Preview American Grand Prix, Laguna Seca, USA: HONDA MEN HEAD FOR MONTEREY

2010-07-20 02:49
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) carries the momentum from his majestic win in last Sunday’s German Grand Prix to Monterey, California, where the ups and downs of the famous Laguna Seca raceway await, and where he hopes to repeat last year’s winning performance in the United States Grand Prix.

Pedrosa returns to the Monterey Peninsula for the first overseas race of the season as the defending Laguna champion, being the latest Honda winner at a track where Honda has excelled since MotoGP’s return to Laguna Seca in 2005. Of the five races run, three have been won by riders on Hondas, with both the 990cc RC211V and the 800cc RC212V.

The race is one of the more anticipated of the season for a number of reasons. One is the track itself. The 3.610km road course is like nothing the riders encounter as they crisscross the globe, though the closest in similarity is the Sacshsenring, which Pedrosa mastered last Sunday before flying to California. Both are predominantly left-handed tracks with elevation changes, and hard braking and passing opportunities within reach of the finish line. Another is the setting. Monterey is a jewel of a town on the Pacific Ocean which lends a festive atmosphere to the final race before the summer break. Laguna Seca marks the halfway point in the 18-race MotoGP season and everyone wants to head into the summer break on a high, and no one more so than Pedrosa.

The Spaniard arrives in Monterey riding a string of three podiums – two seconds, and a first – that has solidified his second place position in the championship. Having excelled in Germany, and with his record at Laguna, Pedrosa is confident that he can add to Honda’s wealth of victories in the California sun.

The 11-turn raceway rewards riders with smooth riding styles, racers who hit their marks lap after lap with rhythmic precision. Pedrosa has always been known for a style that appears effortless, but in fact requires a great deal of skill.

Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) arrives in California holding third place in the 2010 MotoGP series, 36 points behind his team-mate. The Italian has already scored four podium results so far this year, with a best finish of second place at June’s British GP, and is determined to score another top-three at Laguna. Last year Dovizioso tumbled out of the U.S. race, but he gets on well with the undulating track, having finished just one place off the podium during his first visit in 2008.

Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) will continue the learning process of his rookie MotoGP season when he makes his first visit to Laguna Seca. The U.S.GP is the only weekend on the calendar in which MotoGP is the lone world championship class, which means that riders in the lower displacement categories only experience the track once they graduate to MotoGP. Though it will be Simoncelli’s first trip, he comes well prepared, with the Gresini Honda team having made repeated trips to the podium and Honda well prepared with a wealth of data. Simoncelli received a new chassis and swingarm at the Catalan GP and will have the benefit of an upgraded electronics package at Laguna Seca. Simoncelli comes to the U.S. after scoring his best finish of the season at the Sachsenring.

Marco Melandri returns to Monterey looking to re-ignite the flame that carried him through the early part of the season. Melandri was on an upward trajectory for the opening four races, improving his placements every time, before bad luck and an injury slowed his progress. Since suffering a shoulder injury at the Dutch TT in late June, he’s battled to regain his health and his early season form. Melandri has a pair of podiums in the last four races at Laguna Seca, a track he likes and where he looks forward to racing.

Alex de Angelis will have his second race for the Interwetten Honda MotoGP team in Monterey. De Angelis was drafted into the team to replace the injured Hiroshi Aoyama. Aoyama, the final 250cc World Champion, faces a lengthy recuperation after suffering a back injury at the British Grand Prix. De Angelis scored four championship points in his first race on the team’s Honda RC212V at the Sachsenring and has modest ambitions in America. Having raced in the U.S. last year, de Angelis has an advantage over riders like Simoncelli and the other Laguna first-timers.

Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) has been ruled out of the U.S. GP after breaking both the tibia and fibula in his lower left leg during the German GP. De Puniet is in good spirits, and has vowed to be ready for the Czech GP at Brno at the end of the summer break. His place in Monterey will be taken by a name familiar to many race fans. Roger Lee Hayden, who currently races in World Superbike and will ride for American Honda in the Moto2 race at the Indianapolis GP, will replace the Frenchman on the LCR Honda RC 212V at Laguna Seca, a circuit he knows well. Hayden has two victories at the track where his brother, Nicky, won the first two U.S. MotoGP events for Honda.

Hayden said he thought he was dreaming when he first got the text from his brother Nicky after the German GP. That was followed by phone calls from Kevin Schwantz, then team owner Lucio Cecchinello. The youngest of the three Haydens has attended three GPs this year and has been impressed by both the professionalism of the team and de Puniet’s consistency in both qualifying and the races.

