MotoGP: Crashes Define Race at Laguna Seca

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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