Despite dominating the Championship so far, Jorge Lorenzo does not get a lot of pole positions. Except at Laguna: though this was only his third of the season, Saturday’s pole position was Lorenzo’s fourth in a row at the circuit, and he secured it in convincing style. The circuit record tumbled – it had stood since 2008, set by Casey Stoner when he looked on his way to dominating the US GP at Laguna, before his run in with Valentino Rossi of course. There has been much complaining about the Bridgestone tires of late, yet both Lorenzo and Stoner beat the pole record on the tire they will probably race on, a pole record set on super-soft special qualifiers, which at a track like Laguna Seca you could just about eke two laps out of before they were finished. In reality, there is not so much wrong with these tires.
The pole record could have been beaten by a lot more, but Casey Stoner kept running into traffic each time he went for a fast lap. Up by a tenth or more at each split a number of times, he would suddenly run into a rider cruising, or a CRT machine on a hot lap, and lose out. On his last attempt, he ran into Danilo Petrucci just before the final corner, working his way swiftly past to take pole from Lorenzo with a couple of minutes to go. But Lorenzo would not be denied, pushing hard in the final sector to get pole back from Stoner in the dying moments.
For those that are not familiar with the weather patterns of Northern California’s coastal areas, Saturday at Laguna Seca was a good example of the foggy morning gloom we natives must endure in order to be showered with the Golden State’s eternal afternoon sunshine. With FP3 nearly delayed because of low cloud cover, qualifying for the US GP at Laguna Seca couldn’t have conditions more opposite than this morning. Click past the jump for full-of-sunshine qualifying results.
Confirming what we already reported yesterday, Ducati Corse has officially made it official that Nicky Hayden will officially be riding in the official factory Ducati team next season, officially. His tenth season in MotoGP, and his fourth with Ducati, Hayden has re-signed for another one-year stint with the Bologna brand. An important figure for Ducati’s North America efforts, Ducati Corse heavily mentions Hayden’s influence on American owners as its reason for retaining the Kentucky Kid in its press release.
Generally said to be the hardest working rider in the MotoGP paddock, Hayden not only is a workhorse for the Ducati Corse team, as it tries to bring the GP12 and its progeny into the competitive fold, but Hayden is also an active figure for his and the team’s sponsors. With that sort of work ethic and only eight points separating him in the Championship from teammate Valentino Rossi, Hayden’s re-signing seemed like an obvious choice, though Ducati is said to have offered the American’s seat to Cal Crutchlow earlier this season.
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 broader issues with journalists traveling on tourist visas meant that press corps numbers at Laguna are down – had 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 and slot all the surplus of talented riders into the limited space for available rides.
Yamaha USA is keeping its Laguna Seca video tradition alive and well with another short flick that features the company’s MotoGP riders. Headlined by Jorge Lorenzo, Ben Spies, Cal Crutchlow, and Andrea Dovizioso, the Yamaha foursome is joined by MotoGP commentators Nick Harris and Gavin Emmett.
Not quite the comedic gold we’ve seen in the past, there is a tongue-in-cheek element to watching the video knowing that Spies dropped the bombshell about his leaving Yamaha, right around the time this video was being filmed.
From our seats, Dovi stole the show…as that grin is surely the same one he will be wearing if/when he gets the nod to the Yamaha factory team. As for Cal, don’t quit your day job mate. Video after the jump.
Making the rounds in the MotoGP paddock today at Laguna Seca, several sources close to the matter revealed to Asphalt & Rubber that Nicky Hayden is to announce a contract extension with Ducati Corse for the 2013 season this race-weekend. Pegged to be a one-year renewal, Hayden’s place at Ducati has been in a precarious position, ever since it was revealed that Cal Crutchlow had received an offer from the Italian team.
A workhorse for the Ducati, in addition to his personal sponsors, Hayden has been an integral member of the Italian brand ever since he joined the team back in 2009. With the United States now Ducati’s most important market in terms of sales, having an American on the company’s MotoGP team has been an important consideration for Ducati Corse, and the re-signing of Hayden to the Ducati Corse squad bodes well that Bologna has finalized its 2013 plans as well.
LCR Honda and team rider Stefan Bradl are in town early this week, doing a little promo work for US GP title sponsor Red Bull. Before heading down to Laguna Seca tomorrow (a track Bradl already scouted out with a local track day earlier this year), Bradl was in San Francisco yesterday, popping wheelies on Treasure Island and trying not to crash while going down Lombard Street (any SF motorcyclist could have told you the treachery of the iconic San Franciscan street).
MotoGP.com’s video of the event might be a little less than inspiring, but let us all just be thankful that the folks are Dorna actually made one of their YouTube videos web-embeddable for a change. Meanwhile, the photos from Red Bull are quite a treat. 23 of them await you after the jump.
Breaking his left leg (fibula & tibia) during a training accident, Pramac Ducati’s Hector Barbera will be unable to ride for the next four to six weeks. Missing MotoGP’s stops at Laguna Seca and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Pramac will replace Barbera with two-time former-MotoGP racer, Toni Elias.
Replacing his fellow countryman at the Laguna Seca round, and likely at the Indianapolis round as well, Elias himself has some interesting news, as the former-Moto2 Champion was ousted from his Moto2 ride on the Mapfre Aspar team. Elias’s results during his return to Moto2 have been anything but impressive so far this season, especially after his dominant Championship win in 2010.