World Superbike preview: Laguna Seca 2016 and British Superbikes at Snetterton

World Superbike Championship leader Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) heads the field last time out at Misano June 2016
World Superbike Championship leader Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) heads the field last time out at Misano Credit: Getty Images

There’s a feast of Superbike action this weekend, with round nine of the World Superbike Championship taking place at Laguna Seca, California, and round five of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship at the somewhat less glamorous Snetterton in Norfolk, writes Ian Marsden.

The two circuits could not be more different in character. Snetterton is typical of a circuit that has evolved from being a Second World War RAF airbase, with little change in elevation. Laguna Seca couldn’t be more different and is typified by the infamous Corkscrew, where the circuit tumbles by 59ft in only 450ft of track.

Heading into the weekend’s action, Kawasaki leads both championships, with Jonathan Rea to the fore in the World series and Leon Haslam the British.

There the similarities end. Rea leads the World championship by 63 points, while Haslam holds a more slender lead of just 13 points.

Rea was a double winner at the last WSB round in Misano, coming after his longest winless run of the past two years; six races. At last year’s Laguna round Rea had to settle for two third-place finishes, with his team-mate Tom Sykes enjoying two second places and Ducati rider Chaz Davies taking both race wins.

This weekend will see Nicky Hayden racing his Honda Fireblade at Laguna Seca for the first time. It is a circuit Hayden knows well, and has a history of performing well at, with two MotoGP victories. It is also the track where he took his first win in AMA Superbike.

Expectation is undoubtedly high with the home fans, with Hayden commenting “everybody is expecting miracles”. However, history may be on Hayden’s side; Americans have enjoyed seven wins at the circuit, a total bettered only by Australia with nine wins.

British riders though have won the last three races at the circuit and the form book definitely points towards another British winner this weekend.

Four riders are tied for the highest number of wins at Laguna Seca: John Kocinski, Anthony Gobert, Troy Corser and Ben Bostrom, with three race wins each. With Tom Sykes and Chaz Davies both on two wins, the pair have a good chance of equalling or even bettering that tally this weekend.

Jonathan Rea has now led the championship for 40 races – one less than Troy Bayliss, who set the current record of 41 races in 2001-2002. Rea is currently eight wins ahead of the great Carl Fogarty’s total set in 1994-1995.

World Superbike Championship standings

1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) 293 points

2. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 237

3. Chaz Davies (Ducati) 231

4. Davide Giugliano (Ducati) 147

5. Michael van der Mark (Honda) 136 

6. Nicky Hayden (Honda) 136

Honda is hoping to be able to mix it with the Kawasakis and BMWs as the British Superbike Championship 2016 visits Snetterton
MCE British Superbike Championship

In the MCE British Superbike championship, after eight races there is no clear leader. Haslam leads Ducati’s Shane Byrne by 13 points having won three races this season to Byrne’s two.

The last round at Knockhill epitomised the 2016 season so far, with Haslam winning race one, then only managing sixth in race two. Similarly, Byrne finished race two as victor after crashing in race one. No one rider has shown the levels of consistency needed to create a commanding lead at the head of the championship. By this point last year eventual champion Josh Brookes, while not having won a race, had had six consecutive podium finishes, and seven in total from eight starts.

This weekend is difficult to call, Byrne has been dominant at the circuit in recent seasons, however that was on board a Kawasaki. Though current front-runner Haslam is Kawasaki-mounted he has never raced on the current ‘300’ circuit. He did though set impressive times at the recent test there, which was his first taste of the current layout.

One rider looking for an upturn in form is Haslam’s team-mate James Ellison, who to date has endured a disappointing season. He currently finds himself in fifth place in the championship, 39 points behind Haslam.

If he is to improve his position in the championship he will need better luck than last year, when a practice crash ruled him out of the races, effectively ending any hopes he had of the championship.

British Superbike Championship standings

1. ​Leon Haslam ​​(JG Speedfit Kawasaki) ​128 points

2​. Shane Byrne ​​(Be Wiser Ducati) ​115

3. Christian Iddon ​(Tyco BMW) ​​94

4. ​Richard Cooper ​(Buildbase BMW​) 93

5. ​James Ellison ​​(JG Speedfit Kawasaki​) 89

6. Jason O’Halloran ​(Honda Racing) ​​80

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