MotoGP: Crashes Define Race at Laguna Seca

07/29/2012 @ 5:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

Another foggy Californian morning, another sunny Californian afternoon. MotoGP is in Laguna Seca this weekend for the US GP, which started off with the surprise announcement that Ben Spies would not be returning to the factory Yamaha squad next season. With Spies’ departure from Yamaha, his seat at the factory team is officially up for grabs now, which has lead to increase in speculation that Rossi could return to the Japanese factory.

Whether that is wishful thinking by loyal fans, or a prudent insight into the Italian’s options and future remains to be seen, but the topic has certainly dominated this weekend at the coastal Californian track. One thing is for certain, fans want to see Rossi be more competitive on race Sundays, and the thought process by many is that this means a more sorted motorcycle for the nine-time World Champion.

Right now, that motorcycle is the 2012 Yamaha YZR-M1, which Jorge Lorenzo put on the pole-position during Saturday’s qualifying. Followed by the Hondas of Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa, all three riders had a race pace that was vastly superior to the rest of the field, though Stoner cited lapped traffic as the cause for his diminished qualifying time. Sunday’s race would prove whether that statement was excuse or reality.

As racing got underway, it was Lorenzo who lead into the Andretti Hairpin, followed closely by Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner. The trio would eek out a gap to the battle for fourth, which was lead by Ben Spies, and included Andrea Dovizioso, Cal Crutchlow, and Stefan Bradl.

With Stoner getting around Pedrosa in the early stages of the race, the Australian kept Lorenzo reeled in close for most of the US GP’s 32 laps. Finally making his move on the front straight, Stoner passed Lorenzo on the inside of the T1 dogleg, with 11 laps to go. Never looking back, the reigning-World Champion finished with a comfortable 3.4 second lead over the current Championship leader — sparing the American crowd of another tedious Lorenzo post-celebration.

While the racing at the front was more like a predator stalking its pray, the battle for fourth was a close scrap, especially as Nicky Hayden showed promise of joining the group. Leading that off-the-podium contingency, Spies would see his race cut short, as his bike seemingly collapsed underneath him as he came down the Corkscrew on the 21st lap.

This left the battle down to Dovi and Crutchlow, as the Italian again bested his British teammate. Despite the bad news for American MotoGP fans, the silver lining was Nicky Hayden catching up to Stefan Bradl. Unfortunately by that point, the factory Ducati rider was too far removed from the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 riders, and only four laps remained in the race.

Settling for a sixth, the result would be the best Ducati could muster, as Rossi trailed in 8th place, before crashing at the top of the Corkscrew in the closing laps of the race. Struggling with the pace at Laguna Seca all weekend, California is a forgettable stop for Rossi, though he is rumored to have met with Ducati CEO Gabriele del Torchio the night before, with a 17 million contract on the offering.

With the CRTs starting to get lapped with nine laps remaining, with Silva and Edwards the first to see the front-runners go past them. In total, four CRTs got lapped, while six other riders retired from crashes and mechanical failures. MotoGP racing stays over in the United States, as the Indianapolis GP is on August 19th.

Race Results from the US GP at Laguna Seca, USA:

Pos. Rider Nation Team Bike Time
1 Casey STONER AUS Repsol Honda Team Honda 43’45.961
2 Jorge LORENZO SPA Yamaha Factory Racing Yamaha +3.429
3 Dani PEDROSA SPA Repsol Honda Team Honda +7.633
4 Andrea DOVIZIOSO ITA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha +18.602
5 Cal CRUTCHLOW GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha +18.779
6 Nicky HAYDEN USA Ducati Team Ducati +26.902
7 Stefan BRADL GER LCR Honda MotoGP Honda +28.393
8 Alvaro BAUTISTA SPA San Carlo Honda Gresini Honda +50.246
9 Aleix ESPARGARO SPA Power Electronics Aspar ART +1’18.993
10 Karel ABRAHAM CZE Cardion AB Motoracing Ducati +1’22.076
11 Randy DE PUNIET FRA Power Electronics Aspar ART 1 Lap
12 Yonny HERNANDEZ COL Avintia Blusens BQR 1 Lap
13 Colin EDWARDS USA NGM Mobile Forward Racing Suter 1 Lap
14 Ivan SILVA SPA Avintia Blusens BQR 1 Lap
Not Classified
Valentino ROSSI ITA Ducati Team Ducati 3 Laps
Ben SPIES USA Yamaha Factory Racing Yamaha 11 Laps
James ELLISON GBR Paul Bird Motorsport ART 13 Laps
Danilo PETRUCCI ITA Came IodaRacing Project Ioda 14 Laps
Mattia PASINI ITA Speed Master ART 21 Laps
Toni ELIAS SPA Pramac Racing Team Ducati 31 Laps
Michele PIRRO ITA San Carlo Honda Gresini FTR 0 Lap

Source: MotoGP; Photo: © 2012 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

  • David

    Way to go Hayden. Wring that red POS out for all it’s worth. But 26+ seconds down on the leader is not so much to brag about. Still gotta like Hayden though. Go AMERICA!

