2012 Miller Motorsports Park World Superbikes: A High Altitude Weekend Of Close Racing

The weekend in the US opened with the resurgence of the weather. Rain was back in the forecasts and it looked like being another of those weekends. Saturday's opening free practice, a day later than usual due to the race taking part on Memorial Day, started in an unholy downpour that dampened everyone's enthusiasm. This rain was swapped for wind in the afternoon, but the climate returned to slightly colder than usual dry weather for Sunday. The Monday weather was not even a factor, with less wind than before and no rain.

Miller Motorsports Park is a high-altitude track that saps roughly 10bhp off the bikes races in World Superbikes. The track features the longest straight in the US and so many short dashes between corners that overtaking anywhere other than the end of the start/finish straight is nigh on impossible. The straight is such a feature, the race organisers offered a bounty on the first rider to break the 200mph barrier. Unfortunately, this prize would be unclaimed after the weekend was over, even though the Aprilias and BMWs got very close.

While Miller is traditionally considered to be a Ducati track (or, as some suggest, a Carlos Checa track), the reality is that Ducatis can only be fast if they either have Carlos Checa sat on them, or they are unhindered by other bikes. The lack of passing opportunity in slower corners meant the four cylinder powerhouses would always have their measure on the long straight and hold them up in the corners.

Without World Supersport, or any of the Stock classes, racing here, we just had a bevvy of AMA races to keep the crowds happy between the WSBK action. The crowds didn't seem to complain about this. 

Jakub Smrz finished at the top of almost every qualifying session and even managed what was shockingly, for a man of his qualifying ability, only his second ever pole position. In spite of this track favouring the Ducatis on paper, the difficulty in passing anyone at this track meant Kuba could only manage a 6th and a 9th in race conditions.

The King of Miller, Carlos Checa, looked likely to take another double victory at Miller, but losing the front, crashing out in the lead of race two, even after winning race one, his dreams were dashed. A double win here would have launched him into second place in the championship standings, but instead, he's languishing back in 5th place. Checa's style through the corners at Miller was so fast, it made up for being 20kmh slower down the straight than the quick Aprilias and BMWs.

Championship leader, Max Biaggi, somehow sneaked up to the podium twice, keeping his championship challenge very much alive and kicking. This is how Biaggi will win this championship; not with wins, but with podiums.

Marco Melandri has also done his challenge no harm by taking second place off Tom Sykes and showing the BMW can win more than one race, even on a track that on paper suited the Ducati. Chasing settings all throughout qualifying, Melandri found stability that his team mate, Leon Haslam, couldn't. Haslam only managed a 10th and an 8th, keeping him in 6th place.

With second to fourth places within 1.5 points, Tom Sykes only lost second to Melandri by dint of the fact Melandri has two wins. Sykes needs to get a win to keep his championship hopes active. He's fast, but he's the only man in the top five not to have won a race so far. He tried a strategy at Miller that didn't bear fruit, and he will most likely try something else next time. He needs to find a way to keep his Kawasaki consistent all throughout a race, instead of just being able to dominate early on, when his tyres are fresh.

Jonathan Rea looked like he was going to win another race on his under-performing Honda once again. In qualifying, he bursts from the gates, eager to record the first lap, but in the race, he's exceedingly cautious in the first few laps, conserving his tyres more than other riders because of the way he ends up spending them at the end. Running out of tyres, but not fight, cost him the top step in race two, even though the race was three laps shorter.

Chaz Davies, a name we don't often focus on, was tantalisingly close to his first ever podium in World Superbikes, and he fought against Max Biaggi, a man on the proper version of what he's riding, to the bitter end. The Welshman, a winner at the Daytona 200, learned Miller racing for three years in varoius AMA classes.

Unfortunately, the news for Suzuki wasn't as exciting. John Hopkins only finished one race, and that was just out of the points, and Leon Camier didn't get the top ten finish team boss Jack Valentine was seeking, even after a promising final practice session showing he may have had the speed.

Man of the match this weekend was going to be Jakub Smrz for his stunning pole position lap, sliding through corners on the limit of adhesion, but in the end, it goes to Marco Melandri for keeping a cool head and walking away with 45 points. Honourable mention goes to Chaz Davies for finally getting stuck in.

Round Number: 
6
2012
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Comments

I know Sykes only got half points in Monza, but he still won it :)

A dry win. A full-points win. A twenty-five pointer. But yes. :)

Cuz I was wondering what happened to make the lead swapped from Marco to Rea in Race #2, as usual, due to the advertising on Speed that tends to lose some great passing and at times, crucial passing in the race.

Great race even though I only managed to watch Race 2 today.

It was a bit of a tank-slapper that didn't cost him as much time as to should. It didn't cost him his position, but it let Rea set up the pass.

NASCAR Channel performing at sub-par levels is in need of qualified moto color commentator for domestically produced WSBK race hosted at one of America's most beautiful facilities. Knowing which way to wear a helmet, which direction to sit on the motorcycle and possessing a strange fascination of helmet colors and graphics are critical job requirements.

If hired you stand a better than average chance of ruining a MotoGp production or two later in the year.

Honestly, Speed should be embarrassed with their work and Ralph needs to hit the bricks - he is in a word, simply awful. Spending the opening 8 or 9 minutes of the broadcast of a sprint race on senseless pre-race pit interviews and older footage to then skip an already brief post-race rider debrief is absurd. Thank God they got all their commercials in.

