MotoGP 2012 – Round Ten – Laguna Seca
“The Corkscrew” awaits as MotoGP™ descends on Laguna Seca
Following a hectic European race schedule, the MotoGP™ premier-class is making its way to sunny California to contest the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca this weekend, with Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo looking to extend his lead at the top of the championship standings.
This will be the 14th time the MotoGP field is set to race at the track, which is the shortest on the Grand Prix calendar. The circuit is known in particular for its infamous corner “The Corkscrew”, which is a challenge for the riders and their machinery, as well as an absolute viewing pleasure for spectators.
Lorenzo, who recorded a dominant victory in Mugello last time out, building up a 19 point cushion in the championship, will be aiming to continue this good run of form, and once again get one over on his nearest rival Dani Pedrosa. Pedrosa, on board his Repsol Honda Team machine, has however found his form recently and seems to be gelling more with his bike, which will no doubt put him in strong contention to challenge for the win. His teammate Casey Stoner, who struggled with the set-up of his bike in Mugello and came eighth, will be hoping for a turnaround in fortunes at the track where he won last year in dominant fashion. After testing a new, more powerful engine last week, the Australian is hoping to utilise this during the forthcoming race to help his cause.
One person who does not look to have any troubles with his machine is Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso, after recording his third consecutive podium in a row at his home track. The Italian will be looking to continue in this vein and mix it up once more with the factory bikes up front. Teammate Cal Crutchlow will aim to bring his practice form into a race, as the Brit has recently struggled to achieve the results he has been hoping for. He stated after the Mugello test that he has been working on his early race-pace with a full tank, and hopes to get a better start at the Laguna track, to aid him mount a serious podium challenge.
Another team looking to make big strides in the US is the Ducati Team, which will be using a new engine to try and combat the bike’s handling issues. Both Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden have won at the track, and will be hoping that the new improvements will let them mount at least a podium challenge, which they were close to last time out in Mugello. LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl arrives fresh off his best ever MotoGP finish in fourth, yet will be contesting the Californian circuit for the first time. The rookie, who has already scored more points this year than any German GP rider in a single season, has however done a private test on the track with a road bike to familiarise himself with it.
San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista will aim to put his Mugello weekend behind him as he looks to re-find some of the form he had shown earlier in the season, and not crash out of the race as he did last year. Yamaha’s Ben Spies, whose season has been plagued with bad luck, will no doubt see this as a springboard for his championship campaign. He came fourth at the track last year, and will once again look to soak up the home support for a good result.
Unfortunately, Pramac Racing Team rider Héctor Barberá will miss out on this first American round, due to his recent training incident where he fractured the left fibula and tibia. Barberá underwent successful surgery at the Instituto Universitario USP Dexeus last Sunday and the unlucky Spaniard has began the rehabilitation and should be able to run a race in 4 or 6 weeks.
He will be replaced by Spanish rider Toni Elías, who already rode for the Pramac Racing Team in 2008, achieving two amazing podiums in Brno and in Misano. The 29-year-old rider made his international racing debut in the 125cc World Championship in 2000, finishing 3rd in 2001 and taking his first win in the Dutch TT at the prestigious Assen circuit. In the following years, Elías was able to clinch to the inaugural Moto2 World Championship at the Malaysian Grand Prix with three rounds to spare. This year, Toni was riding with the Aspar Racing Team aboard on Suter machine in Moto2 class but both sides have announced that they were parting ways. Therefore Elías, until few days ago, was a rider without a bike to run with. Now he has the opportunity to show his potential at the spectacular Laguna Seca.
Cardion AB Racing’s Karel Abraham is expected to race once again, after a four-race absence due to his hand injuries.
The CRT field will relish the opportunity to race at the short Laguna Seca circuit, as it should close the gap somewhat to their factory counterparts. Randy de Puniet and Aleix Espargaró on their Power Electronics Aspar ART machines will undoubtedly remain towards the top of the CRT pile, and will as usual face a stiff challenge from Speed Master’s Mattia Pasini and San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Michele Pirro.
NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards will line up with his Suter-BMW machine despite testing an FTR-Honda and BQR-FTR bike in Mugello, and will hope to put in a good showing in front of his home fans. Also racing alongside him will be Came IodaRacing Project’s Danilo Petrucci, Paul Bird Motorsport’s James Ellison and Avintia Blusens’ Yonny Hernandez and Iván Silva. US-based bike racing team Attack Performance Racing will be entering as a wildcard with rider Steve Rapp on board an in-house built, Kawasaki powered machine.
