Round 9 provided more thrills and action as World SBK hit the legendary Laguna Seca circuit in USA.

It’s a great feeling going in to the next race knowing you’ve done well in the last one and as the KRT duo of Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam both left their home round at Donington with trophies to show for their efforts they were certainly going in to the next round at Laguna Seca on a confident emotional high.

As the race was only a week after the Donington round they had little time to relax as they boarded the big silver bird and headed over to Cally Forn I A.

The lone American race in the championship, in the California sunshine, is always a popular race weekend and this year it will be the final round before the start of the traditional summer break, which will last until early September. Far from a long and relaxing holiday Rea, Haslam and Razgatlioglu will join forces in the Kawasaki Racing Team for the Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance race in Japan on Sunday 28 July.

Rea’s sensational first career triple race win at Donington had vaulted him from second in the Championship hunt to be leading by 24 points ahead of the previous long-time championship leader Alvaro Bautista.

Leon is still in fifth on the overall table after two podium performances and a fifth at Donington rejuvenated his campaign and he lies a mere five points behind his great friend and rival Alex Lowes. The 2018 BSB champion has not raced at Laguna since the 2015 season and he was aiming to score his first-ever top-three finishes at Laguna.

“Laguna is the only circuit I have never had a podium at. I have managed to get a podium at every other current circuit in WorldSBK

At the end of the practice and qualifying sessions, the already confident Rea had put his Kawasaki on top with a rejuvenated Chas Davies finishing second ahead of his team-mate Alvaro Bautista.

Leon was on the second row alongside the BMW of fellow Brit’ Tom Sykes and Spaniard Jordi Torres on the Privateer Pedercini racing Kawasaki.

With two and a half minutes of the Superpole session left Leon was sitting in second place, only getting bumped down with no time to reply

“FP1 was strange because although it has only been three years since I was here, going down The Corkscrew for the first time, it felt like a whole new track again. We made a good step from FP1 to FP2. We spent a lot of time evaluating different tyres; both front and rear. I did not get the chance to use the tyre that both Johnny and Alvaro used at the end, which they both found some time with, so hopefully, we can try that option tomorrow. It is step-by-step at the moment and until the last few minutes of FP2 we were only a tenth off the top, so it is looking a bit better.”

The Superpole session was initially red-flagged after Loris Baz destroyed his Ten Kate Yamaha after a massive off at the famous corkscrew. Fortunately, the popular Frenchman was uninjured and was able to take his spare bike out to qualify ninth, second quickest of the Yamahas behind Alex Lowes with the impressive Turk Toprak Razgatlioglu on privateer Puccetti racing Kawasaki at the head of the third row.

Yamaha rider Michael Van der Mark was another who fell in the Superpole qualifying was the, fortunately without hurting his already damaged wrist

Another Yamaha rider who was the subject of much talk over the weekend was the former GP champion Marco Melandri who announced in the week that he is hanging up his helmet at seasons end. As the only man to have won races in world superbike series with four different manufacturers his retirement will be met with a lot of sadness.

The superpole session was initially red flagged after Loris Baz destroyed his Ten Kate Yamaha after a massive off at the famous corkscrew. Fortunately the popular Frenchman was uninjured and was able to take his spare bike out to qualify ninth, second quickest of the Yamahas behind Alex Lowes with the impressive Turk Toprak Razgatlioglu on privateer Puccetti racing Kawasaki at the head of the third row.

Yamaha rider Michael Van der Mark was another who fell in the superpole qualifying was the, fortunately without hurting his already damaged wrist

Another Yamaha rider who was the subject of much talk over the weekend was the former GP champion Marco Melandri who announced in the week that he is hanging up his helmet at seasons end. As the only man to have won races in world superbike series with four different manufacturers his retirement will be met with a lot of sadness.

Rea was naturally delighted with his first ever pole position the Monterrey track and made the most of pole as the lights went ahead of the pair of re-liveried Ducati’s who sported different livery this weekend to announce the launch of their all new 916 V4.

To prove that there are no team orders Chas put his number 7 machine ahead of his former championship leading team-mate on the first lap and set off after Jonathon. Leon had been beaten up on the first lap and was relegated to ninth at the end of the first lap.

Any hopes that he would be able to fight back to the front were dashed several laps in the race when he became the first of the retirements as he lobbed it at the corkscrew

“I got a bad start and got stuck a little bit behind Loris, but I was struggling from lap one. The package felt very different from what I had all weekend in terms of corner entry. In the change of direction at The Corkscrew I fell on lap four and head-butted the floor really hard. I have a slight contusion on my left hand but I should be all right to ride tomorrow. I have to analyse the data and see what was going on. It is frustrating because I definitely felt we had a good rhythm for third place – obviously not to go with Chaz or Johnny - but that third place was on the cards and that would have been nice for the championship.”

