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Riders slam San Juan Villicum circuit over ‘dangerous’ dusty surface

WorldSBK riders round on organisers after declaring San Juan Villicum circuit in Argentina as 'dangerous’ due to its treacherously dusty surface

San Juan Villicum

WorldSBK organisers are facing questions over viability of the San Juan Villicum circuit after riders blasted the treacherous track conditions caused by layers of dust that have settled.

The Argentinean venue was inaugurated by WorldSBK when the series visited a year ago but has reportedly experienced little action since then beyond the domestic SuperTC 2000 touring car series. 

As such, riders were alarmed to find such poor conditions on their return, saying the track – which was criticised last year for the same issues – is even worse this year, with only ‘metre-wide racing line’ available to them.

Prompting many to sit out a large portion of FP1 because they felt it was too slippery to leave the pit lane, Loris Baz and Sandro Cortese went as far as to call the circuit ‘dangerous’ in its current state.

"Last year on the first day the track conditions were the same, but the first year at a track you can maybe understand, but to have an even worse problem the following year makes no sense,” Ten Kate Yamaha’s Baz said. “Today we couldn't work on the bike at all in these conditions, basically we were just out there cleaning the track. 

“The conditions are difficult and, while they are the same for everyone, I hope will we see some improvement for Saturday because, right now, it's quite dangerous to overtake and this is something that needs to be addressed."

“It's unbelievable that we're expected to race on a track in this condition,” added Cortese. “The track is beautiful, and the conditions were the same for everyone, but the surface dirt made it dangerous.”

Newly crowned champion Jonathan Rea also added his frustration to criticism, saying his Kawasaki Racing Team cannot begin to work on set-up because conditions are evolving so much after lap times dropped by almost four seconds between FP1 and FP2.

“It was really difficult to find a feeling out there because you cannot push anywhere near the limit. It is like riding on marbles and the track did not get much better. I expected a big step in the afternoon session. 

“Even though the track looked cleaner the grip wasn’t there. A really frustrating day because you are kind of reluctant to do anything with the bike set-up in readiness for the track ‘rubbering-in’ some more.”

What is being done by organisers?

The FIM will conduct a thorough track assessment ahead of action today in an attempt to appease riders but the discontent can be summed up in a note found in the Yamaha press release stating:

“While circuit staff deployed brushes and air blowers in an attempt to clean the surface yesterday, their efforts and equipment proved woefully inadequate…”

The negative feedback will be seen as problematic for WorldSBK after last year’s inaugural event attracted more than 80,000 spectators, making it comfortably the best attended round on the schedule.

Interestingly, San Juan is home to two racing circuits, including the El Zonda, which still hosts rounds of the SuperTC 2000 series but fell foul of safety regulations for international competition.