The penultimate round of the World Superbike Championship in Argentina was almost a farce. The venue for the race was the San Juan Villicum circuit in Argentina. However, a number of riders found fault with the circuit conditions and things spiralled off from there.
The riders questioned the safety standards of the track owing to high temperatures and a dusty surface. They wanted the the Saturday race to be postponed to Sunday or cancelled altogether. However, the FIM declared that the circuit was safe, a few days before the event.
In a move which resembled the tyre fiasco at the Formula One 2005 United States Grand Prix, the race went ahead. In the end, the onus was on the teams and riders to decide if they wanted to race or not.
Six of the 18 World Superbike starters elected to boycott the race, with an additional rider, Loris Baz ruled out through injury. Baz was involved in a bad crash earlier in the weekend and broke his wrist. The likes of Chaz Davies, Marco Melandri, Sandro Cortese, Eugene Laverty, Leon Camier and Ryuichi Kiyonari all pulled out voluntarily. Camier was the ring-leader, having been the head of the safety committee.
As it turned out, more withdrawals were expected, but Davies told Eurosport that some riders may have faced outside pressures to race.
Davies said, “For a few months we’ve know the situation at San Juan and on Wednesday night the circuit was homologated even though by admission from the FIM they said the circuit didn’t come up to homologation specification. The temperature has gone up and up today and we felt as riders, 80 or 90 per cent riders, before the race all agreed that it was incredibly risky to go and do it.”
“Unfortunately there is always pressure from outside, from team managers, from manufacturers, from certain manufacturers but not here luckily, to go out there and race. Some people have still got things to fight for and in this case some of us stuck together and even the world champion [Jonathan Rea], two minutes before the pit lane opened he said that he wasn’t happy to go and race.”
“He had massive pressure from his team to go and do it, and he wasn’t happy to go and do it and yet he has lined up. He is worth a lot more than all of us, he speaks for 10 or 15 of us and I am super disappointed in that.”
Fortunately, the World Superbike race finished with no major incidents, as Alvaro Bautista took the win ahead of Rea. Sunday’s races also went off without a hitch, and with full grid, in spite of some frustrations from the boycotters. It got to a stage where Laverty called Rea “spineless” for racing, even though he said that he wouldn’t.