A Foggy Start
Corkscrew as fog clears
They Don't Call Him Elbows For Nothing
A Foggy Start
Corkscrew as fog clears
They Don't Call Him Elbows For Nothing
The Corkscrew Drop
Red Bull Bridge
Rossi In Garage
Toseland's Custom Tire
Spies Shifting from MotoGP to Superbike
Melandri has found some speed
Spies on home turf
The Man to Beat
I'm sitting next to Toby Moody in the Laguna Seca Media Center, and when he brought up the foggy, cool weather, I replied that it was nice compared to the scorching heat of two years ago. He disagreed. "Bring on the heat!" he said, smiling. Extremely nice guy, Mr. Moody. Some television network will do very well to secure his and Mr. Ryder's services next season.
Free Practice 1 was delayed fifteen minutes or so as the riders prepared to go out on track. Dani Pedrosa moved up about ten notches on the tough guy scale, appearing in his garage walking with a crutch on his right arm, his left heavily bandaged. He was clearly damaged, still in considerable pain from his crash in Germany. Somehow he climbed onto his bike and took to the track. He ended up last on the session timing sheet, but the fact the he went out in his condition is extremely impressive.
At Donington, Ben Spies sat beneath Loris Capirossi's image, but he has his own graphic panel here at Laguna. He managed 11th before crashing, making clear that while Donington was an introduction to the 800cc Suzuki, he means business here on home turf. MotoGP rookie Jamie Hacking was right behind Spies in 12th.
Both American riders had a short time to shift into AMA Superbike mode, don their local leathers, and return for the first Superbike practice session. In person, the differences between the two series' machines is dramatic, making the idea of riding one before hoping on the other pretty impressive. More photos tonight.
With the USGP at Laguna Seca three days away, MotoGP riders Jorge Lorenzo and Chris Vermeulen appeared at one of San Francisco’s most popular tourist areas, Pier 39, to greet fans and sign autographs. Sitting in front of the Hard Rock Café, the MotoGP duo was joined by several riders from the Red Bull Rookies series, and a bit later by popular American riders Ben and Eric Bostrom, who compete in the AMA Superbike series.
In typically overcast San Francisco weather, the riders drew a fair number of curious tourists who were at first attracted by Rossi and Bostrom Yamahas on display, as well as fans who had clearly come to have helmets and posters signed.
Jorge Lorenzo was recognized as soon as he arrived, and was particularly generous about posing for photos with fans before and after the autograph session. Chris Vermeulen was as friendly as ever with fans, and the Boz Bros., always popular with American fans for their laidback style, held up their reputations as two of the nicest guys in the AMA series.
I spoke to official Laguna Seca photographer Chucke Walkden, (who kindly suggested the perspective of the above photo--thanks for that one, Chucke) and frequent MotoGPod contributor, Jules Cisek, about how good it was to see some MotoGP promotion happening in a venue that would expose the series to potential new fans. As I moved among the crowd, I heard several MotoGP and AMA fans explaining to tourists who the riders were. Dorna already has the hard core, after all, and as it tries to grow the popularity of its product in America by getting race broadcasts on over-the-air networks, events like this are a step in the right direction.
We've been privileged to receive some great reports and fantastic photographs from Scott Jones of Turn2Photography, who has been attending the race at Donington, and today is no exception. He sent us his view of the race, including more great pictures, as well as a series of shots capturing James Toseland's crash at Redgate. We hope you enjoy his report:
The View From Redgate Grandstand
Instead of rain, Sunday’s dominant condition was wind, and so much of it that the 125s were at the mercy of the strong gusts on certain parts of the track. The morning warm-ups for the 125s and 250s were brief as the skies cleared and the threat of rain seemed to evaporate. But as the weather can change so quickly at Donington in June, the premiere class riders warmed up first on bikes set up for rain, then on bikes set up on Friday for dry conditions. We watched the warm-ups beside the final braking marker for the Melbourne hairpin, then moved to our seats at the Redgate grandstand.
This is the only covered grandstand at Donington, and while it would’ve kept us fairly dry had it rained (we were in the third row), the wind that lashed at the material over our heads fairly ripped through the structure from behind. Even in the ‘sheltered’ area it was cold and very windy. Unattended cups and dislodged hats and caps regularly blew toward the track from the rows of blue plastic seats. Fans watching Turn 1 from the ground in front of the elevated grandstand huddled together and women with longer hair looked desperately for ponytail holders to save their eyes from their wildly whipping hair.
