MotoGP Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix, Laguna Seca, July 23-24, 2011

Stoner Wins California...

No, not Governor Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown, but Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner (above) who beat Jorge Lorenzo at the Red Bull US Grand Prix race at the spectacular Laguna Seca circuit, his fifth win of 2011 to further strengthen his lead in the World Championship rankings.

In front of a crowd of over 52,000 passionate fans, the MotoGP field lined up under the California sunshine for the start of the Red Bull US Grand Prix. Yamaha Factory rider Lorenzo had a great launch from pole position leading into turn one with the three Repsol Hondas tracking close behind, with Dani Pedrosa heading the trio. Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) had a strong start and followed a tight fifth behind the Hondas until he crashed exiting turn 5 on lap seven, ending the race for the Italian.

While Lorenzo led the race, behind him Stoner was picking up steam, first passing his team mate Pedrosa on lap 18 of the 32 lap race, then ticking off fast laps to reel in the race leader. The Australian caught up to the Spaniard and proceeded to pressure him for several laps, finally making his move around the outside of Lorenzo, driving out of the last corner to take the lead with six laps to go. Stoner immediately put down the hammer and pulled away, crossing the finish with a five and a half second lead to take his fifth win of the 2011 season.

Local hero Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing) had a poor start at his home track, fighting his way past Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) in the early laps of the race, then scrapping with Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) to end the race in fourth position, the highest placing American on home turf.

Dovizioso crossed the line in fifth place, ahead of the battle for sixth between the Ducati Team riders Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden. Hayden lost out to the Italian, crossing the line on his GP11 seven tenths behind the GP11.1 of his teammate.

Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) was unable to improve the feeling of his bike after citing struggles with it after qualifying the day before, ending the race what is sure to be a disappointing eighth place in front of a huge following of loyal fans at the circuit. Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar) finished in ninth, one place behind his qualifying position and Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) met his top ten goal, finishing in tenth. Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing) finished eleventh, in front of Loris Capirossi (Pramac Racing) who is still struggling with pain from injuries, and Toni Elías (LCR Honda) in thirteenth.

Cal Crutchlow crashed out on lap three, the British rider hugely disappointed after qualifying ahead of his team mate Colin Edwards at the Texan’s home track, followed by Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) who fell on lap 13, while Ben Bostrom rode off the track after missing a gear on lap six, decided not to re-enter the race and retiring the LCR Honda to the garages.

Stoner interview

Lorenzo crashes, takes pole at Laguna Seca

Yamaha Factory rider Jorge Lorenzo (above) set out into the afternoon qualifying session apparently unfazed following an enormous highside at the end of the morning practice at the Red Bull US Grand Prix on Saturday. The reigning World Champion forgot to hit a switch that overrides the launch control system and engages the traction control during a practice start, thus throwing himself into the air and across the gravel when he put the throttle at full stick. He appeared unaffected however, by setting a fast lap just 15 minutes into qualifying that remained the top lap for nearly the entire session. His 35th and final lap of 1'21.202, which was over half a second faster than his FP3 time, sealed his place at the head of the starting grid at Laguna Seca.

Championship leader Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda) made a final push after trailing the frontrunners, posting a time of 1'21.274 to put him in second place on the grid, with Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) landing in the final place on the front row with his quickest time of 1'21.385.

The one-hour qualifying session was held under perfect conditions, with the sun shining and track temperatures of 41º Celsius which warranted the field starting out on harder compound tyres. The American riders were the first to switch to softer compounds, hoping for good results on at their home track, with Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing) taking provisional pole with 15 minutes remaining to the delight of the crowd. However, with 5 minutes remaining on the clock, Spies lost the front in turn 3, slid across the gravel and wedged his Factory Yamaha under the air fence, damaging it too far to remount it for the last five minutes of the session and knocking him into fourth position.

Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) posted a time of 1'21.696 to earn him the middle position on the second row. The Italian was followed by countryman Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) whose lap of 1'21.731 put him in the final second row spot.

Ducati Team rider Valentino Rossi made some big improvements in the second half of the session to his GP11.1 machine to make it onto the third row with the seventh fastest time, one second off of the quick lap posted by Lorenzo. Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team ) now has two of the same version of the Desmosedici on his side of the garage and has decided to stick with the GP11 version for the rest of the weekend after he rode both the GP11 and GP11.1 in yesterday’s sessions. He crashed in Rainey curve (turn 9) then ran all the way back to the pits after the crash truck picked up his Ducati. He swiftly re-entered the session to post the ninth fastest time.

Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) found some speed, moving up from 13th in the morning to the tenth spot on the grid ahead of his team mate Colin Edwards in eleventh. American wildcard Ben Bostrom on the LCR Honda improved his time over half a second again, though still remains 18th in the timings, one second behind team mate Toni Elias and four seconds off the pole position time.

Other incidents in the qualifying outing were the crashes of Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) and Randy de Puniet (Pramac Racing). Bautista lost the front end in turn 3 and had a high speed tumble across the gravel, though was unhurt and immediately up and running to his box, while De Puniet slid off slid off in turn 5 and while he was able to walk away suffered fractures to the L3 and L5 Transverse Processes in his back and a suspected crack to the iliac bone in his hip.

Lorenzo interview

Lorenzo leads at Laguna Seca

Last year’s Laguna Seca race winner Jorge Lorenzo (above) put in a remarkable run in the second free practice session on Friday, as the Red Bull US Grand Prix kicked off at Laguna Seca.

The Yamaha Factory Racing rider led the times with consistent laps from the early part of the session until ending on the top of the field with a time of 1'22.056, one-tenth of a second quicker than the 2009 race winner Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) and four-tenths faster than his own time set in FP1 earlier in the day.

In third place in the combined free practice standings was Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda), who had an upset in turn 3, saving the Honda from a crash with his knee. After leading the first practice session, the Australian was 0.175s off the reigning World Champion’s leading time.

Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) was the fourth fastest in the order, with a time of 1'22.537, moving him up one spot from his earlier fifth position. The first American in both sessions was Ben Spies on his Yamaha Factory machine kitted out in a special anniversary livery, improving on his time by two-tenths of a second with a lap of 1'22.615 to put him in fifth place on his home turf.

Bigger time improvements were seen from position six onwards, starting with Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) whose time of 1'22.803 was almost a half second improvement for the crowd favourite, and was 0.253s quicker than seventh place lap of Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki), who also made a half second step up from the earlier session.

Next came Randy de Puniet (Pramac Racing), who jumped from 12th to eighth with a time of 1'23.135, followed by Americans Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and the fastest Ducati in the pack, that of Nicky Hayden, who, having both the GP11 and GP11.1 available to him, decided on the GP11.1 machine for the duration of the session.

Valentino Rossi, who has Crew Chief Jeremy Burgess back in the garage after a two race absence, followed his Ducati Team mate in eleventh position, ahead of Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar) in twelfth and MotoGP rookie Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) in thirteenth, who ran off at the top of the corkscrew in both practice sessions in his first day at the circuit.

Wildcard and MotoGP first timer Ben Bostrom riding the RC212V of the LCR Honda Team knocked over a second off his times from the first session though trails four seconds off the leading time.

Lorenzo interview

courtesy of MotoGP