Posts Tagged ‘Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca’

MotoGP 2012 Laguna Seca Results

July 29, 2012

An edited version of this article will appear on Motorcycle.com on Monday, complete with hi-rez photos.  Until then, please enjoy this summary of the MotoGP 2012 U.S. Grand Prix.

Stoner Outduels Lorenzo in Replay of 2011 Classic

Defending world champion Casey drove his Repsol Honda RC213V past Yamaha mullah Jorge Lorenzo into the lead on Lap 22 of today’s U.S. Grand Prix for a convincing and refreshing win, his third at Laguna Seca.  This turn of events provided observers with a startling déjà vu of last year’s race.  Stoner’s Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa finished third both years, adding the same eerie similarity to the podium celebration and post-race press conference.

I knew something weird was happening in Monterey when I glanced at the results of the first two practice sessions and noticed that the top five spots in each were identical.  FP3 was mostly fogged out, and the Repsol Honda team blew it off in the garage playing euchre rather than tackling The Corkscrew blindfolded.  Lorenzo snatched the pole from Stoner on the last lap of the QP, and then Stoner topped Lorenzo in the warm-up practice on Sunday morning by a full 1/1000th of a second, after waiting an hour for the fog to clear.  Although the podium duplicated last year’s rostrum, the lead-up to the weekend was vastly different.

Recall last year.  Heading to California, Stoner was enjoying a string of seven straight podium finishes, and led defending champion Lorenzo by 15 points.  Lorenzo had been having a great season until he crashed out at Silverstone and finished a lowly sixth at Assen.  Curiously, on Saturday Stoner had given himself virtually no chance of winning, all but conceding the round to his Alien rivals, a master class in sandbagging.

Despite having amassed a total of eight (8) points in the last two rounds and trailing Lorenzo by 37, Stoner started this weekend quick and got better each day.  Curiously, he was the only one of the top six riders to choose the softer option rear tire on a day when the sun was quickly heating the racing surface.  My thought was he would try to jump out to the lead and hope his tire held up long enough to fend off his challengers late in the race.  And though he was able to go through on Pedrosa on lap 3, it took him 22 laps to pass Lorenzo.  At that point I, for one, expected the Spaniard to win the race, thinking that his rear tire would outlast Stoner’s.

Wrong.  The Australian did a masterful job managing his rubber, and still looked strong at the end of the day.  Lorenzo, visibly exhausted after the race, didn’t have enough left in his tank to mount a serious rally at the end.  Pedrosa observed after the race that the soft tire was too soft and the hard tire had no grip, and seemed pleased to have finished third.

When the tire dust cleared, the standings at the top of the 2012 chart had tightened slightly.  Stoner became the first three-time winner at Laguna, where Hondas have won four of the eight races since 2005; it is inarguably a Honda-friendly layout.  Lorenzo, with four consecutive poles but only one win, enjoys a larger lead leaving California than when he arrived.  Pedrosa is, as yet, uninjured in 2012.  Heading into the summer break, everyone has something they can feel good about.

Well, Not Exactly Everyone

Laguna Seca lived up to its reputation as a thorny place to ride motorcycles at high speeds.  By lap 2, both CRT pilot Michele Pirro and Pramac Racing designated victim Toni Elias had crashed out.  Two CRT pilots retired with mechanical problems or, more likely, Corkscrew-induced psychological issues, and James Ellison crashed on lap 20.  None of these mishaps had anything to do with anything.

That would change on lap 22, when the luckless Ben Spies endured an ugly crash out of fourth place, ruining yet another weekend for the wayward American.  No one on the grid tries harder, or has less to show for his efforts.  As the old blues standard laments, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.”  Having injured his heel in a QP crash, Spies may have added to his medical woes ending his day with an Olympic-caliber double back flip in the tuck position, with a degree of difficulty of 4.3 out of 5.

The last and most surprising fall of the day occurred on lap 29, when Valentino Rossi, who never crashes, lost it at the top of the corkscrew for his first DNF of the season.  We knew Rossi had a lot on his mind before the race, with the speculation about his future with Ducati and rumors of a return to the factory Yamaha team swirling.  His Italian employers sent one of their Bigga Bosses to California to make The Doctor a final offer for next year, somewhere in the neighborhood of €17 million ($21 million) to waste another of the last few years of a great career wrestling the demonic Desmosedici.  Vale didn’t appear to have much on his mind at all after the crash, wandering around in the gravel looking like he’d had his bell rung, waiting for his own personal fog to clear.

Elsewhere on the Grid

Tech 3 Yamaha teammates Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow spent another lovely Sunday afternoon bashing each others’ brains in, finishing 4-5 for the fourth time this season.  Nicky Hayden, glowing after having signed another one year contract with the Italian factory, went through on rookie Stefan Bradl late in the day to claim 6th place, relegating the German to a still respectable 7th in his first visit to Laguna.

San Carlo Honda’s Alvaro Bautista started 7th and finished 8th, another nondescript day at the office for the young Spaniard.  Aleix Espargaro, clearly the cream of the CRT crop, finished ninth, with” Kareless” Abraham rounding out the top ten in his first return to action since Barcelona.

