World Superbike Laguna Seca Race Two Report

Sykes victorious while two Ducs round out the podium

World Superbike podium
The podium was a mixture of red and green on Sunday at Laguna Seca, this time with a little more red than green.Ducati

This race was red-flagged for Szkopek’s crash, then restarted as 21 laps.

This was a very different contest from yesterday's because the crews of the two fast Ducatis made changes that allowed their tires to survive. Davide Giugliano bested the two Kawasakis of Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes to lead, pulling out nearly 4/10 of a second on Sykes at the end of lap 1. Then Sykes and Rea crowded past him in mid-Corkscrew on lap 4. But fate, pulling cards from this freshly-reshuffled deck, saw Rea run off in turn 9, rejoining in 10th place.

Sykes now looked ready for a contest of tire attrition with the Ducatis, with a lead of a half-second over Giugliano, and Nicky Hayden now 3rd, but 1.5 seconds back.

Jonathan Rea at Laguna Seca, 2016.
After winning on Saturday, Jonathan Rea was ran wide in race 2, at turn 9, and later retired from the race.WorldSuperbike.com

Rea now stopped and got off to look at one side of his bike. He would be credited with 12 laps at the end.

Would Sykes now leave the Ducs to wrestle with emerging tire fatigue? No such thing! In fact, the farthest ahead he would get was the +.659 second he had over Giugliano on lap 8, when Davies, on the other Ducati, was almost 1.8-seconds back. Gradually, gradually Giugliano ground away Sykes’s lead, and by lap 16 Davies had halved his distance from the leader. A lap later, Davies took 2nd but was quickly repassed by Giugliano. The Ducatis now looked like they were working very hard (my notes here say “Shake, rattle, and roll!”) but neither of them slowed.

World Superbike racing at Laguna Seca, 2016.
The Ducati and Kawasaki boys went at it all weekend long.Ducati

With the two Ducs right at his back, Sykes bore down, made no mistakes, and kept his tiny lead to the flag. It had looked as if at any second one of the Ducatis would make a sudden pass attempt.

Funny thing about passing. Earlier, in MotoAmerica Superbike Race 1, Toni Elias had launched more than one pass attempt but each time had run wide, allowing his opponent to re-pass by coming underneath him. This suggests there are two basically different kinds of pass;

  1. A routine pass by a rider with the faster pace to make the pass stick
  2. An "empty pass" by a rider whose pace is the same as that of the leader. This often fails because the extra demands imposed by making the pass slow the rider making it, causing the pass to fail.

In the case of today’s ten laps of nail-biting closeness of the Ducatis to Sykes (Here it comes!), neither rider on the Italian brand had enough to spare, so the pass never came. Sykes kept his head – and his lead.

Laguna Seca 2016
...delivered, as it always does.Ducati

Have a look at the World Superbike site and the race results there. In most events this year, you’re either in the lead group and within a second or two of the leader, or you are 10-12 seconds back – or a lot more than that. Sanctioning bodies are always very concerned over “grid shrinkage”, and from time to time they resort to gridding riders whose times suggest they’d do better in a less competitive class. There are about ten of these in World Supers at the moment.

The finish order was Sykes, Giugliano, Davies, Xavi Fores (also on Ducati), and Nicky Hayden. As yesterday, Hayden was 12 seconds back, or roughly half a second per lap. When I spoke with Ronald Ten Kate, whose team prepares the Honda Hayden rides, he said, "We have cut our distance from the front in half so far." (In some previous races this year the gap has indeed been ~ 24 seconds, so there's hope!) Ten Kate also said, "We are approaching the limits of the design", but a revised CBR1000RR is expected next year.