World Championship Standings MotoGP™
1- Jorge Lorenzo SPA Yamaha 185
2- Dani Pedrosa SPA Honda 166
3- Casey Stoner AUS Honda 148
4- Andrea Dovizioso ITA Yamaha 108
5- Cal Crutchlow GBR Yamaha 95
— Yamaha Preview
Yamaha Factory Racing riders Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies arrive in California this week to prepare for the first of the season’s two US rounds, Sunday’s Grand Prix of the USA at the Laguna Seca circuit. Championship leader Lorenzo is traditionally strong at Laguna, taking victory from pole in 2010 and second from pole in 2011. A huge crash last year the day before the race left Lorenzo with reduced energy levels, possibly denying a second successive victory. With a 19 point gap over closest rival Dani Pedrosa, this weekend will be key in extending the lead.
Texan Ben Spies arrives for his first US race of the season hoping the home crowd will be the lucky talisman he needs to get his Championship back on track. Spies has a strong record at Laguna as a three-time AMA race winner there. He scored sixth on his first MotoGP outing and bettered it again last year, finishing just off the podium in fourth.
Situated amongst the hills just a couple of hours from San Francisco, The Laguna Seca circuit claims jaw dropping elevation changes and possibly the most famous corner in the racing world, the infamous ‘corkscrew’. Weather can be unpredictable with cold misty mornings followed by dry hot days providing exciting racing for the American fans.
“With the exception of the disaster at Assen we are having a very strong season so far, 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. 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.”
Wilco Zeelenberg – Yamaha Factory Racing Team Manager
“So here we are heading into the second half of the season already. Jorge is riding very well and achieving excellent results. We know he really likes the Laguna circuit and is strong here so I’m confident we can do well. Last year he had a big crash the morning of qualifying which meant he had a lot less energy than usual on race day. He’s fit and ready so we’re hoping that won’t happen this time.”
Massimo Meregalli – Yamaha Factory Racing Team Director
“It’s always exciting to come to Laguna, it’s an iconic track, a legend! We arrive leading the Championship with Jorge on strong form which is important. For Ben it’s been a really tough season so far and he’s been very unlucky recently. I am confident he will give it 100% this weekend and we will see the results we know he is capable of in front of his home fans.”
— Ducati Preview
The first of two American stops in the 2012 MotoGP Championship will take place on Sunday at California’s spectacular Laguna Seca circuit, a beautiful and challenging track that winds through the hills east of Monterey.
The United States Grand Prix is very special for Nicky Hayden, as it was the site of his first GP victory, in 2005, and of another win the following season while he was on his way to the world title. Valentino Rossi is also fond of the track’s unique atmosphere and old-style layout, which played host to a win for the Italian in 2008, as well as to three additional podium finishes.
The “stars and stripes” round is also important for the company from Borgo Panigale, for whom the United States represents the most important target market, and one that is continuously growing, as Americans have long associated Ducati with quality, technology and exclusivity. As is the case every year, the Ducati Island will serve as a meeting point for the many Ducatisti who will come to support the Ducati Team and its riders over the weekend.
VALENTINO ROSSI, Ducati Team
“Laguna is a difficult track, with many bumps and a lot of elevation change, but at the same time it’s beautiful and fun, in part because it’s rather old-style. I really like the fans and the general feel. Although my last test at Mugello was ended early, we were able to begin working with some details, and we’ll probably be able to use some of them at Laguna, even if we’re talking about a small percentage of the package that they’re working on at Ducati. Last year we went okay at Laguna, so we’ll see what happens this weekend.”
NICKY HAYDEN, Ducati Team
“Of course I like Laguna, so I’m excited to go there and see my home crowd and all my friends in the AMA paddock. We’ve been getting a little closer to the front lately, but now is no time to rest. We have to keep working, because now the gains will be more difficult. Laguna is certainly not easy, and I doubt the lap times will be much different with the 1000s than they were with the 800s. I’m not even sure we’ll use sixth gear, and as was the case at the Sachsenring, we’ll probably spend a lot of time working with the wheelie control and just trying to use that power when it’s available. The new tyres should work better at Laguna, especially in the colder mornings and on the right side. My goal is clear: go there, have fun, and try to get the best result of the season.”
VITTORIANO GUARESCHI, Team Manager
“The next two GPs in the United States are obviously very important for Nicky, and he would like to take advantage of the progress shown in recent weeks in order to do well for his fans. Vale came very close to making the podium at Mugello, but we must manage to give him the opportunity to be more effective in qualifying as well. At Laguna we’ll continue working with the settings that we’ve been perfecting for a few races according to our riders’ respective needs, and we’ll seal the fourth engines for both. Like the third one, already in use, it was made in a way that makes it possible to install new parts that are intended to improve rideability. For this race, we’ll have some of the updates that we tried at the Mugello test, and those will be followed in the next races by subsequent evolutions.”
