It is set to be a long journey, all the way to the other side of the American continent: this is what awaits the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, which is now ready for its ninth season round from 8th to 10th July on the Laguna Seca track in California.
The 3,610 metre-long Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will be hosting the Superbike World Championship for the fourteenth time, set in a highly populated area packed with interesting sites to discover, namely Monterey county: far away from the more famous and popular San Francisco and San Diego, this side of the Golden State has the edge over these two destinations, especially thanks to its marked on the road soul which rubs off on the thousands of visitors who flock here every year to enjoy the breathtaking show that the WSBK races put on.
Before making your way to Monterey, the capital of the State of California, on your bike, the delightful Carmel-by-the-Sea is well worth a visit, situated just a few kilometres from the entrance to the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Despite the shortage of inhabitants, this picturesque small town is renowned for being the home of artists, poets, writers and famous Hollywood actors: just think that during the 1990s one of its (independent) mayors was none other than Clint Eastwood...
Carmel-by-the-Sea also holds another coveted record: it is one of the top 3 most romantic cities in the world and it is perfect for a romantic getaway, strictly astride your motorbike!
Riding in the open air along the coats of Monterey Peninsula heading North allows bikers to discover some of the most breathtaking places in the U.S.: amid the sun-drenched dunes and the large, green, open expanses, you'll breathe air of freedom.
Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Monterey was established in 1770 and it is famous for its history-filled past: it was the venue of the namesake battle during the Mexican-American war, before becoming part of the United States of American in 1848; it is home to a large number of buildings which testify to its colonial past, in addition to the spectacular marine nature reserve which characterises all this side of the West Coast.
From the seat of your motorbike, you'll be able to admire the host of surfers populating the local beaches until you reach the famous Old Fisherman’s Wharf, a place that has remained exactly as it was one century and a half ago, where you can scan the horizon and watch the whales swim by in large numbers, quite a treat in this part of the Pacific.
The Nineteen Fifties are brought back to life in the colours and bright lights of Monterey Fairgrounds, a genuine fairground where the story of the famous Monterey Jazz Festival began. This event - which is famous all over the world - has seen performances over the years by artists the likes of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and The Who and today it hosts the biggest fair in the county.
Riding on along the coast, with a skyline designed by the outline of Victorian buildings, bikers will get the chance to admire natural beauties and local fauna from the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, one of the protected areas with the largest number of species in the world. You'll have no difficulty catching a glimpse of groups of fun seals amidst the rocks and coves, as they live in this area undisturbed.
The charm of days gone by can be experienced in Salinas, the county seat situated at the mouth of the namesake valley approximately 8 km from the Ocean, in the immediate hinterland. This modest-sized city is in actual fact one of the largest and most important agricultural towns in the whole of USA, whose development, which began mid-way during the 19th Century, continued progressively over the decades until the present day: a sign of this is its fun nickname, The salad bowl of the world.
Here, the landscape changes, and from the comfort of your bike seat, you will be able to admire large expanses of crops, alternated with vineyards, which strongly characterise the surroundings, along with the Art Decò architecture, testifying to a golden age which Salinas enjoyed at the end of the 19th Century.
With the red roughness of Pinnacles National Park in the background and in clear contrast with the lush vegetation, you'll find some giant sculptures along Highway 68, which are the work of two artists, namely John Cerney and Claes Oldenburg, that celebrate the customs and habits of local inhabitants.
During any respectable visit to the Golden State, even if it is a short one, a trip to Santa Cruz, one of the world's capitals... of surfing, cannot be missed. From the wide, sun-drenched coast roads, you'll get the chance to catch sight of the free spirit of surfers who every day master their brightly-coloured boards on the Ocean's waves, animating the Pacific coast.
Sun-kissed and bathed in the heat of this side of California, it's now time to return to Laguna Seca via Capitola, the oldest seaside resort on the coast, which today still retains all its vintage spirit, thanks to the perfectly kept multi-coloured wooden buildings.
Twenty-one years ago, the WSBK races made their début on the Californian circuit: in 1995, the first race saw the Australian Anthony Gobert triumph on a Kawasaki ahead of Troy Corser (Ducati) with an advantage of 340 thousandths of a second and over six seconds ahead of the Honda rider Miguel Duhamel.
At the end of race-2 the winner was Troy Corser ahead of Gobert and of the American Mike Hale on a Honda, with the Australian over 17 seconds behind.
Between 2005 and 2012 the Laguna Seca track did not host the World Superbike Championship, which returned in 2013 with a victory by Tom Sykes – the first for a British rider in California – at the end of a very bumpy race-1 marked by a generous two red flags, in front of his compatriot Chaz Davies and Eugene Laverty.
The latter won Race-2, crossing the finishing line first with an advantage of just 112 thousandths of a second over Davide Giugliano, who came second, and two seconds ahead of Marco Melandri, who came third.