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Jorge Lorenzo groks the internet. So do the 500 people who posted their photos on his bike through the Fiat On The Web initiative
For those that don't know, Laguna Seca actually resides inside a county park, and is an area of open space that sees campers, hikers, and cyclists in addition to the normal flow of rabid weekend race fans. On a normal weekday, Laguna Seca can be quite peaceful, and the track goes to great lengths to maintain a balance with the tranquility that surrounds it. Today however, this zen of motorcycle racing went right out the window, as the Laguna Seca paddock came alive with the sounds of 800cc fire breathing monsters. With MotoGP bikes finally taking to the track for the first free practice, the unmistakable sounds of prototype motorcycles roared to life, and everyone within earshot knew it.
It's hard to describe just how loud a MotoGP motorcycle sounds as it passes by you, so I'll put it this way: you don't just hear these motorcycles, you feel them. Adding to the experience is the distinct note that each model bike makes as it flies past you. You know when you've been buzzed by a Desmosedici, as opposed to a RC212V. The sounds is special, and watching these racers from one of the most famous turns in racing makes the entire moment sublime.
There have been a number of complaints this year about the Bridgestone control tires, with the company's conservative choice causing problems with tires cooling in cold conditions. The problem - especially with the softer side of the asymmetric tires cooling down in cold air temperatures - has been blamed for a number of crashes this year, including Ben Spies morning warmup crash at Le Mans, Valentino Rossi's huge off at Mugello, that snapped his tibia and put him out for four races, and Hiroshi Aoyama's vicious highside that cracked the Interwetten Honda rider's vertebra and left him sidelined until further notice. A few riders have made made muted complaints about the tires, but these have been largely ignored.
Casey Stoner has been far more vociferous in his criticism of Bridgestone, raising the issue of safety of the tires. In the pre-race debrief with the press at Laguna Seca, he raised the problem again, issuing a stinging criticism of Bridgestone's hard tires, and asking for a softer tire than the ones being supplied. Here's what Stoner said to the press on the issue:
Valentino Rossi's future has been dominating the news now for weeks, if not months, with all the talk being of Rossi's impending switch to Ducati. But lost in all this talk of next year is Valentino Rossi's longer term future, and what he will do when he retires from MotoGP. It has widely been assumed by both media and fans that Rossi will make the transition to four wheels after racing on two, with Ferrari making no secret of their wish to retain the Italian, even going so far as to hint at the possibility of running a third car in Formula One for the Italian legend. If Rossi decided against Formula One, there was always the World Rally Championship, as rallying is Rossi's other great passion.
But recent indications are that retiring from MotoGP may not see the end of Valentino Rossi's life on two wheels. In an interview with Italian veteran journalist Paolo Scalera in the sports daily Corriere dello Sport, Rossi was asked to imagine it was 25 years from now, and he is looking back at his career, and in his imaginary future career, Rossi talked about rejecting F1 in favor of going racing in World Superbikes. His reasoning was simple and clear: "Bikes are for racing, cars are for fun," Rossi told the Corriere dello Sport, adding weight to the possibility ofa future switch to the rival series once he has completed his objective of beating Giacomo Agostini's records in MotoGP.
Comments apparently made by Nicky Hayden in an interview with the Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport caused a bit of a stir among MotoGP fans. According to Autosport, Hayden told the Gazzetta that it was "a bit shameful" for Casey Stoner to leave Ducati. In response to questions about Stoner's move to Honda, Hayden allegedly replied "I think it's a bit shameful, as Ducati has done a lot for his career and has helped him in every possible way in winning races and the championship."
When asked about the comments at Laguna Seca, Hayden denied that was what he said, suggesting the problem probably arose from a misunderstanding. "Maybe it was just a translation," Hayden said, but he made it clear he was aware that words can get twisted to suit the ends of the media. "Maybe the journalist is looking to sell a few more magazines, because I mean, [Casey] knows me, I wouldn't make a comment like that, that's not my business," Hayden explained. "You know I would like to say something got lost in translation, but I think they're just trying to make a headline."
The slog around the world following the MotoGP circus is long, arduous and expensive, and so after attending every MotoGP race so far this season, David Emmett is at home, taking a rest. But this does not mean that MotoMatters.com is not on the scene: We have enlisted the help of our friends over at Asphalt & Rubber, and Jensen Beeler is on the ground reporting from the Laguna Seca MotoGP round. He'll be reporting here, on A&R and tweeting live from the paddock at Laguna. Here's Jensen's report from Thursday:
Thursday saw MotoGP riders arriving at Laguna Seca for the Red Bull US GP. Also in arrival was the sun, which peeked it's head out of the coastal clouds of Monterey, and washed the fabled Californian track with a spotlight of perfectly warm sunshine that seemingly ended the second you stepped foot off the park grounds. With the paddock settling in for the race weekend, we were able to catch up with a few MotoGP superstars to get their impressions for the weekend, and pry more top-secret contract negotiation details out of them.
