WSBK Laguna Seca race results: Rea is not human

By | July 11, 2016

Jonathan Rea recently signed for another 2 years with Kawasaki to race in the WSBK. I think that was a mistake. It’s like the topper of a class choosing to repeat a year, he’s too far ahead of everyone else in WSBK, it’s time he tested himself against the MotoGP competition.

Of course that’s easier said than done, things being far more complicated than just picking up your bag and walking into a different office.

Tom Sykes took a surprising pole from Rea in the last minutes of Superpole 2, who was followed by the two factory Ducatis. The 2 Hondas, like the Yamahas, looked pretty quick through the free practice sessions, but couldn’t convert it into competitive qualifying times.

WSBK Laguna Seca: Race 1

As always, the Race 1 began with Rea making one hell of a start, but Sykes soon took over, chased by Davies. The top three in the championship soon opened up a gap to Giugliano, who was fending off a strong Nicky Hayden. Davies looked like the quicker of the 3, but the Kawasakis always looked much more comfortable than the Ducati.

Lap 5 saw Davies finally take a lunge up Sykes, that upset his Kawasaki enough to let Rea through as well, but ended with the Ducati flying off the track, crashing any hopes of championship revival for the British racer, if there were any to begin with. The Ducatis seem to able to keep up with the Kawasakis, but not comfortably, and every time they push too hard, something goes terribly wrong.

Rea then started building up on a lead, overcooked the entry into the corkscrew, but still came out ahead Sykes. This is one of the reasons why I feel Rea has grown above the WSBK level, he has in the past races as well made monumental errors, with no discernible effects on his results.

A few seconds behind the top three, Hayden was trying hard to get a podium at his home race, fighting off Lowes, Savadori, and van der Mark.

Lap 13 proved to be rather unlucky for Guigliano, who crashed out at the exact same corner that his teammate had. The Italian’s crash meant that Hayden’s patience was paying off, and he found himself in a 4-way fight for the bottom end of the podium. At the front, the domination of the Kawas was rather too obvious now, with the 2 green machines flying 8 seconds away from the chasing pack.

Lap 17 saw Rea again make the same mistake into the corkscrew, which allowed Sykes to take over the lead. Sykes has taken a lot of criticism lately over his apparent display of unnecessary “honour” on the track. In many of the past races, he has followed Rea lap after lap, never making a single move against his opponent. When he is overtaken eventually, he rarely fights back.

Of course it’s easy to tell him what to do sitting a few thousand miles away, but clearly this criticism isn’t without merit. Turn 3 of the Laguna Seca seems to be a particular soft spot for Sykes, a place where people repeatedly overtook him over the course of the weekend, without any effort from the Brit to plug this chink in his armour. Rea soon took him there, and then used the remainder of his tire to fly away to glory.

Behind them, Hayden raced spectacularly to fend off the 3 attackers. The fact that he probably knows more about this track than any of his rivals came to his help, but he certainly had to call upon his entire racing experience to make sure he was able to carry the American flag around the circuit after it was all said and done.

Hayden’s teammate also did a brilliant job of keeping away Savadori and Lowes, making some breathtaking overtaking moves while clinching closer to the podium spot. In the last corner on the last lap, he made a rather optimistic move up Hayden, almost taking both out, ran wide, and finished behind the American.

Here are the top 10 from Race 1.

Pos No. Rider Bike Gap Best Lap Speed
1 1 J. REA Kawasaki ZX-10R 1’23.525 259,5 1’22.210 259,5
2 66 T. SYKES Kawasaki ZX-10R 0.819 1’23.526 257,0 1’22.155 257,6
3 69 N. HAYDEN Honda CBR1000RR SP 12.296 1’23.832 256,4 1’22.988 255,2
4 60 M. VAN DER MARK Honda CBR1000RR SP 13.067 1’24.247 254,6 1’23.455 251,0
5 22 A. LOWES Yamaha YZF R1 13.335 1’23.854 256,4 1’23.116 253,4
6 32 L. SAVADORI Aprilia RSV4 RF 13.816 1’23.990 253,4 1’23.096 246,9
7 12 X. FORÉS Ducati Panigale R 15.541 1’24.144 244,7 1’22.979 246,9
8 81 J. TORRES BMW S1000 RR 15.838 1’24.598 252,8 1’23.085 251,0
9 15 A. DE ANGELIS Aprilia RSV4 RF 19.999 1’24.537 254,6 1’23.661 252,8
10 59 N. CANEPA Yamaha YZF R1 22.832 1’24.800 251,6 1’23.098 251,0

WSBK Laguna Seca: Race 2

Race 2 started rather uncharacteristically for Rea, with him almost jumping the start along with a few others in what seemed to be a glitch with the red lights. Even with that botched start, he soon bounced back into 3rd, chasing Sykes and Guigliano.