How can you expect to grow interest in a sport with such poor production and with such a tremendous boob holding the microphone.

terrible.

I always dread a home race (as an American) since Speed will always replace the normal commentary with Ralph Sheheen and Scott Russell. I just don't understand what the network execs are thinking...do they actually think that having these guys do the commentary will improve ratings or interest in the races?

Its unbearable. They mispronounced Chaz Davies name. And they only interview american riders no matter how bad or uncompetitive they are.

... a thinking adult can only take so much Jonathan Green.  Ralph and Scott may be hard to listen to, but not any worse than what we get every other week.  At least it's variety.  The MotoGP races are a different problem.

The layout, on the other hand, makes for bad camera angles and a boring television package.  They need to figure out how to make it look better than an AMA race.

I usually agree with your comments but this time the gloves are off. I would take Jonathan all day!

I used to have to turn off my speakers when he was "announcing". It was that or I was going to punch a hole in my nice new flat panel monitor...

A whole day with Jonathan, one of us wouldn't make it. ;)

I actually like Jonathon Green, but it's fortunate that his...manic announcing is tempered with Steve Martin.

Finally got to see the races. I expected the Checa show based on previous performance and consistent times during QP. Race one led me, and probably most to believe it would be a repeat in race two but... perhaps pushing a bit too hard to gap? His speed disadvantage down the straight was not even funny (reminding me of another Ducati in 2007 at Qatar, only with roles reversed).

As for the Speed Channel commentators, sorry to hear that. I'm basically forced to watch British Euro Sport as it's the only thing I can get unless I want to wait several weeks and catch it at off hours in the middle of the night here in Japan. While I used to laugh at the "British Humour" from Jack and James... I'm getting more and more irritated by the constant British bias. Especially after Donington... But since it's "British" Euro Sport, I guess I'll just have to suffer as I can't understand anything other than English and Japanese. Oh well. This time, I think Rea rode well and while I expected something "more aggressive" out of him on the last lap, I think his tires ruled that out.

Congrats to Melandri and BMW on their second win. He rode just as hard and had the engine to get him in front with less risk.

Also, it was nice seeing a "customer" Aprilia fighting with THE factory bike that is Biaggi's. I'd bet my lunch that he's fuming about that... ;)

I'm also tired of the Brit bias from the announcers. Now I kind of think I know what it must feel like to be anywhere else in the world and hear and see the U.S. broadcast of the Olympic games; as Jon Stewart once asked, "Were there any other countries there besides us?"

I'll admit to being a longtime Biaggi fan; he was the one guy who could and did beat Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, repeatedly. But even if you were new to the sport, listening to Jack and James slag off on him constantly would make me a fan of his today!

James is always very complimentary of Carlos Checa, but yes they always seem to have a 'downer' on Max. I can't figure that out really, he's a great rider and seems utterly charming. Maybe that's why he wouldn't talk to James on the grid at Donny.

Having said that British Eurosport drives us nuts when they interupt an overtake for their bloody ever repetitive adverts; do other networks do that too? Their highlight coverage was not good either, James and Jack had clearly overdubbed the video footage as the live stuff was done by some other bloke and an Australian ex rider (sorry I can't remember the names, the Brit had a nasally voice). The highlights missed loads of the best bits, and looked like it had been knocked up on freeware. It wasn't even showing the right races at the right times according to their own schedules page.

Perhaps they have a staff of three running the whole back-room operation.

Oh well, grumble over until next time, there's no choice but British (we-buy-any-bike-dot-com) Eurosport so that's that :-)

James Whitham has always been a fan of Biaggi's riding style, and has made reference to this fact on numerous occasions. It's his personality, something he - more so than we - will have had personal experience of, that he seems to be at odds with.

It looks to me that there is not much in it between the factory Aprilia and the one Chaz Davies rides. Even on the long start/finish straight he managed to keep Biaggi behind him for several laps. And that with his considerably taller body size. And it wasn't exactly slow in the corners either.
And yes, it was nice to see Davies up there at the sharp end. At one point I even thought he was going for the lead, but it seems his tyres went off just a little bit.

Again, watching these Superbike races was well worth it, even (or especially) the for us in Europe extra late race 2!
Fortunately I am saving a lot of time during GP weekends, since there is only one GP class left. And that one is rarely as exciting to watch as Superbikes.

Have been getting WSBK coverage again. Interesting to see how bikes with so different strengths are able provide close racing. The differences really hit me in the head on this track, the raw power and straigthline acceleration of BMW and Kawasaki against traction and corner speed of Ducati and Honda. With Aprilia somewhere in the middle.

The camera angles/views on Speed do not match what you see on MOTOGP.COM and it's very noticeable.

I perfer Jonathan Green to Sheheen in spades and Scott Russel is ok and has a great past history in bike racing.

And I've no idea why on MOTOGP they are constantly talking about Bradley Smith. He isn't getting the job done. Might very well be the bike he's on that is the cause of the lack of performance.

Yes, Speed coverage of WSBK and MOTOGP sucks. That's why I watch the MOTOGP races on the MOTOGP.COM site. Well worth the money imho.

And the WSBK web site is not worth visiting imho.