With the secrecy surrounding Valentino Rossi's impending switch to Ducati becoming ever more difficult to maintain, the Italian's departure from Yamaha is starting to open up the rest of the MotoGP market. With Rossi at Ducati, and Ben Spies moving up to take Rossi's place in the factory Yamaha team, openings are being created in the Tech 3 Yamaha team, and speculation is increasing about who will fill the Yamaha seat in that team (Yamaha control and pay for one seat in the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team, with Herve Poncharal free to fill the second seat as he pleases).
Initially, Cal Crutchlow's name had been pencilled in to take the Yamaha seat at Tech 3, but though the young Briton has shown a good deal of promise on the Sterilgarda Yamaha in World Superbikes, he has not showed the progress his dominant year in World Supersport had suggested. Other names being bandied about from World Superbike were probably irretrievably damaged by Valentino Rossi's stunning times on the WSBK R1 at Brno, circulating at better than race pace after just a few hours on the bike, highlighting the gap between the talent levels in World Superbikes and in MotoGP.
As the moment approaches that Valentino Rossi is expected to announce that he will be joining Ducati, speculation is turning to the future of his crew chief, Jeremy Burgess. The Australian veteran has been Rossi's crew chief since the Italian moved up the then 500cc class with the HRC-backed Nastro Azzurro team, and has been with him ever since. Burgess followed Rossi from Nastro Azzurro to the factory Repsol Honda squad, and from there to Yamaha, where he helped Rossi become just the second rider in history to win back-to-back championships on two different machines.
So the paddock at the Sachsenring saw a string of journalists sidling up to Jerry Burgess to make discrete enquiries about what his plans were for next year. But Burgess has been in the paddock for a very long time, and has mastered the art of the Sphinx-like response, that supplies little in the way of information and leaves everything to the imagination of the journalist concerned.
Jorge Lorenzo's huge engine blow-up during qualifying at the Sachsenring showed the extent to which manufacturers are finding the limits with engine life, but Yamaha's problems are nothing compared to Suzuki's. The Rizla Suzuki riders are heading rapidly towards the end of their allocation of six engines to last the season, with Alvaro Bautista already having taken his 5th engine so far, while Loris Capirossi is nearing that moment very quickly. After just 8 of the 18 races, it is clear that there is no way that Suzuki is going to make it through to the end of the season without taking a penalty.
According to Motorcycle News' Matt Birt, the pressure on Suzuki is about to be eased. MCN is reporting that the manufacturers have agreed to give Suzuki an extra three engines per rider, to ensure they make it to the end of the year without incurring a penalty. To take such a penalty once - starting from pit lane 10 seconds after the rest of the field have started - might have been overlooked, but Suzuki was on schedule to have one of their riders starting from pit lane almost every race from Indianapolis onwards. With an allocation of nine engines instead of six, MotoGP's smallest and least well-funded factory has a chance to make it to Valencia without being forced to use engines outside of the imposed limits.
The search for a replacement MotoGP rider, which seemed so difficult for Valentino Rossi and Hiroshi Aoyama, has not been so complicated for Randy de Puniet's replacement, it seems. Last night, we reported on rumors that Roger Lee Hayden was to replace the Frenchman on the LCR Honda at Laguna Seca, and this morning, it appears that the news has been confirmed. The extremely well-connected Italian site GPOne.com is reporting that the the youngest of the three Hayden brothers has been confirmed as De Puniet's replacement for the Red Bull US GP in Monterey.
Hayden was an obvious choice to replace De Puniet at Laguna, as he had several key factors working in his favor. Firstly, he has experience on a MotoGP bike, although that experience is from 2007, when he rode a wildcard Kawasaki at Laguna, finishing 10th on his first time on the bike. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Roger Lee knows Laguna Seca like the back of his hand, having ridden it in the AMA for so many years. This is a crucial factor in selecting the American, as any former 250 or current Moto2 riders drafted in are unlikely ever to have seen the track, as the junior classes have never accompanied MotoGP to California since the series returned there in 2005, for reasons of cost.
Randy de Puniet's crash and subsequent collision at the Sachsenring reduced the already threatened MotoGP grid from 17 to 16. The LCR Honda rider suffered a fractured tibia and fibula in the incident, and is clearly incapable of riding at next weekend's US GP at Laguna Seca. And so the search for a substitute is on.
But as the drama surrounding finding a replacement for Valentino Rossi and Hiroshi Aoyama so amply demonstrated, finding someone to ride the MotoGP bikes is extremely difficult. Finding a rider who also understands the unique character of Laguna Seca and has experience on a MotoGP bike is even more rare.
Yet such a rider exists: Roger Lee Hayden rode a wildcard Kawasaki at the 2007 US GP, scoring an impressive 10th place on the bike. And so according to both Cycle News and Superbikeplanet.com, Roger Lee is being given serious consideration as the replacement for the injured De Puniet. The reports indicate that Hayden has been given clearance by his Pedercini Kawasaki World Superbike team to take the ride if he wishes. And certainly, the younger Hayden is a common site in the MotoGP paddock, often visiting races to watch his older brother Nicky.