Laguna Moto GP
Was this just another hugely popular MotoGP weekend?
Hardly. The first U.S. Grand Prix of the modern four-stroke era took place at Laguna Seca this weekend. It was everything we expected, only completely different. What was different than we expected? Let's see...
First: The sound was different, harsher and without the smooth shriek of a Formula One car. We expected a high-strung howl but we got a guttural roar instead, thanks to big-bang engines that deliberately bastardize the firing order, so the rear tire has time to rest between the power pulses. They didn't sound "bad" they just sounded oddly exotic, but lacked the flair and howl of a Ferrari V-12. We had Kawasaki inline-fours that sounded like parallel-twins, Yamaha inline-fours that sounded like smooth vee-fours, and Ducati vee-fours that sounded like they alternated between three and four cylinders.
Second: The typical MotoGP race, with multiple lead changes and a pack of five position-swapping riders just didn't happen. Instead, we had an American kid who suddenly decided to dominate the very same group of riders that has been kicking his ass for the past two and a half years. Nicky Hayden was clearly the fastest man on Friday, blew the field away in Saturday's qualifying (beating Valentino Rossi by 4 tenths of a second for the pole) then simply walked off and hid from the drop of the green flag on Sunday. The "kid" rode hard, letting his heart motivate him, without allowing the red mist to cost him the race. Nicky was followed over the line by Colin Edwards who quickly recovered from a slow first lap, to move from sixth to second before the race was half-over. Meanwhile, Valentino Rossi cruised to an easy third, after closing back to within a tenth of Edwards on the last lap, then appearing to cruise to the line, without actually trying to pass Colin. Max Biaggi finished in fourth, several seconds behind Rossi and Sete Gibernau rounded-out the top-five another couple seconds behind Biaggi.
Overall, MO had a fantastic time at the races, riding up to Laguna on Thursday aboard a Buell XB9sx, Honda CBR 600F4i, Kawasaki ZZR 600, and Yamaha YZF 600. The bikes were loaded-down with our camping gear, but did an admirable job of entertaining us on the six-hour ride. Speaking of camping, we stayed at Toro Park, about four miles outside the track and rode the free shuttles into and out of the track each day. This was a super-convenient arrangement and each trip took about 20 minutes total, dropping us off at the manufacturer's midway between turns four and five. Not only did this save loads of time, it also saved us from a long trek from one of the satellite parking lots (except for Sunday morning, when we gave up and walked 1/2 mile into the track, after the shuttle got stuck in traffic).
For a taste of the sights and sounds of a real MotoGP weekend (plus two awesome clips of the Honda RC181 500cc inline-four and RC166 250cc inline-six), turn your volume way up and try to ignore the chain-link fences in the following videos. Then, take a look behind the scenes in our slideshow, as seen through the lenses of Fonzie & Sean.