Four American riders will be competing in the USGP, giving fans across the United States plenty of choices to root for when the lights go out to start the race July 20. MotoGP regulars Nicky Hayden and Colin Edwards will be joined by Ben Spies and Jamie Hacking, who will both be pulling double duty, also racing in the weekend’s AMA Superbike race.
All four riders are familiar with Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, having raced the 2.238-mile circuit in AMA competition. However Hayden, who won the first two USGP races after the MotoGP series returned to Laguna Seca in 2005, says that track familiarity may no longer be an advantage.
“The first couple of years I came to MotoGP we didn’t have a USGP so I think that makes me cherish it, treasure it even more. I wouldn’t say it’s my home track as far as knowing it goes because the MotoGP guys have had three years there, so I don’t think it has any advantage for me anymore,” says Hayden, who races for Repsol Honda.
Edwards’ results at Laguna Seca support Hayden’s view. In the 2005 USGP, Edwards finished second behind Hayden. The following year, Edwards finished in ninth place and in 2007, he fell out of the top ten to finish 11th for Tech 3 Yamaha.
Hayden’s attempt at winning three in a row at Laguna Seca was stopped in 2007 when he was forced to retire after his brakes were damaged in a collision with fellow American racer John Hopkins. The Kawasaki racer will not take part in this year’s USGP as he continues to recover from surgery to repair leg injuries suffered in a crash at the Assen TT in June.
Hopkins will be replaced by Jamie Hacking, a member of Kawasaki’s AMA Superbike team. The USGP will be the MotoGP debut for the British-born American citizen.
Hacking tested out Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-RR at the Autopolis track in Japan and the racing veteran has set reasonable expectations for himself. Hacking set a new lap record at Autopolis and he says he aims to at least equal the tenth place finish at the USGP that his Superbike teammate Roger Lee Hayden earned in his wildcard stint in the 2007 race.
Hacking’s AMA Superbike rival Spies already has a MotoGP race on his resume, making his debut in the British Grand Prix as a substitute for the injured Rizla Suzuki rider Loris Capirossi. The current leader in the AMA Superbike standings, Spies’ main focus will be on maintaining his lead, and he looks at the USGP as a chance to showcase his skill in front of an American audience.
“I am really looking forward to this weekend. It will be awesome to ride the GP bike in front of all the American fans,” says Spies. “I know it is going to be hard as these guys are pretty good and I have the added pressure of racing in the Superbike championship as well, but I will be going for it that’s for certain. I have got one race under my belt in MotoGP and I had a thorough test at Indianapolis that went really well, so now it is down to me to show what I can do.”