The main victim of the winds was Iannone, who according to the track announcers got blown off the track at Craners. 15-year-old British rider Scott Redding had been closing in on the Iannone when the Italian got caught by a gust that took him off track and out of the race. Redding found himself in first place and finished the race with admirable maturity, taking a lap with the Union Jack in tow to huge applause as the first British winner of a GP event in quite some time.
In the 250s, a great race at the front almost reached a satisfying conclusion as Bautista and Simoncelli traded the lead again and again after the Spaniard chased and caught the early leader. The Mugello incident fresh in my mind (where Simoncelli knocked Barbera off between the final turn and the finish to win his first 250 race, claiming that he was simply trying to dodge Barbera’s drafting attempt), I feared for Bautista. Just after Kalio joined the duo to contest the podium spots, Simoncelli pushed Bautista wide at the completion of the penultimate lap, handing the race to Kalio and taking Bautisa from first to third. After crossing the finish, Bautista made plain to Simoncelli what he thought of the move. How I wish I could’ve been in the stairway leading to the press conference when those two headed for the interviews!
The Main Event
You expect a rider in his home Grand Prix to feel some degree of nationalistic pressure. And sometimes being on home turf amongst family, friends and countrymen brings out in an athlete a higher level of performance than one usually sees. Scott Redding was a good example of that this weekend, just as Nicky Hayden was at Laguna Seca. Many, many people in the stands were hoping for such a performance from James Toseland, who was sporting helmet and leathers proudly wearing the red cross on white background of the flag of England. The two-time World Super Bike champion had proven that he could win against top competition, and this year’s Yamaha is as good as any bike in the MotoGP paddock. Though JT was not contending for the championship in his rookie season, could being on home soil lift him that extra bit to produce a victory from the back of the starting grid?
Before the 800 race, several riders were interviewed in pit lane, one of them being Toseland, who apologized to the crowd for the previous day’s qualifying session, when he had fallen twice without achieving a satisfactory position on the grid. In the interview, he seemed to me to be a man feeling intense pressure from every direction. Among the huge crowds lining the track, thousands of large Toseland and England flags crackled in the wind. Toseland hats and shirts seemed to be on every other spectator. And as he spoke over the loudspeakers, JT clearly felt terrible about his qualifying performance, both with bitter disappointment and with the aches and pains of two hard crashes. I doubt he could have blocked out entirely the way the track announcers never strayed far from their main subject of hoping for a Toseland victory, even as they discussed other topics related to the race. Their comments always seemed to come back to Toseland after a few minutes.
So when he asked too much of cold tires in the first corner and high-sided into the gravel, it seemed at the same time unbelievable and inevitable. He got up off the ground torn between what appeared to be a distinct pain in his wrist and a profounder sense of disbelief and need not to let the day end like this. As track marshals helped set his bike back on two wheels, Toseland’s attention went quickly back and forth between the pain in his wrist and his stunned incredulity that he had crashed in the first corner. The latter dominated the former, and the crowd at Redgate cheered proudly as Toseland remounted and rode off after the pack. He received a cheer every time he passed Redgate until the end of the race.
Watching Marco Melandri’s race was somehow even harder than watching Toseland’s disappointment. Toseland at least won the crowd’s affection by courageously battling on, obviously in pain and on a possibly damaged machine. Melandri just seemed to find a new, lower level of Hell at Donington.
As several good battles between riders on different constructors’ machines were happening at the front, Melandri drifted ever backward. Before long, the reigning championship team was simultaneously in first place, running away from the field and in last place among those riders who hadn’t crashed. As Stoner pulled away from the Rossi-Pedrosa battle for second, Melandri drew ever closer to Stoner, but in the wrong direction. Had the race gone a bit longer, one factory Ducati would’ve lapped the other: Melandri was entering Turn 1 as Stoner exited Goddards to take the victory.
Braking into Turn 1, Menaldri reminded me of the bull riders we have in the US, men who mount enormously powerful animals that have been made so uncomfortable they kick viciously as soon as they’re released from the gate. Melandri’s Ducati seemed to be intentionally fighting back under braking, the handlebars twisting in his hands as the tires wondered which line they were intended to follow into the corner. Stoner, however, looked as smooth as silk, completely the master of his machine both into Redgate and accelerating over the slight crest toward the Craner Curves. When Melandri managed to get on the gas, noticeably later into the corner than Stoner, it was not with confidence but with what seemed to be extreme wariness, if not a little fear. It was difficult to believe both men were riding the same machine, and I kept wondering how long a rider of Melandri’s talent and ability on a Honda can remain riding for Ducati. And will his ego survive the disappointment of moving to the reigning championship team only to find himself unable to cope? It was, as I said, painful to watch.
