Results and summary of a thrilling qualifying practice session at Laguna Seca:
The morning fog that is a normal part of most mornings at Laguna Seca was a little thicker and hung around for longer than usual on Saturday morning, causing the AMA session which precedes MotoGP to be rescheduled, but burning off just enough for some MotoGP bikes to go out once FP3 started. The track was still greasy from the mist, the spot under the bridge on the front straight causing a particular problem, but a few brave souls who really needed the track time went out.
Press releases from Bridgestone and the MotoGP teams after the first day of practice at Laguna Seca:
Pedrosa fastest in Laguna Seca with Stoner in third position
It was a good start for the Repsol Honda Team in Laguna Seca. Both riders had their first outing on the challenging American track also taking the opportunity to try some new parts in this morning's session.
Dani Pedrosa continued his reign of the MotoGP class at Laguna Seca this afternoon, adding the fastest time in FP2 to his quickest time in FP1 this morning. Where the Repsol Honda man only just held off Jorge Lorenzo in FP1, he stretched his advantage to a much more comfortable third of a second in the afternoon, getting under the race lap record and closing in on the pole record as well. Lorenzo took 2nd again, just as he did this morning, while Casey Stoner was also once again 3rd fastest, though the Australian closed the gap on Lorenzo significantly.
Dani Pedrosa has got off to a flying start at Laguna Seca, leading from early in the session and ending FP1 just ahead of Jorge Lorenzo. The Repsol Honda man was quick from the off, closing in on the race lap record as the session drew to a close. Jorge Lorenzo took the lead for part of the session, but at the end, the Factory Yamaha rider had to concede to Pedrosa, the Repsol Honda man gaining most of his advantage in the final section of the track, from the bottom of the Corkscrew back across the line.
Nicky Hayden will be staying with Ducati in MotoGP for the 2013 season. Ducati Corse today issued an official press release announcing Hayden's contract extension for another year.
As a MotoGP rider, dealing with the press can be a lot like boxing against a stronger opponent: put in a quick attack, and then grab on and defend for dear life. At Laguna Seca, Ben Spies showed he had mastered the art perfectly. After dropping the bombshell that he would be leaving Yamaha on Tuesday, on Thursday Spies was in full defensive mode, deflecting questions and saying that he would not be discussing the situation and what had motivated his decision "until I'm ready to talk about the future." To carry that off and persist in your position in a room full of journalists hell-bent on wheedling the truth out of you is quite an achievement.
Fortunately for Spies, his announcement had given the assembled media hordes - well, not quite a horde, as dwindling print sales, economic stagnation in the key markets of Spain and Italy and a few border issues with journalists traveling on tourist visas meant that press corps numbers at Laguna are down - plenty of other issues to sink their teeth into. Spies leaving Yamaha opens up another seat, and with the Texan looking almost certain to switch back to the World Superbike series with the BMW Italia squad next season, an extra factory prototype, something of increasing scarcity in these days of dwindling factory involvement. Naturally, with Spies out of the equation, the media and fans have joined in an epic game of fill-in-the-blanks to try to slot all the surplus of talented riders into the limited available rides.
2012 is Stefan Bradl's rookie season in MotoGP, and as such, he faces many challenges. There's the difficulties of dealing with the power of a MotoGP bike, the complications of handling the sophisticated electronics used in the class, and there's the Bridgestone tires to master. Another problem that is sometimes overlooked for MotoGP rookies is having to learn a new and demanding circuit, the complex layout of the Laguna Seca track.
Press releases issued ahead of this weekend's Laguna Seca round of MotoGP. Includes the Yamaha MotoGP press release, which gives no hint of Ben Spies' announcement he will be leaving the factory at the end of the year, as well as details of updates to be used by both Honda and Ducati:
MotoGP Heads Across the Atlantic for Laguna Seca
Marc Marquez has completed three days of testing at the Portuguese circuit of Portimao. The Spaniard was riding there alongside Thomas Luthi, where the two Moto2 rivals were testing the latest chassis updates from Suter. No times were made available, but the Repsol Media Service issued the following press release and video after the test:
Ben Spies will be leaving Yamaha at the end of this season. The American made the shock announcement via email to the US racing website Superbikeplanet.com earlier on Tuesday, stating that he would be leaving Yamaha "for a litany of reasons", though unwilling to list them until a more "appropriate" moment. Spies made no announcement on where he would be racing, saying only that he was discussing his situation with his sponsors.
Costs in MotoGP have exploded since the introduction of four-stroke engines, with the rise turning almost exponential once the relatively simple 990s were dropped to make way for the 800cc MotoGP machines. Since the beginning of the financial crisis, MotoGP has been looking for ways to cut costs, with much of the effort taking place through changes to the technical regulations. The first step was a return to 1000cc engines, with a bore limit of 81mm to keep revs down.
Toni Elias has been drafted in to replace the injured Hector Barbera at Laguna Seca. The Spaniard had recently parted ways with the Aspar team in Moto2, meaning he was immediately available to take the ride, and given Elias' prior experience with the team - Elias rode for the squad back in 2008 - and with the Bridgestone tires, Elias was the obvious candidate.
It has been an intense week or so for speculation about the next and biggest cog in MotoGP's Silly Season merry-go-round. The question of Valentino Rossi's future has filled the media, with multiple sometimes conflicting stories appearing in the international press. That Rossi should dominate the headlines is logical. After all, with Casey Stoner retiring, and the futures of Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez all settled, Rossi's decision will determine not just where he lands, but to a massive degree who will fill the rest of the seats in MotoGP next year.