Unseasonably cool weather greeted a slightly economically shrunk but still enthusiastic crowd of race fans at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The weekend followed largely the same format as last year, with the MotoGP main event supported by AMA SuperBike, AMA SuperSport, and AMA SportBike, plus the Monterey Challenge and a stop on the e-Power International Challenge.
Of course the racing isn't the only reason to make the trip to Laguna Seca. Bikeland is well aware of this, having attended every year since our inception. The event offers a large variety of vendors of motorcycle parts and gear, as well as displays by the major manufacturers, though Kawasaki were conspicuously absent this year. We hope they return in force next year. Previous years saw some great show specials at the vendor tents, though this year and last seem to have squeezed vendors enough that they can't be so generous anymore. The biggest reasons to attend however are the opportunity to hang out with motorcycle friends from all over the country, and the fantastic roads in the area (and between wherever you live and the track). Some find a hotel nearby. Some camp right at the track. All have a good time.
The first race of the weekend was the Monterey Challenge, billed as a chance for local young up and comers to perform in front of a world-class audience. Jeremy Toye won the 10 lap race on his BMW S1000RR, with Hawk Mazzotta on a Yamaha YZF-R1 and Brian Parriott on a Apr RSV4 Factory filling the podium.
Saturday saw the first major event with AMA Pro SuperSport providing the last on-track activity in the day's schedule. Yamaha YZF-R6 riders took all three podium spots, with #75 Huntley Nash taking top honors, #56 Austin DeHaven taking second, and #19 Scott Gilbert in third.
Sunday's first race was AMA Pro Daytona SportBike. M4 Monster Energy Suzuki's #36 Martin Cardenas on a Suzuki GSX-R600 finished 1.6s ahead of Team Latus Motors Racing's #15 Steve Rapp on a Ducati 848, who in turn held a 0.5s advantage over Project 1 Atlanta's #4 Clinton Seller and his Yamaha YZF-R6.
The sound volume and the size of the field dropped rather sharply for the e-Power International Challenge that started shortly after SuperSport. This electric-bike race saw a rather large spread in lap times as the technology is still so fresh. Lightning Motors' Michael Barnes pulled ahead of everyone else, building up to a 9 second lead in the second to last lap. But then the batteries hit bottom, allowing MotoCzysz's Michael Czysz to make the pass jsut before the finish line and take the checkered flag. Barnes had to settle for second, and DR Motors' Thijs de Ridder took third, some 36s after the leader.
Right on time (important with a world-wide TV audience) MotoGP started with Yamaha's #99 Lorenzo Jorge on pole, and still in top spot at the end of the 32 lap race. Ducati's #27 Casey Stoner finished second some 3.5s back, with Yamaha's #46 Valentino Rossi delighting the fans with a podium finish after a lengthy battle with a couple other riders. The action-packed race saw 4 riders fail to finish, including a crash by Pedrosa while leading.
Although many spectators had already left in an effort to beat the traffic and make it home that night, the racing wasn't over. The weekend was bookended by the AMA Pro American SuperBike race. Pat Clark Motorsports' #155 Ben Bostrom took the win with points leader Team Graves Yamaha's #4 Josh Hayes right behind and Rockstar Makita Suzuki's #22 Tommy Hayden 7 seconds back.