MotoGP 2010 Laguna Seca Preview

Fiat Yamaha still rules as the U.S. Grand Prix beckons

MotoGP correspondent Bruce Allen previews the Laguna Seca round of the 2010 season. Check back on Monday for the full report of the Unitd States Grand Prix.

As the 2010 MotoGP season approaches the halfway point, we who follow the sport closely have learned several things. Yamaha heartthrob Jorge Lorenzo has declared himself the alpha male, but ol’ king Rossi is conceding nothing, even on one leg. Repsol Honda’s Dani and Dovi play hard every time out, and Pedrosa still thinks he can win this thing.

Casey Stoner’s production is down 40% from last year, while teammate Nicky Hayden’s is up over 100%; The Kentucky Kid is the most improved rider on the grid. Marco Melandri’s transition from last year’s Kawasaki to this year’s San Carlo Gresini Honda has been a disappointment. The saddest pair on the grid this season, however, are Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards, being shown up every week by rookie teammate Ben Spies, and Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi, for whom the three-year Suzuki experiment has been a resounding, thudding failure. Happy trails, Loris. Via con Dios, Colin.

Nicky Hayden is the last American racer to win a MotoGP race, winning at Laguna Seca in 2006. Look for him to sport special American-themed livery like he did in last year's race.

The good news in 2010 has been the matriculation of a strong rookie class. After eight rounds last year, the three rookies – Mika Kallio, Niccolo Canepa and Yuki Takahashi – had accounted for a total of 51 points, and Takahashi had already been expelled for excessive crashing at slow speeds. Canepa would find himself 86’ed later in the year for refusing to ride without the training wheels on his bike.

Compare to this year – Ben Spies leading the rookie class and on his way to the Yamaha factory team with 67 points, San Carlo Honda’s Marco Simoncelli in the conversation with 49, the improving Hector Barbera with 41, and the jinxed pair of Alvaro Bautista and Hiroshi Aoyama having earned 25 and 18 points, respectively. All appear certain of being invited back to their teams of choice for 2011. Next season’s rookies will therefore be looking to secure rides with Pramac Racing, Monster Yamaha Tech 3 and the factory Suzuki team. If there IS a factory Suzuki team next year.

Recent Monterey History

The old Laguna Seca Raceway, now known by its slave name of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, has been hosting automobile races since the late 50’s. MotoGP, after an 11-year hiatus, only began racing there again in 2005. Nicky Hayden, riding for his old Repsol Honda team, won there in 2005 and again in 2006 on his way to the championship that (glorious) year.

Casey Stoner won in 2007 on HIS way to the championship, as did Valentino Rossi in 2008. Last year’s winner, Dani Pedrosa, broke Laguna’s three year string of predicting championships. However, Pedrosa, who dawdled some in the later laps of last year’s race, came within a whisker of losing that one to eventual 2009 champ Rossi. Suffice it to say that this year’s winner will be in the mix for the 2010 world title.

Ben Spies and Colin Edwards will try to get a boost from the home crowd at Laguna Seca.

With LCR Honda’s Randy de Puniet now the latest in a rash of serious injuries being suffered by premier class riders, his team has selected Nicky Hayden’s little brother Roger Lee to ride for them this week in California. Having two Haydens in the race ought to sell a few tickets, if nothing else.

News from the Infirmary

Aleix Espargaro, we hear, is fit enough to ride this weekend. He got caught up in the Randy de Puniet debacle last week in Germany and came away with wrist and back injuries. The cracked vertebrae, it turns out, was suffered years ago; it’s not every sport in which one has to clarify WHICH broken vertebrae one is discussing.

Still healing: Rossi, with the famously fractured leg; Melandri, with shoulder and sternum injuries that would have many of us still in rehab; Alvaro Bautista, with residual shoulder miseries; Hiroshi Aoyama, out for several more rounds with his own fractured vertebrae.

Valentino Rossi is still recovering from a broken leg but look for him to have another dazzling race at Laguna Seca.

Spies, Kallio and Barbera with an assortment of nagging injuries. One guy who isn’t injured but whom should be in a full body cast – Alex de Angelis, whose crash in practice at Jerez early this year, and from which he walked away, was WAY beyond belief. If you haven’t seen the video, you just don’t know what a ragdoll in a blender looks like.

This Rumor Just CAN’T be True

I read today that Loris Capirossi is rumored to be leaving Rizla Suzuki at the end of the season and returning to Ducati – via Pramac Racing – next year. I can’t imagine Ducati signing on for this, when Capirossi is clearly well along on the back nine of his racing career. The only conceivable way to package this non-starter is that Capi would be able to share his two decades of experience with one of Pramac’s young guns and help said young gun move up his learning curve more swiftly.

The obvious argument against this idea: the 2010 Rizla Suzuki campaign, which has been a season-long cage match with Pramac Racing for the distinction of being the worst premier class team on the grid, and which has gained bupkus for rookie Bautista.

Loris Capirossi doesn’t need to find himself a new team. He needs to find himself a new gig.

The Return of the Big Four

Early in the season I speculated about the composition of MotoGP’s traditional big four riders. In 2008 and 2009 the big four was pretty consistent – Rossi, Lorenzo, Stoner and Pedrosa. It looked to me, when Rossi was in the hospital and Stoner was racking up DNFs, that Dovizioso and Hayden might have been pushing their way into this party.

Dani Pedrosa was victorious at Laguna Seca last year. Based on recent form, he may be a threat to repeat.

Midway through the season, this no longer looks to be the case, as Rossi and Stoner are clearly back, though perhaps not all the way, while Dovizioso and Hayden have backed off from their early claims. Thus, while Yamaha will probably not win the manufacturer’s trophy this year, the factory team is still the crème de la crème.

Your Weekend Weather Forecast for the Peninsula Area

Kevin Duke, Pete Brissette and Jeff Cobb are on their way to Laguna Seca. Check back next week as they report the sights and sounds of Monterey.

Looks like a picture-perfect weekend weather-wise for the Bay area, with partly sunny skies each day and highs in the 60’s. I see Pedrosa and both of the Fiat Yamaha boys on Sunday’s podium. I see Spies and Nicky Hayden in the top ten. Having trouble seeing Casey Stoner on the podium or Roger Lee Hayden in the top ten. And I see me staying up late on Sunday night trying to figure out what happened.

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