Will there be concessions for different manufacturers? Will there be testing restrictions placed on the successful teams? The list of possibilities has been the talk of the paddock with Dorna's Carmelo Ezpeleta even suggesting making the series into a Stock class, but what is actually best for WorldSBK?
Notes from our correspondent on the second WorldSBK race at Laguna Seca:
A few notes on the first World Superbike race at Laguna Seca:
There are not many circuits in the world like the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The Californian circuit offers a unique challenge in WorldSBK.
Led Zeppelin sang about Going to California and said, “I'll meet you up there where the path runs high. Standing on a hill in my mountain of dreams, telling myself it's not as hard, hard, hard as it seems.” Unfortunately for the riders in WorldSBK when you stand at the top of the mountain at Laguna Seca the challenge facing riders who dream of a win truly is as hard as it seems. This highly technical race track demands precision, consistency, imagination and above all else experience.
Coming across the line riders will take a variety of lines and gears that are defined by their bike setup. In WorldSBK gear ratios are fixed for the season and as a result we see a lot of variety at Laguna Seca. Some riders will be forced to use six gears, whereas others will use only five around the 3.6km track. With the track snaking it's way throughout the Monterey hills around a lake, it offers a little bit of everything.
The Misano round of WorldSBK was dominated by talk of tires. As such, following a weekend fraught with failures, Pirelli will revert to an older specification of tire for the Laguna Seca round. The move sees Pirelli at a crossroads, after a series of high profile incidents during the scorching weekend in Italy.
This includes Michael van der Mark's crash from the lead of Saturday's race, after a tire failure saw the Dutch rider robbed of his chance to claim his first podium for Yamaha. One has to remember too, Jonathan Rea also crashed out of the lead at the previous round in Donington Park, as it was a shock to see the previously robust Pirelli fail once again.
"Johnny was using the V0602 tire, which is a development SC0, but Van der Mark was a standard SC0 tire," said Pirelli's Communication Manager, Matteo Giusti.
"The standard has been available for more than one year and has been used many times. They were two different tires and two different problems with different damage to them.Johnny had a tear in his tire that was about 10cm along the side of the tire whereas Michael had a small hole in the surface. With Mickey's tire you can put your finger through the tire but we are not sure what happened to cause this on the tire."
Pirelli separates its tires by their family of compound. In the case of the tires that suffered the issues, they were the SC0 compound. Within those tires, things get divided further, as there are 'standard' and 'development' tires within the family.
Notes on the second World Superbike race at Misano: