If you're sitting around waiting for the Red Bull US Grand Prix from Laguna Seca to start, you could do worse than to head on over the official MotoGP.com website. MotoGP.com will be showing free live coverage of the pre-race build up to the race, getting you in the mood and up to speed for the Laguna Seca race. Coverage does not include footage of the race - you'll either have to switch on your TV or ante up for a MotoGP.com subscription - but it's a nice way to kick of race day. You can watch the race build up on the Live Video page of MotoGP.com.
More images from Scott Jones at Laguna, this time of the warm up session prior to the race.
Nicky Hayden had a special paint job, stars 'n' bars style
Valentino Rossi saves his front tire
Jorge Lorenzo took part in warm up, and got up to speed slowly
Casey Stoner was fast from the moment he swung a leg painfully over his Ducati
The Repsol Honda Team does a little synchronized sliding
Randy de Puniet. Sadly for the US fans, no Playboy bunnies this time out, hard bags instead
A Texan does Californ-Eye-Ay
A reminder for all our American readers wondering why the Laguna Seca MotoGP race hasn't shown up on their DVR. While normally, MotoGP is shown on SpeedTV, today's race is to be shown live on network TV, broadcast by Fox. The race starts at 2pm local time (PDT) at Laguna Seca, which equates to 5pm EDT (there's a list converting the race start time into the correct time all around the world on this website). You can also check the starting time on the excellent TV Racer website.
So remember, if you're based in the US, the MotoGP race at Laguna Seca is on Fox, not Speed, live at 2pm PDT.
Viewers based in the UK have a choice of viewing. The race is scheduled to be shown live on BBC2 at 10pm BST, but it will simultaneously be broadcast live on British Eurosport with the fabulous voices of Toby Moody and Julian Ryder. So people capable of receiving both the UK and British Eurosport have the luxury of choice. For most of the rest of Europe, however, the MotoGP race will not be shown on Eurosport, so consult your local TV provider.
It's Saturday, and Scott Jones has his eye in. Here are more of his fantastic shots from Laguna Seca. Click on the photos for hi-res versions:
Up the hill towards Terrifying Turn 1. That media center used to be right where the run off is.
Casey Stoner. Just because you're ill, it doesn't mean you can't be fast.
This is how hard you have to work just to ride around in 16th place in MotoGP
This young man has been fast all weekend, until he got flung off at Turn 10.
Class rookie Gabor Talmacsi takes Laguna Lessons from the veteran Loris Capirossi
Andrea Dovizioso demonstrates the art of burying the front wheel in the tarmac
Laguna's even better in widescreen
Team mate #1
Team mate #2. Same colors, completely different styles.
Qualifying practice turned out to be one of the most dramatic sessions we have seen for a long time at Laguna Seca, and not in a good way. By the end of the session, two of the three men leading the championship had suffered violent highsides and been stretchered off, though both Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo are expected to race tomorrow.
It all started off much as expected, with Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo leading the way, Stoner the first into the 1'22 bracket, followed shortly after by Lorenzo. The two young championship protagonists were soon joined by Andrea Dovizioso, and as the first quarter of the session ended, the Repsol Honda man and his team mate Dani Pedrosa took charge, Pedrosa taking over pole.
The Repsol Honda resurgence would be short-lived. Within a couple of minutes, Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner were playing leapfrog with provisional pole again, Stoner getting down into the low 1'22s and then Lorenzo cracking the 1'21s with a lap of 1'21.950. Valentino Rossi, who until that point had been well down the order, soon chipped away at his best time and was soon up to 3rd, a quarter of a second off Lorenzo's pole time.
As the 20 minute approached, Jorge Lorenzo suffered the first of the two crashes he was to have during qualifying, folding the front in Turn 10 and sliding off relatively unhurt into the gravel, his main concern how to get back to the pits in time to improve his time. In the meantime, Casey Stoner took back pole, shaving hundredths off first Lorenzo's time, and then his own, with a lap of 1'21.910. Minutes later, Valentino Rossi joined Stoner and Lorenzo in the 1'21s with a lap of 1'21.958, then another of 1'21.954.
Lorenzo's dash back into the pits would be handsomely rewarded, as the next time out, on the softer of the two available compounds, Lorenzo snatched pole back again, with a much faster time of 1'21.674. Both Lorenzo and Stoner then headed into the pits, ready for a final assault on the pole time. But with just 3 minutes of the session left, just as he entered Turn 10 on his approach to a flying lap, Jorge Lorenzo's rear Bridgestone slid, then caught, flinging the Spaniard high into the air and sending his Fiat Yamaha tumbling through the gravel. Lorenzo had difficulty getting up, clearly in pain in his leg, and was transported to the medical center by ambulance. There he was diagnosed with a partially dislocated shoulder blade and a bruised foot.