The Laguna Seca layout is one that requires precision. Riders describe it as a momentum track, where the corners flow together and maintaining rhythm is rewarded. The 3.610km track has 11 turns, seven lefts and four rights. Two of the rights are turns three and four, the only two turns without elevation changes. Another of the rights is turn ten, a plunging downhill corner that feeds into the first gear turn 11, a hard braking 90 degree left that leads onto the front straight and where more than one race has been decided. The track is more physically challenging than most, with a deceptively long front straight of 0.966km. Deceptive, because the straight includes the rising kink left first turn taken by the very bravest in sixth gear. The signature corner is the Corkscrew, a dizzying left, right downhill that’s approached blind at the track’s highest point and falls away like a trap door before quickly sending riders into the very quick downhill left Rainey Corner, named after the three-time 500cc World Champion who lives in the hills above Monterey.

Honda MotoGP Rider Quotes

Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) says: “To take the win in Germany was fantastic and it means we’re going into this weekend at Laguna Seca in great shape. I think the race will be very similar to the last one, with lap times very close, and I hope we have a repeat of the way we worked in Germany. The key point in Sachsenring was that we were competitive and fast from the first practice on Friday. When everything is in place like this we have the level to compete with any of our rivals and to beat them – and that’s what I want to achieve again. We had a great race in Laguna Seca last year and we were able to win, so I would love to go on holiday after this weekend with another victory under our belts. I know we have to work very hard to make it happen because Lorenzo is not making many mistakes, Stoner is back to his best level, and Rossi has returned very strong – and I’m sure that in the States he will be even better than in Germany. But we can be up there again if we push hard. We started the season not being able to fight with the riders in front, but now we have got to the required level to do this. Of course, we must keep our feet on the ground and not relax at all.”

Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) says: “Now we go straight to Laguna Seca after Germany and I’m really looking forward to racing there – because it’s a unique track – and also because I want to improve on my result from the last race in Germany. We are completely focused on getting a strong finish this weekend before we head into the MotoGP summer break. Last year I was fast at Laguna and I was having a great race until unfortunately I clipped the plastic poles at the exit of pit lane at high speed and it damaged my clutch lever, which later contributed to my crash. Until that point I was fighting with Valentino and it could have been a good race. But still, this means I’m confident going into the weekend and I know we can be strong at this Grand Prix. Dani won the race here last year – and also the last race in Germany on Sunday – and this gives us extra motivation too. The Laguna track is special – very different from the standard of tracks we are used to in Europe, and for this reason it is interesting to race here. I really like the atmosphere, the people and the fans and it’s always a pleasure to come to California.”

Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) says: “As riders we always risk crashing and breaking something, but it’s always when you are not thinking about crashing that you do. After the crash when (Mika) Kallio involuntarily hit my leg, I immediately understood that I had a serious problem. But the surgery went very well and now I am feeling better. I want to thank Doctor Costa and all the medical staff here for the good job they did. They say that I need six weeks recovery period to start racing again, but I will try my best to be back in Brno”.

Roger Lee Hayden (LCR Honda) says: “First of all, I want to wish Randy a speedy recovery. It’s never nice to see another rider on the sidelines due to injury. I'm very happy that LCR has chosen me to fill in for Randy this weekend at Laguna Seca. It is a track I like a lot and I hope to do a good job for the team and for all the American fans. I want to thank team Pedercini for giving me the OK, and everyone else involved to make this great opportunity happen.”
Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini) says: “Laguna Seca is one of the nicest tracks in the world as far as I am concerned, but it won’t be easy. I was disappointed after Germany because I thought I was going to be in better physical shape, but it proved to be the opposite and I completely ran out of strength. It wasn’t easy, so my confidence is not the best going to America. There are a few less left-hand corners at Laguna so I hope I can recover my feeling with the bike. I would really like to make up for the result at Sachsenring at a circuit I like and where I have always raced well so I hope I can be fighting as much as possible. The atmosphere in California is special, the track is fast and flowing and as I said before I love it there but I don’t want to make any predictions until I see what shape I am in.”

Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) says: “I had a lot of fun at Sachsenring, the whole race was fantastic and now we go to a circuit that I only know from playing Gran Turismo on the games console. I’ve never been there before so I am curious so see how it is, also we will get an electronic upgrade in America so there will be a few new things to get used to – that will make it a tough weekend for me and for the guys in the team. There will be a lot of things for us to get used to in the first session, which won’t be easy, but I don’t take long to learn new tracks so I’ll just have to take it steady and learn how the electronics work because even if they don’t make an immediate difference I’m sure they will do in the future. I hope I can continue in this way because at the moment I am feeling very happy with things.”

Alex de Angelis (Interwetten Honda MotoGP) says: “For sure it will be easier for me in Laguna Seca, as it is the second race for me in MotoGP after Sachsenring. Also, many of the new MotoGP riders have never been to Laguna, so it is new for them as well and they have to adapt and learn like me. So I think it is easier to be part of the group there. The first practice will be a first practice for all of us. My target is not to be last in the race. I know it will not be easy, but I will try whatever it needs to reach it.”

Source: Honda Pro Image

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