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Jul 10, 2002

More Previews Of This Weekend's Laguna Seca Races

From a press release issued by SBK, organizers of the Superbike World Championship:<BR><BR>Round 9 – Laguna Seca– (USA)<BR>12 – 14 July 2002<BR><BR>Laguna Seca, 11 July 2002<BR><BR>California Dreaming<BR><BR>Situated close to the famous coastal town of Monterey, Laguna Seca features a captivating layout, the shape of which is determined by the sloping walls of the dry lake the track nestles within. <BR><BR>Originally built in 1957, on US Army land, the original track was a near complete circle around the lakebed, until the requirements of international competition lengthened it to its present 3.610km. Laguna is home to the spectacular Corkscrew, which sees the track drop left, down a 30% incline from its highest point. A unique section, it is approached blind and is one of many challenging sections on the track. <BR><BR>Few permanent buildings feature in the pit area at Laguna, due to the peculiar status of the track location, with the circuit itself operated as a charitable trust by the SCRAMP organisation. The tented village, which springs up on race weekends, however, does lend a carnival atmosphere to proceedings. <BR><BR>The normally hot and dry atmosphere makes life fun for the spectators, gruelling for the competitors, who swelter in the high afternoon temperatures. The current lap record dates to 1999, and his held by Anthony Gobert, on a 1:25.185.<BR><BR>The story of the 2002 season so far has been an almost exclusive Troy Bayliss (Ducati Infostrada) and Colin Edwards (Castrol Honda) battle, although peculiarly, nether of these riders have won at Laguna before. With the exception of local wild-card Makoto Tamada's race two win at Sugo, Bayliss and Edwards have won every race so far, with Edwards on two and Bayliss on a whopping 13.<BR>As neither rider has won at Laguna in SBK before, there has never been a better time for one of the other riders to break their personal 2002 duck.<BR> <BR>Six-time 2001 race winner Ben Bostrom (L&M Ducati) may be the most confident of those riders, with good memories of his double Laguna win fresh in his mind. Another major force at Laguna last year was Neil Hodgson (HM Plant Ducati), and on his 2002 form he also stands a good chance at one of his most favoured tracks. <BR>Hodgson will be joined once more by his younger team-mate James Toseland, a rider still learning how to beat the best Superbike exponents in the world, but moving closer with ever outing.<BR><BR>Noriyuki Haga (Playstation 2 Aprilia) is the lone Aprilia runner and a proven force at Laguna, looking to jump-start his 2002 season once more.<BR> <BR>The final factory twin cylinder rider due to compete at Laguna is none other than Ruben Xaus, team-mate of Bayliss and exciting to the point of hysteria on occasions. <BR><BR>Other factory riders in the Laguna mix ride three or four four-cylinder machines. Peter Goddard competes on the Benelli triple, while the best placed four-cylinder rider at present is Chris walker, from the Kawasaki Racing Team.<BR><BR>Gregorio Lavilla forms a one man Alstare Suzuki factory team, and will be anxious to show himself in a good light against the other strong four-cylinder riders. <BR><BR>Regular American Superbike racer Eric Bostrom has once more been drafted into the factory SBK Kawasaki team (replacing the still injured Hitoyasu Izutsu). <BR><BR>Six local AMA wild card riders will be allowed to compete at Laguna, and will make life hard for all the top riders. They are current AMA Championship leader Nicky Hayden, his Honda team-mate Miguel Duhamel, the injured but recovering Anthony Gobert (Yamaha), Suzuki riders Mat Mladin and Aaron Yates, plus the local Ducati charger, Doug Chandler.<BR><BR>With the intense July heat and a very physical circuit to negotiate, wins at Laguna have never come cheap. The track has also seldom favoured Michelin riders; such is the base of combined knowledge the near-exclusively Dunlop supported riders in AMA championship have to call on. <BR><BR>Of the current runners in SBK, Ben Bostrom (L&M Ducati) has been the most recent winner, taking a double last season and a race two success in 1999, while he was still an AMA competitor.<BR><BR>Noriyuki Haga (Playstation2 Aprilia) has also scored two wins, both on Yamahas.<BR><BR>Significantly, almost any manufacturer's machine has proved capable of winning at Laguna, opening up the enticing prospect of a four-cylinder winner for the first time this season.<BR><BR>Laguna Seca is the one round of the SBK championship which does not feature a round of the World Supersport Championship.<BR><BR><BR>From a press release issued by Suzuki:<BR><BR>SUZUKI IN THE STATES<BR><BR>2002 Superbike World Championship, Preview, Round 9, Laguna Seca, USA, July 14th<BR><BR>ROUND nine of the Championship takes the teams out of Europe for the first time since April and is the last of this year's flyaway trips. <BR><BR>Laguna Seca has been a fixture on the calendar since 1995 and is one of the most spectacular racetracks of the series. The 3.610 kilometre circuit featuresserious changes of elevation and one of the most famous corners in motorsport ­the Corkscrew. A blind approach is followed by a difficult left-right swoop,which plunges no less than fifty feet. Last year, local hero Ben Bostrom dominated the event, taking Superpole and winning both 28-lap races. Although circuit knowledge is vital, of the past 14 races, six have been won by Americans and eight by overseas riders.<BR><BR>Last year Team Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra rider Gregorio Lavilla was racing for another team and took a 12th in the first race, but DNF'd in the second. Laguna Seca is a demanding circuit ­ physically and technically ­ and the team know it's going to be a hard weekend ­ especially in view of the strength of the numerous 'wild card' riders taking part.<BR><BR>GREGORIO LAVILLA<BR>"Laguna Seca has not been a particularly kind track for me in the past, so I'm hoping to have a good weekend there this year. Last year was not that good and the year before I didn't take part due to injury, so I think it is bout time for some good results. This year has proved to be as hard as we all expected in some ways, but there are some positive signs of improvement head. We made some progress in the last round and if we can carry that through and build on it, we will continue going forward.<BR><BR>"Unfortunately at Laguna Seca ­like all the circuits we go to this year ­we have no data that we can use from last year because we are running different suspension. It means that every time we get to a track, we have to start from scratch and spend a lot of the qualifying trying to get a good bike set-up. It's a fact, nothing more, nothing less. Some tracks are better than others for our bike and I'm hoping my Suzuki handles well, so that I can really attack Laguna Seca."<BR><BR><BR>
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