With Lorenzo out, challengers had a clear run at pole, but just seconds after Jorge Lorenzo had highsided out, Casey Stoner followed suit, the Australian being tossed from his Ducati in Turn 3 and tumbling through the gravel. Stoner came off better than Lorenzo, however, escaping with just a severely bruised hip, which shouldn't cause him too much trouble during tomorrow's race, at least not as much as the mystery virus which continues to plague the Ducati rider.
As the minutes ticked down, the front row looked already settled, as none of the other riders looked capable of matching the pace of Lorenzo, Stoner and Rossi. Though the composition may have been fixed, Valentino Rossi was not happy with the order, and on his final laps, set about doing something about it. The Italian was fast in the first three sectors, but in the final sector, from the bottom of the Corkscrew through Rainey and Turns 10 and 11, he couldn't get his Fiat Yamaha M1 to motor, and he would give up all the ground he had gained. on his final flying lap, Rossi finally managed to improve, sneaking up into 2nd with a lap of 1'21.845, still 0.167 off Lorenzo's time.
Though the Spaniard was absent both in parc ferme and in the post-qualifying TV interviews, Lorenzo remains on pole, ahead of his team mate and Casey Stoner. In terms of race pace, there is nothing to choose between Lorenzo and Stoner, the pair running race laps within a few hundredths and even thousandths of each other. Valentino Rossi, on the other hand, will need the magic touch of Jeremy Burgess tomorrow morning to help him find the couple of tenths of a second he is off the pace of Lorenzo and Stoner.
On the other hand, Rossi may not need too much help after all. Lorenzo is badly banged up, and with a decision due on his fitness to race tomorrow morning, is unlikely to be able to push Rossi has hard as he did at Barcelona. As for Casey Stoner, he may have escaped serious injury, but there are still question marks over his fitness, as the mystery virus which plagued him at Barcelona and Assen has returned at Laguna Seca. Laguna is a physically demanding track at the best of times, after highsiding and with some form of viral infection, it's going to be hard to be competitive for 32 laps.
The three factory-spec Hondas are behind the usual suspects at the front. Dani Pedrosa leads from Repsol Honda team mate Andrea Dovizioso and San Carlo Gresini's Toni Elias, but the three are separated by just 0.033 seconds. Elias has been especially impressive, the 2008 chassis giving him much more confidence and rear grip, and the ability to match the pace of the front runners.
Two Americans head up the third row on the grid, one rather unhappy, one much happier. Colin Edwards sits in 7th place, but has been struggling with suspension issues all weekend, while Nicky Hayden is up in 8th, and much closer to the fight at the front. It looks like Hayden is starting to reap the fruits of the radical changes made at Catalunya.
The two Suzukis round out the top 10, Chris Vermeulen heading up Loris Capirossi.
Blame for the highsides - and there has been a spate of them at Laguna Seca, including Colin Edwards, Chris Vermeulen and Niccolo Canepa - is being placed firmly on the Bridgestone spec tires. Valentino Rossi commented that the lack of asymmetric tires, or even dual compound tires, is probably to blame for the crashes, as the right side of the tire doesn't get worked as heavily at Laguna as the left hand side does. And in all of the press releases which discussed crashes, all of them referred to the crashes being caused by cold tires, cooling off either as a result of riders getting in the way or ther factors holding riders up and preventing them from getting sufficient heat into the tires. Spec tires may have simplified the choices in MotoGP, but sometimes, those choices appear to be a little too simple.
News is starting to seep in of the injuries suffered by Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner, both of whom suffered nasty highsides in the final minutes of qualifying at Laguna Seca. The good news is that both men are likely to be able to race tomorrow, but the bad news is that they are both pretty banged up.
Casey Stoner escaped with the least damage. According to reports on GPOne.com, Stoner only suffered a badly bruised hip, and should be able to race without problems tomorrow. Of course, Stoner is still suffering with the mystery virus which has plagued him at the last couple of Grand Prix, though some of the color seemed to have returned to the Australian's face today, and Stoner looked a good deal better than he did yesterday.
Jorge Lorenzo came off the worst of the pair. In another huge highside, resembling all too starkly the kind of crashes Lorenzo was prone to last season, Lorenzo fell heavily on his shoulder, and banged up his knee. According to reports on both GPOne.com and Roadracing World, Lorenzo has suffered a dislocated collarbone and a badly bruised metatarsal in his right foot. Lorenzo has also been pronounced fit to ride, though by Dr. Claudio Costa, who places more faith in the riders mental resilience rather than their physical health. If Lorenzo does ride, he will be far from at full strength.
The official MotoGP.com website is reporting that no decision will be made on whether Jorge Lorenzo will race until tomorrow (Sunday).