But by far the most spectacular moment of the weekend was van der Mark flying through the entry into corkscrew, nearly taking out Lowes and his Yamaha, but somehow managing to put down his Honda safely before the air fence and rejoin the race. If he hadn’t been so lucky, this is what the carnage would’ve looked like.

He was rather lucky though, as Szkopek’s toe-breaking crash on lap 3 led the race to be red flagged, and gave him time to gather his wits and put on some clean underwear. The restarted race positions were based on lap 4, with 21 laps to find out another winner.

The restart saw Sykes take the lead, only to be pushed out by Guigliano, which further led to Rea getting overtaken by Hayden rather aggressively. The Brit answered in kind to the American, overtaking him in the dreaded corkscrew in an even more aggressive fashion.

Soon the chasing Rea, probably inspired on the success of that insane move on Hayden, made a similar one on Sykes, and ended up overtaking both him and Guigliano in what can only be described as a superhuman feat of survival. The madness of the overtake meant that Sykes did manage to move ahead of Rea for a while, but was reined back quickly.

On Lap 5, Rea ran off into the gravel in what looked like missed braking. He did well to not crash out, and rejoined back at 10th, only to retire a few corners later with gearbox issues. The mysterious false neutral gremlins in his Kawasaki seem to have taken a toll this time.

Fores confidently overtook Hayden for 4th, but there was no way he could claw back the gap to the leading trio. van der Mark, who had made a very impressive restart from the back of the grid, overtook Lowes to get into 9th spot.

Lap 17 saw Davies try and fight his teammate for the second step of the podium, squeezing under Guigliano in what could only be very scare moments for the Ducati garage. Both the Ducatis scrapped viciously, exchanging spots turn by turn, but never losing sight of Sykes. Even though the Ducatis looked set to pip the Kawasaki to the top spot, Syke’s late braking style came to his rescue, and helped him win the race 2 from Guigliano, who missed out once again on his maiden WSBK win.

At the back, Fores came up in front of Hayden, behind whom the 2 Yamahas almost took each other out in the last corner, when an overzealous Lowes tried to overtake Canepa and came in far too hot, tucking the front in. He remounted to finish 14th, just ahead of Sulaiti, who became the first Qatari to ever score points in WSBK.

Here are the top ten from Race 2:

Pos No. Rider Bike Gap Best Lap Speed
1 66 T. SYKES Kawasaki ZX-10R 1’23.552 256,4 1’22.155 257,6
2 34 D. GIUGLIANO Ducati Panigale R 0.209 1’23.733 255,8 1’22.479 257,6
3 7 C. DAVIES Ducati Panigale R 0.786 1’23.837 257,0 1’22.696 255,8
4 12 X. FORÉS Ducati Panigale R 11.379 1’24.104 249,8 1’22.979 246,9
5 69 N. HAYDEN Honda CBR1000RR SP 12.219 1’24.196 255,8 1’22.988 255,2
6 81 J. TORRES BMW S1000 RR 12.465 1’24.171 254,6 1’23.085 251,0
7 60 M. VAN DER MARK Honda CBR1000RR SP 13.705 1’24.376 255,8 1’23.455 251,0
8 59 N. CANEPA Yamaha YZF R1 20.449 1’24.247 256,4 1’23.098 251,0
9 13 A. WEST Kawasaki ZX-10R 29.153 1’24.855 251,0 1’24.128 247,5
10 40 R. RAMOS Kawasaki ZX-10R 33.013 1’25.010 249,8 1’24.788 245,8

Here’s what the championship looks like after Laguna Seca.

  1. Rea – 368 points
  2. Sykes – 322 points
  3. Davies – 260 points