Repsol Honda riders Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner return to the Monterey Peninsula for this weekend’s United States Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, a race won by Stoner in dramatic fashion last year in what many believe was the turning point in the 2011 MotoGP World Championship.
The race, which features only the MotoGP class, takes on added significance with the introduction of the all-new Repsol Honda RC213V, which was tested following the last round in Mugello and may be raced in Monterey. Both Repsol Honda riders found positive in the new engine and chassis combination, which was built in response to chattering issues related to the introduction of a new, softer Bridgestone front tyre.
Pedrosa arrives on the Monterey Peninsula second in the World Championship after finishing second in the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello. The Spaniard is enjoying one of his most consistent seasons, which can be attributed to an injury-free campaign. With the U.S.GP the last race before the summer break, Pedrosa would like to close in on the world championship leader on a track where he has had some success.
Last year Pedrosa finished third to team-mate Stoner while continuing to recover from collarbone surgery. Thirty-two laps of the 3.61Km 11-turn circuit make it one of the most physically demanding tests on the calendar, which is why Pedrosa was not a contender for the victory last year. Fully fit and armed with Honda’s newest weapons, Pedrosa is hopeful of repeating his victory from 2009.
The stretch of three races in three weeks leading up to Laguna Seca proved challenging for the world champion Stoner. Following a win over Pedrosa in the Dutch TT, Stoner crashed out of second in the German Grand Prix two corners from the end. And at the Italian Grand Prix, handling issues forced Stoner to run off track before finishing eighth. That left him third in the championship behind Pedrosa.
But if there is a track where Stoner can be expected to rebound it is Laguna Seca. His breathtaking pass of Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) on the outside of the turn 1 left kink was the signature move of the 2011 race; no one could remember a pass for the lead being made on the fastest part of the course, where it is not uncommon for both wheels to leave the ground while banked over. Stoner then sped to his second victory at Laguna Seca. His first came in 2007.
Stoner has been on the podium every year, but one since his 2007 win. He was second in 2008, fourth in 2009, then second again in 2010 before winning in 2011.
LCR Honda MotoGP rider Stefan Bradl will race for the first time at the track within sight of the Pacific Ocean. Because it is the only race on the MotoGP World Championship calendar that does not include the smaller classes, it is always a learning experience for MotoGP rookies. In order to become familiar with the track, Bradl and his crew chief flew to Monterey following the early June Catalunya Grand Prix to ride on an open track day. The 2011 Moto2 World Champion rode a Honda Fireblade on Bridgestone Battlax street tyres to learn the quirks of the track, which he only knew from video games, and which he quickly discovered did not properly prepare him. On his first lap, the young German ran off the track in the Corkscrew, the signature sequence that is approached blind before quickly plunging downhill.
Bradl’s confidence is sky high coming to the U.S.
having finished a career best MotoGP fourth in the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello and a mere .046s from his first MotoGP podium.
Alvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC213V) had a rare off weekend in Mugello where he was never comfortable with his setup. Now he is looking forward to the California sunshine to get back on form, though he has not had much luck at Laguna Seca. The Spaniard did not make it to the finish on his first visit in 2010 and last year was running eighth on the 14th lap when he crashed. But those races were run on a different brand, and the former 125cc World Champion is confident of a change in fortunes now that he is aboard the San Carlo Honda Gresini RC213V.
Certainly that is the case if you look at his season. To this point last year he had 39 points, this year he already has 73.
Michele Pirro (San Carlo Honda Gresini FTR Honda) made his first trip to the U.S. last year for the Indianapolis Grand Prix Moto2 race, but this will be his first time seeing Laguna Seca. The steady progress the Italian MotoGP rookie has made on the San Carlo Honda Gresini FTR CRT machine, which is powered by a Honda CBR1000RR engine, was interrupted by a non-finish in his home race at Mugello. The problem was rectified in the Monday test following the race and now he is looking forward to his first laps at Laguna Seca. As has been the case at most tracks the season, the team will be starting from zero having not previously been to the circuit with the FTR Honda.
The track Pirro will learn when he arrives in Monterey is like nothing he’s ever experienced.
With seven lefts and four rights spread over its 3.61Km length, and an elevation change of 55m, the sinuous circuit offers no rest. Rather it rewards riders who can get into the flow of the track, which blends banked, flat and blind corners with hard braking and a very short straightaway that bends left at the fastest point on the course.