    If Rossi takes that 17 million then he pretty much admits he can’t really compete anymore and his career is over and he is just sucking in the money till retirement. Can’t really blame him, being broke and all like he must be…

    Rossi can be a mid pack spectator and see if Lorenzo can snatch the GOAT title away from him. It’s a good bet Lorenzo will do it with Stoner out next year and no other competition on the near horizon. If Lorenzo wins his 3rd this year and easily the next two for 5 total titles, he is still young enough to grab 2 more to tie Rossi and maybe even go for the GOAT.

    But then again, MotoGP might just go the CRT bike route with everybody forced to ride “Shitty bikes” (Edwards words)…lol…then it’s boring NASCAR type racing on equal equipment.

    Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

  • Jonathan

    The GOAT title is getting pretty old – especially as Wayne Rainey was at the track and his raw stats take a little beating (depending on which stats mean most to you). He was never my favourite rider of that era (too smooth, too metronomic and too reliable), but I am just a GP fan and not his team boss! What he did in his all-too-short career is one of the benchmarks imo.

    Stoner was bloody amazing today (and as a Brit it pains me to say so), but the most significant thing I take from this weekend is that Bridgestone are getting to grips with the tyre needs of the litre bikes.

  • Frenchie

    Hayden’s records at Laguna Seca these past 4 seasons make for an interesting read:

    Best lap during the race for Ducati:
    2009 Stoner 1’22.083, Hayden 1’22.703
    2010 Stoner 1’21.376, Hayden 1’22.112
    2011 Rossi 1’22.520, Hayden 1’22.704
    2012 Hayden 1’21.996, Rossi 1’22.189

    Hayden finish and gap to the leader:
    2009 5th +21″
    2010 5th +14″
    2011 7th +31″
    2012 6th +26″

    Standings after 10 GPs:
    2009 13th 47 points
    2010 6th 99 points
    2011 7th 94 points
    2012 7th 84 points

  • smiler

    7 did not finish and 4 were lapped. Not a great result.

  • GaijinEagle

    It will be pretty hard for Jorge to win his 3rd this year, as he only has 1…

  • Frenchie

    Actually Lorenzo has 3 world championships to his belt, and likely more to come.
    When everybody refers to Rossi as a 9-time world championship winner, it is only fair to count the lower categories for the other riders too.
    Some people tend to forget what these riders have done before the main category. For example Pedrosa has won 3 world championships in 3 consecutive seasons right before going to Repsol Honda, Marquez can’t say that much.
    By the same token Biaggi had a few world championships under his belt (4 consecutive seasons) before he grabbed the WSBK title last year. And no one would think of Biaggi as someone without world championships titles in GP.

  • Ben

    “sparing the American crowd of another tedious Lorenzo post-celebration”

    Nice bit of snark, Lorenzo jumping spreadeagled as he does from the top step always makes me wince, not to mention the ridiculous and often failing post race theatrics. What happened to the planting of the flag, I thought that was kind of cool even, could have been a trademark.

    Great race from Casey, unlike Lorenzo, stoner is never happy to ride quietly once beaten and settle for second place. When Marquez starts chucking the rcv down the track next year, and you know he will, will Lorenzo condemn his countryman as readily as he did simoncelli, I wonder.

  • Jonathan

    Ben: “When Marquez starts chucking the rcv down the track next year, and you know he will, will Lorenzo condemn his countryman as readily as he did simoncelli, I wonder.”

    Of course he will! Lorenzo’s a smart guy (one of the smartest around) and he knows that mindgames are an important part of the trickbag. Don’t forget that Lawson, Schwantz, Rainey et al did it back in the day too…

    I have to say that Lorenzo’s celebrations always come over as being toe-curlingly contrived, so I’m grateful to Stoner for saving us all from that too. I never thought I’d miss the grumpy little Aussie, but he’s a pure racer, not a pragmatist.

  • spectre

    “sparing the American crowd of another tedious Lorenzo post-celebration”

    The ‘Game Over’, the lake jump and the moon landing were all pretty classic. Any shade of personality, whether it’s bombastic, egocentric, or inappropriate is welcome in my book. Lorenzo seems to walk the tightrope of being brash to the point of tastelessness with it, but mind games is all part of it. Biking as a culture to me is expressive and exuberant, I’d hate to see the grid turn into F1 robots.

    Id say Rossi to Yamaha is a sure bet now. It would certainly give the prospect of the most interesting and competitive season.

    I also think Crutchlow might get a bit more aggressive in the race once his next season contract is confirmed.