He was joined in the retirement club a lap later by the third-placed man Bautista who lost the front again as he tried to stay with Davies and Rea. Davies had already laid down a strong move on the Kawasaki man to briefly take the lead a few corners earlier.

This put Toprak on to the bottom step of the podium, a position he was to hold until races end. Behind him, the battle for the honour of best of the rest was going the way of Tom Sykes while the prize for top Yamaha rider on the day was going the way of Alex Lowes on the Pata machine who got up fifth after passing Torres who was clearly struggling with tyre problems on the Kawasaki.

Bautista remounted his lightly damaged machine and re-joined in the hope that he would be able to benefit from other people wanting to work on their tans at the trackside by getting finished early but everyone else decided to thwart his plans and keep circulating apart from the American wildcard JD Beach. This meant he was unrewarded for his efforts. He should have reached for the sun cream instead

At races end the man who was, not so long ago, second, 61 points away from the lead in the series was now 49 ahead. How things change. At least one half of the green team garage had reason to celebrate.

Razgatlioglu finally took the fourth place so Leon finished where he started. The big mover on the grid would be Van der Mark who made up five places, which sounds good but when you go from 15th to tenth it means you move up a row,

That made it 80 career superbike wins for Rea, almost a third of the 250 wins that British riders can now lay claim to.

Could Rea make it a pair of hat tricks in two consecutive meetings just a week apart? His team and fans certainly hoped so. People dressed in red weren’t so keen on the idea.

It wasn’t thought that the challenge would come from Bautista, not only was he starting from tenth but he was also carrying a light shoulder injury from the incident earlier in the day. His team-mate however was a different prospect and at the start he did what he had threatened to do at the start of the Superpole race and neatly took the lead in to the first corner.

Bautista dropped a place from his starting position as the race got underway as did Leon

Third at the end of the first circulation was the flying Turk ahead of Sykes, Lowes and Haslam.

Halfway around the second lap Rea made a move for the lead but ran wide and Davies needed no second invitation to snatch the lead back.

Very shortly afterwards the Ducati of Bautista, (which was wearing its old clothes, as they only had one set of the special launch stuff that had been damaged) was headed back to the pits after a mechanical gremlin decided that it was time for him to suffer a hat trick of nil pois. Paddock speculation wondered how many ladders the Spaniard had walked under recently. If it was raining cash, he’d only be picking up forgeries.

Early reports suggested clutch issues but there was also a thought that his damaged shoulder wasn’t playing the game.

Two laps later it was the turn of Michael Van der Mark to remind us that it’s not just Italian race bikes that can wrong at awkward times as the Pata Yamaha decided it was time to head for the sun beds.

If they were going to keep falling by the wayside at this rate the field was going to end up looking thinner than a supermodel in profile.

At least the racing was worth watching, especially the three-way Brit’ battle that was going on a short way behind the leading bunch. What made it even better was that it was a three-way manufacturer scrap.

Razgatlioglu was having a lonely time in third after looking early on like he would challenge Rea and Davies.

With eleven to go Sykes ran wide and Lowes quickly capitalised on the mistake to move up a place.

Behind this fight in seventh Cortese was another struggling slightly with a tendonitis injury, which he aggravated at Donington that made his ride all the more impressive.

Haslam was having a serious look at Sykes as well but Laguna is well known as a one-line track with few opportunities to pass.

One man who wasn’t getting passed was Chas Davies who kept his lead until the end, opening up a sizeable gap to Rea by races end to claim his thirtieth career victory. A great result for the Welshman and some consolation for the Aruba supported Italian squad

It was the man in second with the biggest grin though, knowing that he is going in to the summer break with an 81-point lead in the championship.

The 22-year Razgatlioglu took third ahead of Lowes, Sykes and Haslam. Certainly, a guy to watch in the future.

Our man Leon put his injured hands up as he admitted the crash on Saturday was his mistake and that was what hurt his Sunday pace.

“I felt we had good pace today and we were there for that podium pace. I could catch Tom Sykes and Alex quite comfortably but in the end I just struggled with myself, not the bike. Especially braking into left hand corners - and there are a fair few of them here. I was disappointed with the crash yesterday and I have suffered all day today with my wrist and the pain transferred into my shoulder because I was not riding as freely. I can’t be too unhappy as it was my mistake when we crashed in Race One, but we have had a fifth and sixth today and were not far off the podium pace.”

So, Chas becomes another winner of a championship race to this year and Ducati become the first team to enjoy both of their riders on the top step. Can Leon do the same at the next round for Kawasaki? We’ll find out in our next exciting instalment.

Current Standings after Round 9:

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This article was written by Keith Roissetter, Infinity Watford Store Manager, and edited by Jonah Son, Digital Marketing Executive at Infinity Motorcycles.

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