Jakub Smrz's weekend followed something of a trend at Miller, the Czech qualifying well in fifth, starting badly in both races before launching late comebacks to score a pair of otherwise respectable results. Indeed, Smrz's pace over a single lap is no secret, but his race pace has only occasionally been noted too. However, it was more his starts, rather than his actual speed over a long distance, that let him down in the USA, his eventual eighth and sixth place results looking very impressive in isolation when his grid slot is not taken into account. Nonetheless, tenth in the standings marks another upward trend for one of the series' favourite underdogs. Seemingly retaining his place at Guandalini for the duration of the season, Gregorio Lavilla had a tough weekend in the USA, his 14th place finish in race one being followed by a crash in the second. Still, it's points on the board again for the Spaniard.
Shane Byrne – 11th, 10th
A much improved weekend for Shane Byrne and Sterilgarda Ducati, even if the final results don't really reflect it. A split second error in each race would prevent Byrne from showing what was otherwise top five pace, but he can most certainly mark this one as his best weekend of the year nonetheless. Qualifying on the front two rows for the first time, despite crashing during Q1 and snaring a shootout spot in light rain during Q2, a terrible start in race one left him down in 16th, before an intense tussle with Noriyuki Haga prevented him from making up much aggregate ground as he would have done in clear air. Race two started better, but a mistake whilst running eighth dropped him to last, although it did prompt an excellent fight back to tenth. So, while the results on paper look fairly average, the reality is much more encouraging. Attention now turns to Misano, where Sterilgarda scored a historic 1-2 last season…
Stiggy Racing Honda
Leon Haslam – 10th, DNF
Jake Zemke – 18th, 15th
Frustrating is probably the word that Leon Haslam would use at the end of his first visit to Miller Motorsports Park, after coming away with a mere tenth place to show for. Trialling the circuit for the very first time, Haslam found himself on the cusp of the top ten all weekend throughout practice and qualifying, and while he sneaked into the top half with tenth in race one, it was still only a two place improvement on where he started. Race two, on the other hand, he was a revelation, pulling off a series of impressive overtaking moves to get up to fourth position behind Jonathan Rea in the fight for a podium. As it happens, it was one move too many, Haslam clipping the kerb with his engine casing and being sent sliding into the scenery on the very final lap. Hugely disappointing on paper, Haslam is taking plenty of heart from the level of improvement the team made over the weekend – a positive thing indeed. Ironically, the demise of Haslam proved a blessing for Jake Zemke as it promoted him to 15th to snatch the final point in the second race. However, given the pace of fellow AMA Superbike riders Ben Spies and Jamie Hacking, he should have been finishing higher…
Suzuki Alstare Brux
Yukio Kagayama – 12th, 12th
Fonsi Nieto – 16th, 13th
Suzuki had the indignity of being classified the sixth quickest manufacturer at Miller after more injury woes came to haunt them. Managing a best of 12th position with Yukio Kagayama – who clocked up two finishes in that place -, the Japanese rider's effort is nonetheless made all the more impressive by the fact he suffered two broken bones in his ankle in a crash during provisional qualifying. Urged not to race by his team, Kagayama nonetheless soldiered on and even enjoyed an enjoyable tête-à-tête between himself and countryman Noriyuki Haga during the opening race. On a better note, Fonsi Nieto enjoyed a better performance in the USA, reaching Superpole this time and finishing just behind Kagayama in race two on a bike that is evidently proving to be more of a handful than expected. For a team that had both riders on the podium in the first race of the year, this is very much off what they had expected by the time the season reached the mid-point… Misano, where they won last season, will be a particularly interesting weekend for the team and its fortunes for the rest of the year.
DFX Corse Ducati
Lorenzo Lanzi – 17th, 14th
Lorenzo Lanzi joined Fonsi Nieto and Gregorio Lavilla in making his belated return to the World Superbike paddock as the replacement for Regis Laconi at DFX Ducati. While results similar to what Laconi has been achieving this year was perhaps a lot to ask, Lanzi will probably have expected better than two points by the end of Sunday. Nonetheless, Lanzi followed an upward trend throughout the weekend, hauling himself into Superpole before putting an indifferent first race behind him to score a 14th in the second. Having gotten two finishes under his belt, a return to Italy for both his and the team's home race could give him the opportunity to make a better impression of himself.
BMW Alpha Racing
Troy Corser – 15th, 17th
Ruben Xaus – 21st, 16th
Having failed to score at all in Kyalami, BMW didn't manage much better at Miller, with Troy Corser sneaking a solitary point for them in 15th position, while Ruben Xaus didn't make the top fifteen at all. The start of the weekend looked promising, Corser going second quickest in free practice and while he'd drop back in provisional qualifying, he was still comfortably inside the top twenty. However, both he and Xaus would struggle through the deciding session, finding themselves both unable to participate in Superpole. For a team not renowned for their one-lap pace, even this was a new low… The races weren't much better either, Corser – ailing with his Monza inflicted shoulder injury - and Xaus rooted firmly in the mid-field and unable to make much progress beyond Corser's 15th position. A pretty disastrous flyway stint for the manufacturer, big improvements will be required for when the series returns to Europe and Misano – the scene of Xaus' last WSBK win.
David Salom – 20th, 18th
Luca Scassa – 19th, DNF
Pedercini Kawasaki could have - and should have - scored points at Miller Motorsports Park. If anything, this promised to be their strongest round of the season, with the Kawasaki ZX-10R seemingly well suited to the rigours of the flat circuit, while Luca Scassa was one of the few to have raced there previously following his tenure in AMA Superbikes. A seventh place in practice suggested good things, while both he and David Salom made it into Superpole, ahead of many more fancied entrants, to qualify 15th and 18th. However, Salom's pace in both races tailed off to leave him with 20th and 18th by the end of the weekend, while Scassa was caught out by the aggregate format in the opening encounter to finish 19th. In his defence, the Italian was running a strong 13th in the second race when he was tipped into spectacular high-side by a somewhat rash move by Jamie Hacking. Breaking metatarsus in his left foot, Scassa nonetheless expects to be back for Misano.
Yamaha France Ipone
Erwan Nigon – 22nd, DNF
Having given Shuan Whyte a chance to race in Kyalami, Yamaha France donated their bike to former grand prix competitor Erwan Nigon for Miller. Although his inexperience told with him languishing at the back of the field throughout the weekend, it is possible Nigon will be back to compete for the team at various times in the year, so this can be seen as valuable track time at least.
Celani Race Suzuki
Karl Muggeridge – DNF, DNS
A bit of a missed opportunity for 'Muggas' in the United States, having shown 'Assen-like' form at times over the weekend, even creeping into the top ten at the end of second qualification. Although he'd drop back to 20th in Superpole, Muggeridge was running a strong 12th in the first race when he suffered a big high-side on lap five. Bruised, winded and stricken on the circuit, his fall necessitated a red flag, but he came away otherwise unharmed. He wouldn't make the start of the second race.
Tommy Hill – DNS, DNS
A fall during second qualification ruled Tommy Hill out for the remainder of the weekend at Miller Motorsports Park to prolong his current run of dismal luck. The crash occurred when a vicious rumble strip at the Attitude chicane – scene of several big accidents – caused him to lose control of his Althea Honda. While Hill is otherwise fine, the decision was taken to watch this one from the sidelines, but he should be back for the team's home round at Misano in three weeks time.