  • Victor Knowles

    Laguna Seca is always a treat to watch, too bad it was on Speed. Their coverage sucks…..they spent about a minute showing us Wayne Rainey watching the race when we should have been. No disrespect to Wayne, he’s awesome. But come on Speed…focus !

  • Andrey

    Speeds coverage is appalling; static shots of the cars in the car park, long conversations about non race issues while things actually happen on track, poor (American) camera work on track and in studio, whiny nasal voice chit chatting about nothing, Sheehan making comments completely out of step with the race…. amazing that such a poor display is considered acceptable. Can’t wait until they are back overseas.
    As much as I like Haydens attitude and reasonable results, the only reason he has a new contract is that Ducati want to sell more bikes in America, rather than win races.

  • John

    I want to know what the hell happened to Spies’s bike. Was it a rider error, or did his bike really just fall apart underneath him?

    Hayden, even after removing the red-white-and-blue glasses, still seems to the most underrated talent in the MotoGP paddock.

    Also, MotoGP is doomed if they can’t get more prototypes on the grid. The factory vs CRT gap is just embarrassing and not fair to riders or fans. If Dorna doesn’t do something, I see all the top non-alien riders defecting to WSBK and turning it into the premier race class.

  • Westward

    Some journeyed to London for the Olympics, while others flocked to a dry lake in California to watch a bit of motor racing. As being part of the later group, I had a great time and met some wonderful and interesting people. Also had the opportunity to meet some of the bigwigs of Ducati, including Del Torchio…

    The negatives of the experience for me was the lack of Moto2 & 3, and the coordination of the traffic for the event. There was too much unnecessary detouring especially leaving the the venue. The path to arrival was several miles & minutes shorter then the departure…

    However, the bird watching good too…

  • Pat Walker

    Are there any pictures of ben’s swingarm?

  • 76

    You can see if you have access to replay, spies bike drops when the bike normally is at max compression, I haven’t seen any pictures of the swingarm yet but you can see after the crash the rear of the bike has completely collapsed, almost what it would look like if there was no rear shock installed. Maybe a spring or shock if it was not the swingarm failure but man, ben is right when he said when it rains it pours. Whatever the case with the failure there have been to many setup mech. mistakes from spies crew over the last 2 years, he needs to start addressing that simple fact, at gp level its unforgiving and he is finding that out let alone the fact its to damm just dangerous.

  • AK

    Lorenzo has 3 Championship as of now.

    250cc 2006 and 2007
    MOTO GP 2010

  • @76: I’m pretty sure I saw sparks from Spies’ bike’s undercarriage/pegs/whatever while at max. compression. That seemed odd, so it supports the idea that perhaps there was a suspension failure. Poor Spies just can’t seem to get a break this season.

    @John: The lag before Espargaro came across the line was a sad testament, wasn’t it? It truly is a race within a race. It’s just not happening. I think Edwards called it right when he suggested that the field should be fleshed out with retired factory rides. “Fill up the grid and let’s go racing.”

  • GaijinEagle

    Yes Frenchie, three championships, but only one in MotoGP (and that is what David seemed to be referring to – otherwise his “3” comment does not make sense).

  • cfm

    “sparing the American crowd of another tedious Lorenzo post-celebration”
    Right on the money. Let’s also not forget his 2011 book titled “the new king of motogp”. Despite Lorenzo being a phenomenal rider (getting pole on his motogp debut), everyone knows his 2010 title was largely won because the real king of motogp was injured. Hopefully Stoner will keep winning races this year and Rossi next year on the yamaha to spare motogp crowds from his arrogant attitude. Sure, Rossi is pretty flamboyant when it comes to celebrations, but he does it with a sense of humor, which crowds clearly love.

  • GaijinEagle

    I think you need to check your facts, cfm. At the time of Rossi’s injury at Mugello, Jorge was already leading the championships (having taken 2 wins and a second place). Rossi was feeling the pressure from Lorenzo, likely causing him to make a stupid mistake with cold tires.

    As for arrogant, Stoner is as good at it as they come (on top of being a cry baby)…

  • cfm

    GaijinEagle, I actually do not need to check my facts at all. Before Rossi’s leg injury at Mugello, he had a shoulder injury on a mx bike following the Qatar GP after the postponing of Japanese GP. Rossi wasn’t feeling any pressure from Lorenzo, but instead physical pressure on his shoulder. Look it up if you think I’m incorrect.

    Stoner might be arrogant, but he doesn’t rub it in people’s faces like Lorenzo does. He demands perfection, just like many other top athletes. And so if he seems like a “cry baby”, he’s only giving his reason for why he thinks he didn’t win. As we witnessed in Sachsenring, Stoner generally has a “first or last” attitude. For Stoner, 2nd place is being the first loser.