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. As the junior classes (now Moto2 and Moto3, previously 125cc and 250cc) do not visit Laguna Seca due to space and noise constraints, rookies face the double challenge of learning the circuit and finding a way to manhandle a MotoGP bike around it. The the track is featured on many MotoGP computer games, the elevation changes and camber of the track make it much harder to learn.
To alleviate some of the problems of learning the circuit, Stefan Bradl decided to use a public trackday to learn his way around. Adam Silver, keen racing fan and trackday enthusiast, learned that Bradl would be riding at Laguna, and went along to join the fun. Below is his account of the day Stefan Bradl followed him around Laguna.
It's every motorcycle racing fan's dream to spend a day riding a race bike on track with a world champion, right? For me that dream came true on May 28th, 2012 at Laguna Seca…
I hadn't planned to attend that particular trackday. To be honest, Laguna is a bit of a pain for trackdays - they have a 92db sound limit which is rigorously enforced. Bone stock bikes often get meatballed (the flag shown if you exceed the sound limit). My two track bikes both have aftermarket exhausts and so Laguna is typically off the table for me. However, a few days before the trackday was scheduled I was browsing BARF (Bay Area Riders Forum - the northern california online hang out for moto junkies) and I happened to see mention of the possibility of Stefan Bradl attending the Pacific Track Time (PTT) hosted event. I immediately went to the PTT website only to discover that the event was sold out. I didn't have anything else to do that day so I figured 'what the heck' I'll sign up for the wait list, go down for the day and perhaps I'll get in. I installed the silencer insert into the exhaust on my R6, hoping to elude the meatball flag!
Like most summer days at Laguna Seca, it was foggy and cold as I drove into the paddock. But, I wasn't concerned - the forecast was for a bright sunny day and I was confident that the fog would burn off. I parked the van and went over to the registration table. By a series of lucky coincidences, I was able to get confirmed to ride for the day. At the riders meeting there was no mention of Bradl being there so I thought maybe it had fallen through.
At 9am the track went green. I rolled up the hot pit with GoPro cameras mounted front and rear hoping to capture a brief glimpse of a world champion. It was still quite cool but much of the fog had burned off. Most riders were going at a conservative pace during the first session as the track was cold. When the session was over I thought to myself 'ok - he didn't show' - I was a little disappointed. As I exited the track and rolled back down the hot pit, I happened to glance over my shoulder and, there he was! Stefan Bradl, the Moto2 World Champion, had taken his first ever laps around Laguna Seca and followed ME off the track! I waved at him and he waved back.
In the second session, I was shown the meatball flag on my second lap. So I had to come in and get my wrist slapped. I consulted with a few people and the general opinion was to not downshift entering turn 5, coast through, stay all the way to the left going up the hill with neutral throttle and get on the gas just before turn 6. I was also advised to cover the top half of the intake manifold with duct tape. After heeding that advice the remainder of the day went smoothly.
During the lunch break I strolled over to Stefan's pit area. Aside from the snazzy looking leathers, he looked like a regular trackday rider! He was riding a bone stock CBR1000RR. I introduced myself and we chatted for a while. I asked him about how he felt as last season drew to an end and Marquez was closing down the points gap. He said it was stressful but that he just stayed focused. We talked about Laguna and he said he was really enjoying the track.
The rest of the day was incredible. I rode every A group session and was passed by Stefan each time - I was keen to review the videos when I got home. At the end of the day I looked at the photos from the trackday photographer, Dito Milian of gotbluemilk. He'd captured a photo of Stefan following me.
I was very impressed with Stefan. For a 22 year old guy at his level he came across as incredibly mature, very intelligent and he's got a great sense of humor. It was an honor and a pleasure to meet him. He graciously agreed to autograph the tailpiece on my R6. When I got home and reviewed the on track videos I was again impressed with his maturity. Here's a guy who could easily have smoked everyone on track. But, he respected the spirit of the trackday, was courteous to other riders and focused on familiarizing himself with the track.
More videos of the trackday in this playlist.
Footnote: Last evening (Tue, July 24th) I attended a presentation hosted by the Revs Program at Stanford University (http://events.stanford.edu/events/330/33085/). Stefan Bradl, Lucio Cecchinello and many of the LCR team were there to discuss "Embracing Risk in the Pursuit of Victory". It was an interesting presentation and it was enjoyable to observe the team dynamics - they are a very close knit group and clearly enjoy working together. I had a nice chat with Stefan and he autographed the photo from a trackday I'll always remember. I said to him "just remember one word this weekend - podium". He smiled.