Gritty, entertaining racing at Laguna


Stoner chasing Rossi in Corkscrew

The best racing of the season? Probably, as Valentino Rossi used all his racecraft, skill, and aggression to steal the Moto GP victory at Laguna Seca in California from Casey Stoner and his Ducati.

Stoner had been fastest all weekend in every practice and qualifying session by a huge margin, but Rossi got an uncharacteristic great start after qualifying beside Stoner on the front row, then jammed the Australian in a breath-taking move at the Corkscrew on the first lap. The two traded places — and a little paint — on more than one occasion as they simply split from the rest of the pack; they were in their own world.

Stoner’s bike certainly looked faster, particularly when he motored past Rossi’s factory FIAT Yamaha on the front straight more than once, but Rossi always struck right back. Stoner looked more and more ragged as he pushed to get past the seven-time world champion (who just this weekend announced he’ll be staying another two years with Yamaha) and finally got a little too far out of shape coming into T-11 (the very slow last corner), got off into the gravel, and had a walking-pace tip-over as he tried to get back on the pavement.

By the time he got back going, Rossi was long gone, but they two had built up such a lead that Stoner was still in a comfortable second place, where he finished. After the event he complained to Rossi that he believed some of the Italian’s passes were too close and dangerous, but Rossi reportedly just smiled and said, "That’s racing." It was a bit rich coming from a former Australian dirt-tracker, anyway …

The last podium spot went to Chris Vermeulen on the Rizla Suzuki. He and the bike always go well at Laguna, and Vermuelen seemed to be confident that the team and the bike had taken a definite step upwards. It was a great result, coming as it did after qualifying back on the third row.

The last rider on the front row at the start, home-town hero Nicky Hayden, was bitterly disappointed to finish fifth, with JiR Scot Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso splitting him and Vermuelen. They were the first Michelin riders to finish; Michelin riders struggled all weekend to get heat into their tires, with some riders actually resorting to cut slicks to get the rubber working in the dry for qualifying!

To rub salt in the wound, Dovizioso is one of those rumoured to be in the line-up for Hayden’s seat should his contract with Honda not be renewed …

U.S. Suzuki rider Ben Spies, in his second of three wild-card appearances this season, turned in a solid result to take eighth, while his good buddy and training partner, Jamie Hacking of the U.S. Monster Kawasaki team, collected 11th filling in for the injured John Hopkins on the factory Kawasaki. Regular Kawasaki rider Anthony West had another horrible weekend, finishing 17th and last. He’s likely to be looking for work for 2009.

The Moto GP circus now takes a few weeks off for the traditional summer break, reconvening August 17 at the Brno track in Czechoslovakia.


  1. Truly the best race of the season so far. I was oohing and ahhing at the TV!
    Stoner should have realized by now that this is MotoGP, not a bridge game.


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