The MotoGP riders and teams complete what will have been a busy schedule of five races in six weekends at Laguna Seca on Sunday as round nine of the 2010 campaign, the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix, heralds the halfway point in the season – one which has already been packed with plenty of drama.
Arriving at this stage in the season Jorge Lorenzo sits atop of the championship with a 47-point advantage, and his second place in Germany maintained his form of finishing inside the top two in every race so far this season.
The Fiat Yamaha rider is also the first since Valentino Rossi in 2005 to have opened the campaign with eight successive podiums. Last year Lorenzo finished third in the race despite injuries in qualifying, and he will be going for a first premier class win at Laguna – the shortest circuit on the current GP schedule at 3.61km long.
“This is the first time this season that we’ve left Europe and I’m excited to be going to Laguna Seca again, one of the most famous tracks in the world,” Lorenzo said. “I like riding there and one of my aims is to win there, some day!
“I have had some crashes there but last year I also took the pole and made it onto the podium. We come from a second place in Sachsenring and our target remains the same, to be consistent and to always aim for the podium. Before the race we will go to see Jay Leno and also I will hopefully visit the headquarters of Twitter in LA.”
With victory at Sachsenring in the last round Dani Pedrosa drew Honda level with Yamaha on 57 wins each in the four-stroke MotoGP era, and on a personal level maintained his hold on second in the championship. Winner of last year’s race at Laguna the Repsol Honda man is going for his first back-to-back victories in the premier class this weekend.
“To take the win in Germany was fantastic and it means we’re going into this weekend at Laguna Seca in great shape,” Pedrosa commented. “I think the race will be very similar to the last one, with lap times very close, and I hope we have a repeat of the way we worked in Germany.
“We had a great race in Laguna Seca last year and we were able to win, so I would love to go on holiday after this weekend with another victory under our belts. I know we have to work very hard to make it happen because Lorenzo is not making many mistakes, Stoner is back to his best level, and Rossi has returned very strong – I’m sure that in the States he will be even better than in Germany.”
Andrea Dovizioso is still hunting his first win of the season and will aim to improve on his best previous result of fourth at the American circuit from 2008, the Repsol Honda rider currently sits third in the standings.
In fourth, Australian Casey Stoner is also striving for his first 2010 win, and he has a good record at the track having won and finished second and fourth in the previous three seasons.
“Laguna is a circuit I have always liked because it’s tough but great fun and it follows the natural undulations and direction changes of the land,” Stoner said. “Naturally I am looking for a good result but I don’t want to make any predictions because recently we have been close to the front without managing to finish with the result we want.”
Heading up the home contingent will be Ducati Team’s Nicky Hayden, currently fifth overall. Since his victory at the circuit in 2006 no American rider has been on the podium at Laguna, something he, Ben Spies – who has AMA Superbike experience at Laguna and finished eighth as a 2008 MotoGP wildcard there – and Colin Edwards of the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team will be desperate to change.
“I can’t wait to get to Laguna, a circuit that is extremely special to me – it is tough but really nice and it is where I won my first GP,” Hayden said. “I’m not just saying it because I’m American but it really is a unique place. At Sachsenring we had a tough weekend but recovered in the race and found a good feeling for the bike. That makes me confident for this weekend.”
Valentino Rossi’s recovery will continue, although the reigning world champion displayed in his battle until the last corner the final podium spot at Sachsenring that he is already highly competitive after his return from injury.
The Fiat Yamaha rider has a single victory at Laguna from 2008, and last year finished second, and now continues his attempt to recover ground in the championship. The Italian and his teammate Lorenzo will be displaying special new liveries on their M1 machines as well.
“I was so happy to be back in Sachsenring and to be fighting for the podium, even though I just missed out, was more than we could have hoped for,” Rossi explained. “I still have some pain in my leg but I am growing stronger every day and I hope this week that I will be in better shape once again and I can try to improve a little bit more.
“Laguna is different to anywhere else we go but it’s always great fun to ride there and the last two years I’ve had great races.”
Randy de Puniet suffered fractures to both the tibia and fibula in his left leg in Germany and will be substituted for by Roger Lee Hayden on the LCR Honda team, making it a fourth American on the grid.
San Carlo Honda Gresini pair Marco Simoncelli and Marco Melandri, Páginas Amarillas Aspar rookie Héctor Barberá, Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi and Álvaro Bautista and Pramac Racing duo Aleix Espargaró and Mika Kallio will all be looking for strong results, with Alex de Angelis continuing on the RC212V of the Interwetten Honda MotoGP Team as a substitute for the injured Hiroshi Aoyama.
The first practice session gets underway on Friday at 1:55pm local time.