Sunday, July 13


KAWASAKI's Tom Sykes has scored his 23rd Tissot watch as fastest qualifier for an ENI Superbike World Championship race.  Sykes stunned American observers by putting his Kawasaki ZX-10R on pole position at California's Laguna Seca circuit - a track where circuit rookies have generally struggled.

Not only that, Sykes scorched to a record-breaking 1m 21.811s lap - the fastest lap time recorded by a Superbike at the demanding California circuit.  The last time the Superbike World Championship men raced at Laguna Seca was in 2013 when Aprilia's Sylvain Guintoli posted a 1m 22.683s lap in Superpole 3 to start the races from pole position.

Sykes scythed an amazing 0.872 of a second off that in the 15 minute Superpole 2 session.

Previous to last year's return to Laguna Seca, the Superbike World Championship men last raced at Laguna Seca in 2004, when Australian Chris Vermuelen won both races on the Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR.

However, this was in the early days of the 'control tyre' era of Superbike racing and Vermuelen's best lap at Laguna Seca was a 1m 26.798s set in the first of two races on July 11, 2004.

For the previous fastest Superbike lap times at Laguna Seca we have to go back another two years, to 2002, when the 998 Ducatis were the bikes to beat.  In the Superpole sessions that year - and there were three of them in that era - Australian Troy Bayliss recorded a 1m 24.833s lap in Superpole 2, but was beaten to pole position by Texan Colin Edwards on the Castrol Honda VTR1000SP2 V-twin, recording the fastest lap time in Superpole 3 (the one that counted) although with a slightly slower 1m 24.888s lap time.

Both Bayliss and Edwards were using Michelin tyres in that period.

For the record, the fastest man on two wheels around Laguna Seca is Jorge Lorenzo, who scorched to a 1m 20.554s lap on his way to pole position for the 2012 Moto GP race there.  The outright motorcycle lap record (set in a race) is held by another Spaniard, Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa, with a 1m 21.229s lap time, set on the fifth lap of the 2012 MotoGP race at Laguna Seca.

So Sykes' pole position winning lap time this year is clearly the fastest Superbike lap of Laguna Seca and just 1.257 seconds slower than the fastest ever MotoGP lap of Laguna.

Sykes' Kawasaki team-mate Loris Baz had to fight his way out of Superpole 1 to join the fastest ten riders in Superpole 2, and ended up eighth on the grid for Sunday's (Monday morning NZ time) race.

In the final 15 minute top 12 grid deciding session, the American fans were not left disappointed after a series of fast laps kept them guessing as to who would emerge as the front row qualifiers. 

Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team) set the initial benchmark of 1.23.752 before being eclipsed by his team-mate Marco Melandri. The Ducati pairing of Davide Giugliano and Chaz Davies split the Aprilia duo before Guintoli reclaimed the top spot with nine minutes to go.

At the flag it was reigning champion Sykes who lived up to his title of Mr Superpole with Guintoli and Davies claimed the final front row starting positions with Davide Giugliano (Ducati Superbike Team), Marco Melandri fourth, fifth and sixth places on the grid respectively.

Sykes scored his first career Superbike World Championship pole position at Imola in September 2010 on the old, unruly ZX-10R Kawasaki.  HIs next pole came a year later at Misano then he went on to take nine fastest qualifying laps in 2011, eight in 2012 and so far this year he has scored four.

For the full grid, click here