Marco Melandri posted the quickest lap time during the opening day of practice for Round 12 of the Superbike World Championship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Chasing a setting sun in the second qualifying session, the BMW rider topped the thumping Ducati of Niccolo Canepa (stand-in for Carlos Checa, who fractured his pelvis in Turkey) by .163 seconds.
Series points-leader Tom Sykes (Kawasaki), Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia), and Chaz Davies (BMW) completed the leading five with the top 12 riders within one second of each other. Melandri and Sykes posted identical highest top speeds: 155.6 mph. Shaping up this season as a continuation of last year’s shootout between Kawasaki and Aprilia, the series is returning to the 11-turn, 2.243-mile California track for the first time since 2004.
Laguna wildcards Danny Eslick and Roger Hayden looked promising on their AMA Pro SuperBike-spec Jordan Suzukis, having posted the fourth- and third-quickest times, respectively, in morning practice. But the pair slipped to eighth and ninth in the first qualifying session and ended the day sixth and 14th. Fellow American Blake Young, riding a Fixi Crescent Suzuki in place of the injured Leon Camier, was 17th.
Three-time AMA SuperBike Champion Josh Hayes led every AMA session and earned provisional pole for the class with a best lap of 1:24.249—quicker than all but two World Superbike riders, Melandri and Canepa. When you consider how restricted AMA SuperBikes are compared with their European counterparts, Hayes’ time is extremely respectable.
In Daytona SportBike, newly crowned class champion Cameron Beaubier was quickest, trailed by his Graves Yamaha teammate, Garrett Gerloff. Steve Rapp earned provisional pole in the Harley-Davidson XR1200 class. AMA Pro Road Racing is wrapping up its eight-round season this weekend.