MotoGPMatters.com's Scott Jones is at Laguna, and sending back more of his fantastic photographs. Here's a selection from Friday.
Warming up a Honda
JT's M1, ready and waiting
CEII gets busy with the T-shirt cannon
In the search for exhaust pipe length, Honda does the tail wraparound
You really want these to work
Gorgeous George hounded his team mate on Friday afternoon
Nicky Hayden can only dream of a three-peat this year
The Texas Tornado blew colder, rather than hotter on Friday
Gabor Talmacsi continued to improve, and was no longer slowest
Fresh from his Assen Century, Rossi greets the fans at Laguna Seca
Toni Elias is a happy bunny now he has the 2008 chassis for his RC212V
In all the discussion of silly season, there are a few names which keep cropping up and are starting to form the bottleneck preventing the rider line-up from shaking itself out. One of those names, Marco Simoncelli, cleared his part of the deck by announcing he had signed for Gresini Honda for 2010. That move also cleared the way at Yamaha, as both the Gresini and the Tech 3 Yamaha rides are the most keenly sought after in the paddock.
With Simoncelli out of the way, that leaves Ben Spies and Alvaro Bautista as the other main stumbling blocks. Spies had previously told the press that he already knew where he would be going next year, but declined to share that information with the press. But the Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport is now claiming to know just what Spies has signed up to.
According to a story in today's edition of the paper, Ben Spies has signed a new two-year deal with Yamaha. Under the terms of the deal, Spies will stay in World Superbikes for one more season, and will then move up to MotoGP in 2011. According to La Gazzetta, Spies has a guarantee of a ride in MotoGP for 2011, but also has an option to move up earlier, if he wins the World Superbike title this year, or if Jorge Lorenzo leaves Yamaha. The new rookie rule prevents Spies from going straight to the factory team, but the deal is said to guarantee full factory support for Spies in any satellite structure, making a mockery of the rookie rule, as has been predicted here and elsewhere.
Extending the factory involvement appears to be the only option for Yamaha if they are to hang on to their superstar line up. Valentino Rossi is signed through 2010, and is currently considering another two year extension after that. Jorge Lorenzo is currently negotiating a deal with Yamaha, likely to be for two years, within the factory team, a place he has fully earned this season. If Yamaha want to place Spies alongside the Italian and the Spaniard, then an extra structure will have to be put in place to support the Texan sensation.
But Spies could yet end up at Fiat Yamaha. Rumors are growing that Jorge Lorenzo is being chased hard by Honda, under pressure from their sponsor Repsol to produce a Spanish world champion. Though publicly, Lorenzo has stated that his first option is to stay with Yamaha, Rossi's inclination to stay for a few more years may be changing Lorenzo's mind. The Spaniard has been content to wait until Rossi retires before taking over the mantle of #1 rider at Yamaha, initially expected at the end of 2010. But if Rossi stays until 2012, Lorenzo may decided not to wait for that long, and jump ship to Repsol Honda, where he would be guaranteed #1 status by the ousting of Dani Pedrosa to make way for Lorenzo.
Though Spies' deal seems to have been tied up, there is still a lot left to play for in next year's silly season. At least one Tech 3 Yamaha seat is likely to be open, as well as a factory Suzuki and the satellite Ducatis. There are a lot of combinations still possible for next year.
MotoGPMatters.com is once again fortunate to have Scott Jones live at Laguna Seca, shooting some more of his superb photos. The first of his shots come from Thursday's Day of Stars Superkart challenge, where champions young and old took each other on around Laguna Seca, in anticipation of this year's Red Bull US Grand Prix.
Right helmet, wrong suit.
Fast Eddie's hat
The Doctor asks Fast Eddie the quick way round Laguna
King Kenny, on four wheels
"And here's where you stuff it up the inside of Lawson, and line up behind Rainey..."
Yamaha-to-Honda vs Honda-to-Yamaha
Rossi, Lawson, Rainey, Roberts
Casey Stoner, Chaz Davies and their respective partners look on.
Sete Gibernau considers a new career
Honda history on a laptop.
Will Valentino Rossi be seeing much of this on Sunday?
Or will he be watching his team mate instead?
We also have a couple of video clips of the event. First, a local news channel shows a brief preview of the event, featuring a vox populi with MotoGPOD presenter and friend of MotoGPMatters.com, Jules Cisek (he's the cool looking dude with the goatee).
And a fan video of the racing on track:
The aim of Public Relations is to generate publicity for the brand you are representing. Some PR firms are better than others, and in motorcycle racing, Yamaha certainly seem to be gaining the upper hand. Their latest offering is a rather silly but nonetheless entertaining look at what Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Colin Edwards and James Toseland do in between races. Colin Edwards in a uniform? Who knew?