by Mark Appleton
The MotoGP circuit arrives in the US this weekend for the first of two American rounds, this one being the Red Bull US Grand Prix at the Mazda Raceway.
As we head into the tenth round we find Jorge Lorenzo on top of the standings, 19 points ahead of Dani Pedrosa and 37 points ahead of Casey Stoner. Britain’s Cal Crutchlow has fallen behind his Tech 3 team mate into fifth with 95 points.
Lorenzo has been on pole position for the last two years at the Mazda Raceway finishing the race in second last year and winning in 2010. Ben Spies meanwhile will be hoping for a change in fortune at his home race as his season hasn’t gone brilliantly so far.
Dani Pedrosa has managed a podium finish at the last five rounds with his team mate Casey Stoner winning here last year and in 2007, both times going on to take the championship title.
“With the exception of the disaster at Assen we are having a very strong season so far,” said Lorenzo “always finishing in either first or second place. Hopefully we can continue to do this here to extend the lead a little more. I have always had great races here in Laguna in MotoGP and always finish on the podium. I love the circuit, the corkscrew corner is amazing and the American fans always make an incredible atmosphere for us.
“It’s always special racing in front of your home crowd,” commented Spies. “It’s been a pretty rough season so far but we’ll see if we can turn it round here, put on a good show for all my fans and change it up for the second half of the year. We had some great results here before in AMA and not so bad on my first two MotoGP visits. It’s going to be great to see some old faces around the track over the weekend too.”
“I’m really looking forward to racing in Laguna Seca,” said Pedrosa.” The atmosphere there is fantastic and it’s a very particular track, nothing like what we are used to in Europe. Laguna is very small, bumpy and technical. Last year it was a very hard race for me due to the lack of fitness, so I hope to enjoy riding there again as we did in the past.
“Honda has made a big effort to bring the new parts to Laguna so we’ll have our standard bike but we’ll also get the new engine and chassis we tested in Mugello and I hope we can take advantage of these improvements and have another good race”.
“I always look forward to going to Laguna,” said Stoner, “it’s a circuit we’ve enjoyed quite good results at and the atmosphere there is fantastic. The circuit is a very tight and technical and it’s definitely a positive that it goes around to the left, as we have less chatter on the left hand side. However, some of the most critical corners are right handers so it depends how we can get the bike set up before I can say if we’ll be competitive.
“We’ve had a nice short break since Mugello and we’re looking to improve on our results from the last two races. HRC have worked hard in Japan to provide us with the new engine and some parts from the test, hopefully we can have three dry sessions to get some work done and be competitive for Sunday, but we’ll have to wait until we get on track”.
“Mugello was a difficult weekend for us,” said Team San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Alvaro Bautista. ”I was desperate to perform well in the team’s home race, especially with the livery going back to white, but unfortunately we had a lot of problems using the hard tyre and that prevented us from finding a set-up that we liked. I never managed to find a good feeling with the bike so wasn’t able to push it or myself to the limit. Since returning home I have been working hard on my physical fitness and I went down to Albacete to watch the Spanish Championship race. Now I want to rediscover the pace and feeling for my bike that I had before Mugello. It would be nice to have a ‘normal’ weekend so that we can work on maximising our potential and being as competitive as we have been in the last few races. A good result would set us up for the next few weeks and also put some bad memories to bed for me in MotoGP at Laguna because I have yet to actually finish a race there. Laguna Seca is a difficult circuit with dramatic elevation changes and blind corners where you have to anticipate the entry point in order to get the best line. It is important to have a good setting on the bike otherwise your job on the track gets much more difficult. There is a wonderful and unique ambience there with there only being the MotoGP class and the atmosphere created by the American fans is fantastic.”
“I am still feeling bitter about the retirement at Mugello in my home Grand Prix,” proclaimed Michele Pirro, “which made it a double disappointment for me, the team, the fans and the sponsors. Unfortunately this is still a young bike and these things can happen from time to time. During the test on the Monday we managed to work out the problem and now we can go to Laguna feeling much better about it and looking to do well. Since the last race I have spent three days at the barracks continuing my police training but also kept up to my personal fitness programme in readiness for a very demanding circuit. I have never been to Laguna Seca but from what I have seen and been told it is a spectacular track. I am curious to see the famous Corkscrew for real – I am told it is amazing. I can’t wait to get on track, I feel in good shape and I am determined to do well.”
“Laguna Seca is the shortest circuit on the calendar yet still presents a significant challenge for MotoGP tyres,” explains Shinji Aoki – Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development Department. “The Corkscrew is a really demanding section with the fast change of direction and elevation requiring superior front-end feel and stability, but the tyres also need to provide good levels of grip through the right-handed turns three and four and as these ninety-degree corners do not place as much cumulative load on the tyres as long corners, the compounds on the right shoulder of the tyres need to be softer to retain sufficient temperature.
“Most of the corners at Laguna Seca are left-handers so the left shoulders of the asymmetric rear tyres feature relatively harder rubber to cope with the greater stresses endured, but overall Laguna Seca isn’t that demanding on rear tyres. The front tyres choices for this Grand Prix are the soft, medium and hard compounds to ensure excellent warm-up performance and edge grip at a circuit where track temperatures can vary significantly between the morning and afternoon sessions.”
“I’m really excited to be racing back in the USA as it’s my second home and I just love being in America,” said Paul Bird Motorsport rider, James Ellison. “Laguna Seca is in my top three all time favourite tracks so to be riding it on the Aprilia which I’m really enjoying riding at the minute will be awesome! We made a step forward with the upgraded swinging arm in Mugello which gave us more grip and we have one in the second bike this weekend too so that should help us. I need to start clawing some points back on the Aspar riders in CRT so as usual I’ll be digging deep.”
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