Bits and Pieces

The Hayden-Ducati marriage appears to work better for Nicky than for Ducati, as his best days are well behind him.  Over the past three seasons he’s managed a single third place finish each year, and the last of his three (3) premier class wins came back in 2006, when he somehow won the world championship with a thin 252 points.  (In 2008, Pedrosa would finish third with 249 points.)  Other than name recognition, the Kentucky Kid doesn’t bring much to the party any more.

Rumor has it that Fausto Gresini, the volatile manager of the San Carlo team, is courting Andrea Dovizioso to return to the Honda family that so unceremoniously dumped him last year.  Fausto has clearly lost whatever confidence he ever had in Bautista.  Whether he can convince Dovizioso to wear Honda colors again is problematic.  Personally, I think Dovizioso has earned the second factory Yamaha seat, and that Rossi could again be competitive on the factory-spec San Carlo Honda.

An interesting bit of trivia concerns the Constructors Trophy awarded each year to the manufacturer whose riders earn the most points.  Not surprisingly, Honda and Yamaha sit tied at the top of the pile.  But third place Ducati is much closer points-wise to the Aprilia ART bikes than to the two Japanese manufacturers.  We’ve come up with a term to describe the increasing irrelevance of the Ducati MotoGP program:  Suzukification.

Rossi Puts Stoner in the Dirt at Laguna

July 21, 2008

Valentino Rossi gave a clinic on Sunday, out-riding Casey Stoner for his first ever win at Laguna Seca.  Stoner, despite having the faster qualifying times, could never catch Rossi after a first lap pass and ended up a distant second.  Points is points, but Rossi was clearly the more skilled rider in Monterey.

Rossi spanks Stoner at Laguna Seca

Rossi spanks Stoner at Laguna Seca

Photo courtesy of motogp.com

CBS did a pretty good job of broadcasting the race, although the announcers kept cutting to commercial with breathless comments like, “My heart is beating!” and “This is exciting!”.  They caught Lorenzo’s high side crash pretty well, but had to spend too much time tracking the field while Stoner and Rossi ran away with the race.  Also, you would think that with a race this brief, around 45 minutes, CBS could afford fewer commercial breaks during the race, and hope to make up for the revenue shortfall by building viewership for future races.  I was also surprised by the utter lack of crowd shots; it was hard to tell if there was ANYONE actually there for the race.

With Lorenzo and Pedrosa healing from injuries (although with the summer break both are likely to be back at full speed in August), the 2008 season has become Stoner and Rossi.  The folks at the Motor Speedway have now started cranking up their PR machine in hopes of attracting 150,000 fans for race weekend in September.  Two of their flacks were also interviewed yesterday, expressing some surprise that a lot of attendees will be riding their bikes to Indianapolis, and wondering about things like parking.  Hello!!!

Other than a nice article by Phil Wilson in the Indianapolis Star, there wasn’t a lot of coverage out there early on.  MotoGP still suffers from a lack of awareness among American motorsports fans, a problem which the annual Indianapolis GP should help address.

Final Laguna Seca standings:

1 Valentino Rossi Yamaha Factory 44:04.311

2 Casey Stoner Ducati MotoGP 44:17.312

3 Chris Vermeulen Suzuki MotoGP 44:30.920

4 Andrea Dovizioso Honda Scot 44:39.212

5 Nicky Hayden Honda HRC 44:39.974

6 Randy De Puniet Honda LCR 44:41.979

7 Antonio Elias Ducati d Antin 44:45.940

8 Ben Spies Suzuki MotoGP 44:46.238

9 James Toseland Yamaha Tech3 44:47.330

10 Shinya Nakano Honda Gresini 44:48.702

11 Jamie Hacking Kawasaki Racing 44:50.569

12 Sylvain Guintoli Ducati d Antin 44:59.584

13 Alex De Angelis Honda Gresini 44:59.832

14 Colin Edwards Yamaha Tech3 45:06.691

15 Loris Capirossi Suzuki MotoGP 45:12.518

16 Marco Melandri Ducati MotoGP 45:15.273

17 Anthony West Kawasaki Racing 45:34.872

Latest MotoGP World Championship standings:

1 Valentino ROSSI ITA Fiat Yamaha Team 212

2 Casey STONER AUS Ducati Team 187

3 Dani PEDROSA SPA Repsol Honda Team 171

4 Jorge LORENZO SPA Fiat Yamaha Team 114

5 Andrea DOVIZIOSO ITA JiR Team Scot MotoGP 103

6 Colin EDWARDS USA Tech 3 Yamaha 100

7 Chris VERMEULEN AUS Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 89

8 Nicky HAYDEN USA Repsol Honda Team 84

9 James TOSELAND GBR Tech 3 Yamaha 72

10 Shinya NAKANO JPN San Carlo Honda Gresini 70

11 Loris CAPIROSSI ITA Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 61

12 Toni ELIAS SPA Alice Team 46

13 Alex DE ANGELIS RSM San Carlo Honda Gresini 41

14 Randy DE PUNIET FRA LCR Honda MotoGP 40

15 Sylvain GUINTOLI FRA Alice Team 38

16 John HOPKINS USA Kawasaki Racing Team 32

17 Marco MELANDRI ITA Ducati Team 32

18 Anthony WEST AUS Kawasaki Racing Team 22

19 Ben SPIES USA Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 10

20 Jamie HACKING USA Kawasaki Racing Team 5

21 Tadayuki OKADA JPN Repsol Honda Team 2

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