The last World Superbike race to be held on American soil was in 2004 at Laguna Seca in Moterey, Calif. Located 35 minutes from downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, the Miller Motorsports Park opened in 2006. The site’s three-mile Outer Course circuit presents a brand new challenge for the series’ regular racers.
Leading the pack is Troy Bayliss of Ducati Xerox who sits at the top of the standings with 194 points.
“I miss America and so am happy to be going back there this season. In one way I’m sorry we’re not going back to Laguna, a track I enjoyed and know well but having said that, I met the owner and designer of the Miller track while at Assen and saw the layout and it looks like a great track too,” says Bayliss. “To be honest, that is about all I know of the track at the moment. It looks pretty safe but might also get very dusty so we'll have to see when we get there.”
With five wins in ten races, Bayliss holds a commanding 78-point lead over Hannspree Ten Kate Honda’s Carlos Checa who is still looking for his first win of the season. Close behind Checa are Yamaha Motor Italia’s Noriyuki Haga and Team Alstare Suzuki’s Max Neukirchner who split a pair of victories with two very close finishes in May 11 at Monza.
“I am very focused now, and I am determined to close the gap on Troy from now on,” says Haga. “It will be a real learning weekend for all the teams and riders, as it is a new track for us all. I don’t know that much about it but that’s the same for everyone. But after Monza my confidence is high, because we were competitive in each race.”
For Neukirchner and his teammates Fonsi Nieto and Yukio Kagayama, the track won’t be the only thing that’s new. Team Alstare Suzuki’s GSX-R1000 bikes will feature an all new design just for this weekend. The new livery will feature Globasol, a company that develops renewable energy alternatives.
Also racing in this weekend’s World Superbike races is AMA Superbike and Superstock privateer Scott Jensen. The Longmont, Colo.-based racer will be riding a GSX-R1000.
“You know I hope this is not a once in a lifetime experience,” says Jensen jokingly. “I’m fired up to get a chance to be on the track with a new group of racers … There are so many heroes of mine out there, and my goal is to represent the American privateer racer to the highest degree possible.”
Though he does have several sponsors supporting him, much of his efforts are funded by family and friends as well as donations through his website http://www.moto-garageracing.com/.
“We should be calling ourselves ‘Team Mastercard’,” says Jensen. “Honestly, if it were not for my friends and family, this dream would never be realized. I am humbled by their support and that I get through my website. I get the feeling lots of guys want to be on the grid – and I guess they see some of themselves in me or something – It’s really an honor.”
Racing fans will be able to get a taste of what Jensen gets to experience with an unprecedented level of access to the World Superbike championship. Paddock passes are available for fans to walk pit lane at designated times to watch the teams prepare for practice sessions and the races.
“At other international events, fans are allowed almost no access to the riders,” says Alan Wilson, CEO and general manager of Miller Motorsports Park. “We have tried very hard to overcome this by working with the HANNspree Superbike World Championship, and as a result we have been able to provide a series of pit lane walks where the teams will cooperate to allow interaction between the riders and the fans and allow the fans to look into the garages at the bikes. We are pretty confident that this will be the most access that fans have ever had to the international riders.”
The World Superbike races will be the largest sporting event to take place in Utah since the 2002 Winter Olympics. The races will be broadcast live on 95 television networks to 173 countries and will reach an estimated audience of 120 million people.