This weekend at MotoGP’s Red Bull US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, I stopped by the Motus ten to give Lee Conn and Brian Case some grief, and to see how the production-ready Motus MST was looking. The bikes looked similar to their prototype form from two year’s ago, with obviously more fit-and-finish in the overall design. One of the big changes I noticed though was that Motus has dropped the industry standard analog tach and LCD speedo for an all-glass cockpit design.
It may be, in the colorful phrase of Jeremy Burgess, a “shitty little race track,” but somehow Laguna Seca always manages to produce moments of magic. This year was no different, with Stefan Bradl finally getting his first podium, Marc Marquez breaking record after record, and Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa coming back, after they both had damaged their collarbones at the Sachsenring.
As memorable as those performances were, they will all be overshadowed by one moment. Marc Marquez passed Valentino Rossi in the Corkscrew on lap 4, running through the dirt in scenes reminiscent of Rossi’s iconic pass on Casey Stoner back in 2008.
The incident fired the imagination of MotoGP fans for so very many different reasons: the reminder of Rossi’s pass on Stoner; the even deeper line which Marquez took through the gravel in 2013; the thrill of a rider running through that corner and still managing to return and maintain his position.
Naturally, it was the talk of the press conference. When asked about the pass, Rossi turned his attention to HRC team principal (and Marc Marquez’ team boss) Livio Suppo. Suppo was Casey Stoner’s team boss back in 2008, and had complained bitterly of Rossi’s pass at the Corkscrew.
“You and Stoner break my balls for two or three years about that overtake, because I cut the curb. So what do you say about that? Have to be disqualified eh?” Rossi asked to much laughter. Not to be outdone, Suppo replied in kind: “Thanks for the question, and thanks to Marc, because after a few years, we pay you back!”
Just like Valentino Rossi’s move on Casey Stoner in 2008, we will be talking about Marc Marquez getting past Rossi through the dirt of the Laguna Seca Corkscrew for some time to come.
With some retrospect, Marquez’s move on Rossi might be the defining moment for where the young Spaniard replaced the veteran Italian as MotoGP’s darling, but until that passing of the torch has been solidified with more duration, we will refer to the pass as just one of racing’s most epic moments in recent memory.
The Red Bull US GP at Laguna Seca, fan favorite Nicky Hayden will be sporting a new lid. Themed after Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, the Arai helmet has another clever use of Nicky’s face in the livery, giving the impression that the Kentucky Kid is wearing a combat helmet while on his Ducati Demsosedici GP13.
When we asked about any meaning behind the helmet design for the US GP Hayden said he simply liked the camo paint scheme, and that his helmet designer, Roby Marchionni of Starline, had thought of the design for the race. However, it is hard not to make some connections between Nicky’s time at Ducati Corse and some of the themes portrayed in Full Metal Jacket. After all, the former World Champion certainly has that thousand-yard stare down pat.
After free practice at Laguna Seca, things looked pretty well sewn up. Marc Marquez was on another planet, with his fourth pole position a mere formality. Alongside him on the front row would be Cal Crutchlow and Valentino Rossi, with Crutchlow looking like having the stronger pace after free practice, while Rossi possessing more sheer outright speed. The rest? Well, they were irrelevant, and would be even more so once qualifying had proved the pundits right.
Only it didn’t quite work out that way. A hectic and eventful qualifying saw Stefan Bradl take his first ever pole position, ahead of Marc Marquez and another surprise package in Alvaro Bautista. Rossi and Crutchlow were left on the second row, just ahead of the walking wounded pair of Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa, the Repsol Honda rider heading up the third row.
When Yamaha announced they would be leasing their M1 engines to ex-CRT teams for 2014, the first wave of reaction was overwhelmingly positive. With 24 liters of fuel allowed, and 12 engines instead of 5, the Yamaha engine package looked like being the best thing on offer to the so-called non-MSMA teams, as CRT is to be called from next year.
Then doubt set in. Looking at the Yamaha M1 package, what you’d want from Yamaha was the chassis rather than the motor. The engine is the least powerful of the MotoGP prototypes, but its chassis was by far the best of the bunch. Both the Honda and the Yamaha non-MSMA packages appeared to be offering the worst part of each bike: Honda offering their chassis (good, but not great) and a dumbed-down version of their superlative engine.
Yamaha offering a full-fat engine (the weakest of the bunch), for teams to have someone build a chassis around without Yamaha’s 20+ years of experience building Deltabox frames. Perhaps the Yamaha M1 lease package – a lot of money, just for some engines – was not the bargain it at first appeared.