2011 MotoGP Laguna Seca Preview

Resurgent Pedrosa returns to one of his favorite tracks


MotoGP correspondent Bruce Allen previews the Laguna Seca round of the 2011 season. Check back on Monday for the full report of the United States Grand Prix. And don’t forget, the Motorcycle.com editors will also be making their annual Monterey pilgramage to catch the races. Look ahead for their event report of the 2011 U.S. Grand Prix.

MotoGP brings the big bikes to California again this week for the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix, at historic Laguna Seca. Moto2 and the 125s are staying home for this round, not wanting to mix it up with the Harleys and such that populate the track on Grand Prix weekend. As a resident of Indiana, I don’t understand why our race in August is called the Indianapolis Grand Prix. If it were up to me, this week’s race would be called the Great California Crashout, while Indy would host the U.S. Grand Prix.

Recent history at MRLS, as the Mazda marketing people call it, has seen an impressive number of spills. In 2008, Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo crashed his M1 on Lap One, to the delight of teammate Valentino Rossi, who went on to win that day by 13 seconds over Casey Stoner and another 13 seconds over Chris Vermeulen on the Rizla Suzuki. In a classic, Rossi and Stoner traded paint most of that Sunday until Stoner lost the front late in the race.

In 2009 four riders crashed out, including Andrea Dovizioso. That year, Dani Pedrosa took off like a scalded cat, leaving Rossi and Lorenzo to slug it out for second and third places, with Rossi eventually prevailing. After disposing of Lorenzo, Rossi went after Pedrosa, and came within a third of a second of catching him. Four more riders went down in 2010 as Lorenzo, who was rolling virtually unopposed, beat Stoner by three seconds, with Rossi, recovering from injuries, another 10 seconds behind Stoner. One of the crashers was Pedrosa, who slid out unassisted while leading the race. Had the diminutive Spaniard managed to stay upright that day, he could have been going for a Monterey Hat Trick this Sunday.

It Was Looking Like a Slow News Week…

There’s always lots of talk about tires in this sport – way too much if you ask me. Why a big successful multinational company like Bridgestone would actually bid to be the whipping boy for an entire racing series is well beyond me. Every week, the riders who podium claim to have done so despite the tires, while the losers blame their misfortune on, you guessed it, the tires. They complain about the weather, too, but only insofar as it affects the tires. Jeesh.

So, Bridgestone will soon attempt to sell the GP Commission on a new tire “scheme,” as they say in Ireland, pronouncing it “sheem.” In a nutshell, it means giving the riders more compound choices (three versus the current two) for the front, and a greater quantity of their preferred rear tire, beginning at Brno. This is unlikely to be a difficult pitch, somewhat akin to Wilson asking the NFL if it’s okay if they provide a few more footballs each week. Um, yeah.

The best part of the announcement came from the two Bridgestone spokesmen. In not so many words, they went on at some length about their interest in having fewer riders go sailing over the handlebars each week, an interest, not surprisingly, shared by the riders themselves. Soft compound, hard compound, asymmetric rears, whatever, the important part for the riders is spending less time flying over the handlebars. That’s the thing. Going fast, and not crashing on the high-side.

…Until Several Fascinating Stories Emerged

Suddenly, on Tuesday, there was big news everywhere we looked. First we read that LCR Honda’s Toni Elias is being jammed joined for the weekend in Monterey by one Ben Bostrom, of the Michael Jordan Motorsports AMA Superbike team. Bostrom’s wildcard ride means both riders are hosed if it turns into a flag-to-flag contest. Not that either is any threat to crack the top five anyway. For Toni, who, prior to the Sachsenring was given three races to show management something, it’s one down, two to go. Elsewhere, it was reported that Elias’ two practice crashes in Germany cost his team 100,000 euros to put the bike back together again. 100,000 euros here, 100,000 euros there – pretty soon you’re talking some real money.

Poor Andrea Dovizioso. Despite being consistently good, he may find himself squeezed out of the Repsol Honda team by more notable teammates Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa.

Honda made bigger news on Tuesday announcing they would go from three Repsol factory pilots to two in 2012, and that Marco Simoncelli would lose his factory bike, too. This means we’ll see Stoner and Pedrosa fronting for Repsol, with Dovizioso and Simoncelli presumably toiling on rent-a-bikes for Fausto Gresini, with a wall down the middle of the garage. The spokesman was clear about HRC’s intent to field only four bikes next year. Due to the lingering effects of the nuclear tsunami in March, Honda’s domestic business is down some 30%. Which leads one to the conclusion that the LCR team’s business next season will be down roughly 100%. If I’m Dovizioso, I just want to curl up on the floor of the closet with a box of Häagen-Dazs and my special blanket.

Nicky Hayden will have his choice of the Ducati Desmosedici GP11 or the GP11.1 at Laguna Seca. Given Valentino Rossi's luck with the GP11.1, Nicky might decide to stick with the devil (diavel?) he knows.

The juiciest rumor going around at present concerns Ducati’s alleged consideration of abandoning their monocoque frame in favor of the traditional perimeter frame used by pretty much everyone else on the grid. (The gurgling sound you hear is me in over my head, technically, talking about this stuff. But, in for a buck, in for a bunch.) The grip problems being experienced by Rossi, Hayden and the satellite riders are seemingly so profound that Corse Engineering is at least pondering a giant step backwards. The largest step imaginable.

Your Weekend Weather Outlook, Dude

Casey Stoner holds the current track record at Laguna Seca with a lap time of 1:21.376.

Conditions should be just about perfect this weekend on the central coast of California, with temps in the low 70’s and clear skies. True, there’s the ongoing state fiscal crisis, and the whole Arnold and Maria mess. But bright sunshine should help warm up the track and the tires. It’s hard to imagine a podium celebration this Sunday without Pedrosa, Stoner and Lorenzo spraying the girls with champagne. If anyone is likely to crash the party, I would look for Dovizioso, as hell hath no fury like a factory rider demoted back to the boonies.

Like Katy Perry says, California Gurls are unforgettable.

Related Reading
Ben Bostrom Draws Wild Card for Laguna Seca MotoGP Race
2010 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Laguna Seca Event Report
MotoGP and other Professional Competition coverage

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