Watching Ben Spies slip from ninth on the grid to the rear of the pack was a bit disappointing, though even he passed Melandri and ended up closing in on Guintoli toward the end of the race. I reminded myself, however, that I had praised Spies’ patience and maturity, and was likely seeing those qualities again. Spies, is, after all, very well paid to win the AMA Superbike Championship for Suzuki, and as he is currently leading that contest, the worst thing for him to do would be to crash and injure himself here at Donington. He wasn’t here, after all, to contest the Championship or even the race, but to get some time on the GP bike and, more importantly, to show the MotoGP world that he has good judgment as well as good speed. I think he did just that, even though as someone so accustomed to seeing him leading races, I wanted to see him mixing it up a bit.
Crossing the finish line, Stoner did a long, high wheelie of celebration, clearly elated to have returned, at least for the day, to 2007 form. Almost immediately, however, fans just past the finish line ducked under the fences, which at Donington generally stop about a foot from the ground, and raced onto the track. Several riders got through before fans reached the tarmac, but most of the field reached the finish line to find it blocked by spectators and course marshals trying to clear the way for a race that had not been completed. It might have been very bad if any riders had been battling for position through the final corner.
Toseland received a huge ovation when he paused to take on one of his fan flags for a lap intended to salute the crowd. He was forgiven and still adored. Melandri disappeared, and somehow I doubt that the mood in any rider’s trailer was grimmer than his.
After the race we got very lucky with the traffic and escaped the park in a matter of minutes. A friend didn’t fare as well, and it took him over an hour to get several hundred yards to the parking area exit and onto a country road that was similarly congested with exiting traffic. But for me it was a fantastic four days of MotoGP. The Day of Champions and its access to the paddock and pit lane was a great opportunity to see riders and team members at work and even to talk to some of them. The weather was dramatic but not miserable, at least for spectators. The track itself is good for watching the action, with many elevated areas and good views onto the track. The British fan is hearty and undeterred by rain or wind, and generally the atmosphere was fun and friendly, and very appreciative of the efforts of the local heroes. The track and its facilities have an old school feel that’s nice when one thinks of high-tech facilities like Shanghai. Motorsport is full of traditions and rich history, after all, and it’s great that a modest track like Donington, not ‘blessed’ with having millions spent on it to chase Formula One revenue, stays on the MotoGP calendar. I hope Donington Park hosts MotoGP for many years, and I hope to come back soon.
My deepest thanks to friends who drove, hosted and fed me, arranged tickets and held umbrellas while I shot photographs. And a special thanks to Kropotkin for posting my photos and comments. It’s an honor to be included on my favorite MotoGp-related website.
Our thanks to you, Scott, for sending in these reports, and allowing us to publish these fantastic photographs. If you're interested in seeing more of Scott's work, head on over to his website at http://www.turn2photography.com/
We are once again lucky to receive yet more fantastic photos and an on-the-spot report from Scott Jones of Turn2Photography. Enjoy!
Saturday Report From Donington
An English Summer Day
The promised UK weather arrived for Saturday and we spent the morning sessions at the Fogerty Esses, watching the 125s and then Premiere Class tiptoe through the chicane. It was raining hard in the morning and many riders judged the previous day's braking points somewhat optimistically, leaving them trying the grass route back to the tarmac.
Particularly noticeable was the evidence of Ducati’s traction control, especially in Stoner's hands. From the staccato hammering of his GP8 as he exited the chicane, it appeared he was letting the electronics do the work, grabbing a whole lot of throttle and relying on the software to manage the power as it produced that very distinctive cracking sound. When Stoner gained enough speed, the usual angry scream of the Desmoseidici returned as he charged toward Melbourne. The other Ducatis exhibited similar sounds on the exit of the chicane, but none as pronounced as Stoner’s.
Casey Stoner, In Complete Control
Dani Pedrosa's Still Hurting, And It Shows
Alex de Angelis, fast in the dry, slow in the wet
Ben Spies surprised a lot of people
Ant West in his natural habitat
Nicky Hayden is more like his old self
Valentino Rossi: Fast, but not Australian fast
Fortunately, after the 250s finished their morning session the weather eased to a drizzle, then a mist. Randy Mamola’s guests on the two-seater Ducati had an easier time of it than they would’ve had if the rain had persisted. By the time the 800s started their qualifying session, the on again off again rain had left the track between the Old Hairpin and McLeans a treacherous place.
