For Dani Pedrosa, Honda, and their Repsol sponsors, the U.S. Moto GP at Laguna Seca was a wonderful weekend, with their first victory in — hard to believe — more than a year, the last victory being June 8 in Spain last year.
It was a commanding performance, the Spaniard making his usual remarkable start, taking the lead from the second row into the first corner, and disappearing into the distance until the end of the race. On the last lap he slowed, taking it easy, and nearly got it all wrong, as Valentino Rossi was within inches of making a last-corner pass attempt, but decided against it and settled for second, only 1/3 of a second behind Pedrosa.
Rossi said, "I thought there was a chance to pass on the final corner but unfortunately I was just too far off and it was too much of a risk. Second is good today because we were not in perfect shape here, we missed something in the setting and this is always a hard track anyway, so we have to be happy with these twenty points. We have extended the championship lead so it’s a good result."
Third was Rossi’s team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, who no doubt had the ride of the day after suffering two massive high-sides in Saturday’s practice and qualifying and still setting the pole position. He dislocated a collarbone and broke a couple of bones in one foot, but started the race regardless.After a bad start he quickly worked his way up to threaten Rossi, at one point trying a pass into the last corner, but he ran wide on the attempt and lost too much time to get close enough for another try before the race ran down. Still, very, very impressive.
Fourth went to Ducati’s Casey Stoner, who is still suffering from a mysterious illness that’s causing him to cramp up and suffer severe fatigue during the race. This is the third event running he’s had the as-yet undiagnosed problem, and he’s staying in California for a few days at Dr. Arthur Ting’s clinic to see if anything can be discovered. At least he’s got two weeks before the next event to try to recuperate.
Fifth was an ecstatic Nicky Hayden, in by far his best finish since he’s joined the Ducati squad. The Kentucky Kid said, "I have won here twice and to say that fifth place feels just as good might sound strange but man, so much hard work has gone into getting us to this point and I want to savour this feeling. To be racing at home, to score a solid result and to have had fun out there is nice."
For whatever reason, the weekend was a crash-fest, with nearly everyone – literally – going down at one time or another. Only 12 riders finished the race (out of an already-light 17 starters). James Toseland was disqualified for jumping the start and not pulling in for a stop/go penalty when signalled, but Andrea Dovizisio, Sete Gibernau, Loris Capirossi and Gabor Talmacsi crashed out of the race, all of them losing the front end. The relatively short and tight Laguna circuit puts a premium on using the front hard, so perhaps it’s not such a surprise after all.
Following Hayden, the top 10 was completed by Tony Elias/San Carlo Gresini Honda (who hounded Hayden mercilessly), Colin Edwards/Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, Chris Vermeulen/Rizla Suzuki, Randy de Puniet/LCR Honda, and Marco Melandri/Hayate-Kawasaki.
After eight of 17 races, the championship is seriously tight for the top three, with a big gap down to the rest:
1. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Fiat Yamaha, 151 points; 2. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Fiat Yamaha, 142; 3. Casey Stoner, Australia, Marlboro Ducati, 135; 4. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 92; 5. Colin Edwards, USA, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 76.
The next race is in Germany at the Sachsenring, July 19.
Other Laguna News
Mat Mladin won the AMA Superbike race at Laguna over his team-mate Blake Young and Jordan Suzuki’s Aaron Yates, but the race was overshadowed by crashes, starting mix-ups, another complete screw-up of use of a pace vehicle (which, as at Daytona, picked up the wrong bike on track), and a generally completely fumbled race organization.
Sad. Not to mention embarrassing, in front of the world’s press.
Ben Bostrom took his factory-supported R6 to the victory in the Sportbike race, just 2/10 of a second ahead of Aprilia’s Chaz Davies, the Aprilia team’s best result of the season.