The signature corner is the Corkscrew at the top of the circuit. It begins with the turn eight left and by the time the riders drop down to the 8A right hand apex they have plunged 18 meters vertically, about five and a half stories, in less than 140 meters. The track continues to plunge through the fast left Rainey Curve, named for the three-time 500cc World Champion who lives within sight of the track and who won a Superbike race aboard a Honda at Laguna Seca before embarking on his grand prix career.
The track is located on the Monterey Peninsula not far from a number of picturesque seaside towns that dot the northern California coast.
There are attractions for everyone, including sandy beaches, a world class aquarium, a world famous golf course (Pebble Beach), and seafood restaurants serving that day’s catch. It has small town America charm, which is why it draws visitors from around the world.
Given its location by the Pacific Ocean, Monterey can have vast climate changes, with the morning fog burning off and blending into hot afternoons, making it difficult for the riders and teams to determine setup and tyre choices. As an example, year’s Saturday qualifying track temperature was 20C hotter than it had been for the morning’s free practice.
The USGP is the 10th of 18 MotoGP races and fourth in five weeks, after which the paddock occupants get a much needed summer break. The series has two free weekends before returning to the U.S. for the post-break Indianapolis Grand Prix at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner says:
“I always look forward to going to Laguna. 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.”
Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa says:
“I’m really looking forward to racing in Laguna Seca. 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.”
San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Alvaro Bautista says:
“Mugello was a difficult weekend for us. 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.”
San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Michele Pirro says:
“I am still feeling bitter about the retirement at Mugello in my home Grand Prix, 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.”
LCR Honda MotoGP rider Stefan Bradl says:
“I am looking forward to Laguna GP, but I know it will be more difficult for me compared to the other races. I have been there some weeks ago riding a Honda Fireblade for a first taste. For sure we will work harder compared to the last tracks which I knew already and we must be sharp and careful with the setup of the bike, because we have no data. It’s a new track for me and this means double effort for me. Every Friday is a new discovery for me, because all tracks seem new on a MotoGP bike, but in this case it will be even more complicated, but I am not worried about it. We are in a good shape.”
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Soft, Medium, Hard. Rear: Soft, Medium
Bridgestone wet tyre compounds available: Hard (Main), Soft (Alternative)
The second half of the 2012 MotoGP™ season gets underway with this weekend’s U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, home to one of the most challenging and exciting sections of tarmac on the calendar; the Corkscrew.
Laguna Seca features rapid changes in both elevation and direction so the tyres supplied must provide excellent front-end stability. With this in mind, the front tyres developed for the U.S. Grand Prix deliver high levels of edge grip for the more demanding sections, while also granting excellent warm-up performance at a circuit that has one of the lowest average speeds in MotoGP™. There are seven left-hand turns compared to just four right-hand turns, so the asymmetric rear slicks feature slightly harder rubber on the left shoulder for greater durability though overall, the rubber compounds used in the rear tyres at Laguna Seca are towards the soft end of the spectrum.
The wider operating temperature range of the 2012 specification MotoGP™ tyres will ensure riders have consistent grip levels and exemplary warm-up performance at a circuit which can experience large daily variations in ambient temperatures due to its proximity to the ocean and its location in a natural amphitheatre in the hills east of Monterey. Generally, track temperatures in the afternoon at Laguna Seca tend to reach approximately 45°C as the sun shines overhead but in the morning, the lower ambient temperatures keep the track somewhat cooler at around 25°C.
Laguna Seca has the shortest main straight on the calendar at just 453 metres in length meaning that the bikes and therefore the tyres spend more time at high lean-angles and have less time to cool down, resulting in greater levels of heat retention in the tyres than the ambient and track temperatures would suggest.
Hiroshi Yamada – Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Department
“Laguna Seca is the perfect venue to commence the second half of what has been an entertaining season as the U.S. Grand Prix is a race which historically has played a pivotal part in the championship. The previous few years has seen many exciting battles at this circuit and last year’s contest between the three riders currently leading the championship in Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Stoner was particularly memorable among these.
“The established American MotoGP stars Nicky Hayden, Ben Spies and Colin Edwards are always competitive at Laguna Seca, but the local fans will have another rider to cheer on this weekend as wildcard rider Steve Rapp makes his debut in the class aboard the Attack Performance-Kawasaki CRT machine. Finally, I would like to wish Hector Barbera all the best in his recovery from his unfortunate injury and I’d also like to welcome his replacement for this weekend, Toni Elias, back to MotoGP.”
Shinji Aoki – Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development Department
“Laguna Seca is the shortest circuit on the calendar yet still presents a significant challenge for MotoGP tyres. 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.”