News 27 May 2009

WSBK: Winning memories inspire Honda riders for Miller

Honda Racing PR:

Last year Miller Motorsports Park hosted its first ever World Superbike Championship event, taking this particular class of racing back to the USA for the first time since Laguna Seca in 2004. It was a particularly fruitful visit for Carlos Checa (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR), who took not just his breakthrough first win in WSB racing, but followed it up a few hours later with his second race victory, an outstanding double that provided an impetus to all the Honda riders for the rest of the season.

Checa is back in the same colours as last year, and ready for more success in America, but his 2008 wins are still a positive thought for all the supported Honda riders in WSB racing to hold onto as the championship reaches the half-way stage this coming weekend.

Miller Motorsports Park lies in the high desert floor close to the former Winter Olympics centre of Salt Lake City, and has a number of possible layouts, in addition to the 4.907km version used by the Superbike series.

The seventh round of the World Supersport Championship will be the first ever WSS race at Miller, but the fact that this track is new to almost all-comers is hardly likely to dent the competitive spirit of Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar Honda CBR600RR), who is only 13 points from the championship lead. He has won three races this year, and has already conquered a couple of circuit layouts that were new to him in his first full-time WSS season.

Laverty is the top Honda rider in the WSS division, second, but the highest-ranked Honda rider in Superbike is fourth-placed Leon Haslam (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR1000RR) – although a first podium finish for Jonathan Rea (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) at the previous Kyalami round has brought him closer to Haslam in the overall standings. Leon has 116 points and Rea 106, with Checa tenth, on 73.

Ryuichi Kiyonari (Ten Kate Racing Honda CBR1000RR) has had an up-and-down season so far but like Haslam and Rea, he has already been on the podium and now sits only a single point behind Checa.

Tommy Hill (Honda Althea CBR1000RR) is set to push himself and his team to greater heights in the search for a consistent and repeatable race set-up, which has prevented him from scoring in recent rounds, despite a bright start to his 2009 rookie season in WSB.

Local rider Jake Zemke (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR1000RR) will once more substitute for regular WSB rider John Hopkins, as ‘Hopper’ recuperates from the broken and dislocated hip he suffered at the Assen WSB race.

The only top WSS rider to have raced at Miller before is former WSB rider, Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR), currently third in the standings, 19 points ahead of Andrew Pitt (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR).

Mark Aitchison (Honda Althea CBR600RR) pushed his way to a podium finish for the first time at the previous round, while his fellow Australian Anthony West (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR600RR) once more struggled to meet the same kind of form he has shown in this class in the early rounds of 2009.

Matthieu Lagrive (Honda Althea CBR600RR), Gianluca Vizziello (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR600RR) and Miguel Praia (Parkalgar Honda CBR600RR) are all looking to set this 2009 personal best finishes this weekend, as none was satisfied with their recent rides at Kyalami. For Lagrive that would mean a fifth place finish or better, as he has taken two sixth places already, one in Qatar and one in Valencia.

Miller is the last of four long-haul championship rounds this year and the Misano circuit on the Adriatic Riviera of Italy will be the next port of call, between June 19 and June 21.

WSB Rider Quotes

Leon Haslam said: “The Miller track will be a new track to us, but I am confident we can get the bikes ready quickly enough, without having to play catch-up with the other teams that much. We have been successfully developing the bike and get ideas on how to improve it in every round, so it will be interesting to see what we can do at Miller. I hope I can qualify well, like I did in South-Africa, and take an even better result in the races.”

Jonathan Rea said: “I’m really looking forward to this trip; there’s something about going to a new circuit that gets me really motivated. There are no negative thoughts to take with me to Miller. In fact, after Carlos’s double win there last year, it’s only positive. I’ll do a couple of laps with the team and try to pick up some tips from local riders. We’ve being doing pretty well in the last five races and I think the whole crew deserved that podium at Kyalami – but we’re here for more than that. I feel that it’s time to step up to the plate in the second half of the season and keep up the momentum we’ve found since Valencia.”

Carlos Checa said: “We’ve had a few problems this season – it started with a shoulder injury and there have been some small issues with the bike.
However, we approach the halfway point of the season and we bring some positives from Kyalami to Miller. Of course, Miller was good last year but I prefer to look forward and the circuit should allow us to put the CBR near the front again. I like left-handed tracks and we have some good data from last year. The Ducatis will be strong and so will Ben Spies, but I think we should be in a good position too, and we will be going for a good result.”