Now That's What I Call TC!
On the climb up the hill, traction control was detectable is varying degrees, or so the unique sounds from each make suggested. As Stoner came under the bridge, his GP8 again crackled as the rear tire fishtailed from side to side. The other bikes showed varying degrees of audible and visual evidence of electronic utilization. Some riders, such as Ben Spies and Jorge Lorenzo, preferred to take the prudent route, while others relied on electronics, and others appeared to be have turned their TC down enough that they could drift their bikes around the turn before McLeans. The later group was the most exciting to watch. Rossi in particular seemed to be giving a clinic on sliding his rear tire up the hill. It seemed only a matter of time before someone went down in this section.
James Toseland feels the pressure
Toward the end of the hour something resembling a dry line had started to appear as those comfortable in the wet chased Stoner’s time. Toseland’s effort ended in front of us as he tried to make it to the Finish line for one more flying lap. He received a standing ovation for the effort from the crowd.
Spies spoke to one of the announcers as we listened in via the loud speakers to a sort of translated AMA post session speech. But he graciously offered Capirossi his wishes for a speedy recovery, and then expressed his appreciation for the unexpected interest in his appearance at Donington and of the many fans he didn’t know he had here in the UK. Spies was clearly pleased with his qualifying performance. At the bottom of Craner on the post session lap, he pumped his fist to the crowd in obvious pleasure and perhaps a bit of relief at having done so well in his first MotoGP qualifying session. We can only wonder what might have happened in the dry. Perhaps we’ll find out tomorrow.
Friend of MotoGPMatters.com and outstanding photographer Scott Jones of Turn2Photography attended the Day of Champions at Donington today, and spoke briefly to Ben Spies.
Here's what Scott told us:
"I spoke briefly to Spies when he came out of the garage to sign from autographs. He said that the light blue of Rizla felt fine except when he put his new leathers on—then he mimicked walking stiffly which seemed a metaphor for the unfamiliar feel of the 800 machine compared to his GSX-R in the darker Yoshimura blue. He said that the 800 felt “just a bit” different from his bike back home with a sardonic smile.
I asked if Vermeulen and Capirossi had been helped him adjust to the new bike, and he said that Chris hadn’t spoken to him much, but that Loris would help him when he arrived on Friday. When I asked how the overall experience was going he said it was fine except that he didn’t know where he was going, in reference to the unfamiliar Donington track."
Spies in powder blue Rizlas
Ruben's gone, here comes Ben.
Spies and the Rizla Suzuki crew
An extra 1
Gratuitous Art Shot
As most of you know by now, we occasionally feature MotoGP photography from sources off the beaten path here at MotoGPMatters.com. A couple of months ago, someone who posts as RLCanon over on the Adventure Rider website posted up a couple of pictures from his visit to the Misano MotoGP round. We liked them a lot, and we hope you like them too.
Our thanks for being given permission to use these pictures, and if you liked these, there's a couple more fantastic images here.
Well, the previous batch of photos from Jules "Popmonkey" Cisek proved such a success that we thought we'd provide some more. Reader Scott Jones e-mailed us to let us know that he had some photos of Laguna Seca, and he kindly agreed to let us feature a few here. We hope you agree with us that they are well worth a gander.
If you've never seen one, this is what the tail of a Kawasaki Supersport bike looks like
Ben's spare leathers
Choices, choices ...
So that's what they make
Raid your piggy bank, and check down the back of the sofa ...
No, not that 46
Come in, number 7, your time is up
The Doctor, about to crest Turn 6
Team mates. This year ...
You're supposed to look where you're going, Shinya
Minutes later, Alex Hofmann and Sylvian Guintoli would tangle. Very painfully.
Alex Barros, Ace Braker
Chaz Davies, The World's Luckiest Man
Valentino Rossi, about to head down the Corkscrew once again
Yes, that's fast.
Dani Pedrosa. He's fast at Laguna.
Randy de Puniet
Nicky did not three-peat
Former world champion Kenny Roberts Jr. Is he done?
And the title of Coolest AMA Superbike Rider goes to .... Ben Bostrom
... despite competition from Ben Spies ...
... and Spies' team mate Mat Mladin
Commentating legend Julian Ryder
Another fast Hayden, Roger Lee
Jeremy Burgess, motorcycle genius