Ryuichi Kiyonari said: “After the two podium finishes at Monza, it was very difficult to race at Kyalami just one week later and not even get into the top ten. I’ve been back in Japan since the last race, relaxing with my friends and family, and it has given me a chance to do a lot of thinking about what happened. All I can do now is go to Miller with a positive frame of mind – the kind of positive feeling that I had two weeks ago in Monza and last year when I won some races.
The bike is strong, there is no doubt, and we have a good base setting. We also know that it works very well at Miller because Carlos won both races last year, so I will try my hardest to make it work for me as well. I was slow to learn the track last year but I will be stronger this weekend and aim for much better results again.”

Tommy Hill said: “I came away from the last round in Kyalami extremely disappointed and so I’m hoping to have a much more positive weekend now at Miller. This is another track that I don’t know at all, so again we will have to learn as we progress through the weekend in order to find the best set-up for the races. Hopefully both my team and I will have a good weekend and we can fight for some points.”

Jake Zemke said: “I am definitely excited to be back on the Stiggy Honda at Miller Motorsports Park. I was real disappointed with our results at Monza; I know that the team and myself are capable of much more than what we showed. Now with a better understanding of the team and also the Pirelli tyres, we will be looking at fighting inside the top 10.”

WSS Rider Quotes

Eugene Laverty said: “This is the first time for all of the Supersport riders at the Miller Motorsports Park track, apart from Kenan Sofuoglu who rode a Superbike there last year. I don’t think it will give him any real advantage – both he and Andrew Pitt tested at Kyalami before the race but it didn’t seem to give an advantage there. We’ll see how it goes this weekend, the last lot of races have been won by Cal Crutchlow or myself and I need to reel him back in and close the points gap in the Championship.
Everything is working really well with my Parkalgar Honda and we are learning all the time and getting more from the chassis. We caught up with Cal and his bike package at Kyalami and could run the same lap times but we are not resting on our laurels, we are still moving forward. I think Cal will be at the front in the USA and I need to beat him this weekend. I also think the Ten Kate Hondas want to be at the front so will be a force to be reckoned with as well.”

Kenan Sofuoglu said: “We went back to basics at Kyalami, to a base Ten Kate setting on the CBR600RR, and it worked throughout practice and qualifying. In fact, we were confident of a really good result in the race but something obviously went wrong with our grip after just three or four laps. We’ll sit down and discuss it with Pirelli but we just have to put it behind us now. I was at Miller last season on the Superbike, so at least I will have a bit of track knowledge for the early sessions as everyone else gets up to speed.”

Andrew Pitt said: “We need to do something this weekend to find a way that will allow us to keep up our qualifying pace through the race. It’s clear that we’ve got to step up to the level that’s been set this season and, to do that, we’ve got to find a little extra from the bike.
We’ve got some ideas on how to go about that this weekend and we’ll give it our best shot, of course. It’s a new track for everyone except Kenan.”

Anthony West said: “I am really looking forward to racing in the US this weekend. I really like the country; it should set a good atmosphere for the weekend. We have had a tough couple of rounds, but I am convinced we can put them behind us and fight the competition for a top position this weekend. It frustrates me that I haven’t been able to cash in on the hard work we have done as much as I would have like to. I should be fighting at the top of the field and I hope I will be able to do so this weekend.”

Mark Aitchison said: “I am really looking forward to getting started this weekend and starting from where I left off in South Africa. Obviously it’s a new track, so it is very important for us to work hard during the practice sessions to make me as comfortable as possible heading into qualifying and then the race. My main aim is to score good points, but also I would love another podium.”

Matthieu Lagrive said: “The Miller track will be a completely new experience for me, I’ve heard it is a very fast track and this is the kind of circuit that I like. It’s a new track for almost everyone in Supersport and I hope to be able to learn the track quickly and be competitive very soon.”

Gianluca Vizziello said: “I am looking forward to the next race in America. It is a completely new track for me, but then again, it will be for virtually all the Supersport riders, so no one has much of an advantage. I have had a disappointing race in South Africa, but hope to improve my performance in America this weekend.”

Miguel Praia said: “This is my first visit to race at the Miller Motorsports Park and I am confident it will be good for me and Parkalgar Honda. With all the riders starting out without knowing the circuit, this will level the field and I want to put on a good performance. My Parkalgar Honda is working very well but we will need to get on the pace as quickly as possible so I can qualify well. My target is the top 10 this weekend and to score good points.”