“We can keep up the momentum”
MotoGP goes stateside this weekend after a long-awaited change in fortunes for Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) and Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC212V) in Germany last weekend with a first win of the season for Dani and a second consecutive
podium for Nicky.
The pair had worked as hard as ever along with the team and its partners to get their season back on the rails after what has been a disappointing first half. A big result here at Laguna Seca before the four-week summer break would signal to series points leader Casey Stoner (Ducati) and Valentino Rossi (Yamaha), second in the standings, that this might yet be a three-way fight with Dani.
Add the resurgent Nicky Hayden to the mix and what might have seemed like a relatively straightforward season now becomes typically involving. Nicky is effectively out of the running for the title in ninth place overall with 73 points, but he has won every MotoGP race held here and the Kentucky Kid is massively fired up to make it a hat-trick on Sunday.
Dani was new to Laguna Seca last year in his rookie MotoGP season, but still managed second place behind his team-mate Nicky, setting a new lap record in the process. With a season's more experience things will be different now, especially as Dani lurks in third place in the World Championship table with 144 to Rossi's 164 and Stoner's 196
Built in 1957 near Monterey, California, Laguna Seca ticks all the boxes for a track in terms of rider involvement. There is gradient aplenty, long sweeping curves which invite adventurous riders to carve radical lines through. It's a track that rewards momentum everywhere except the Andretti Hairpin and the infamous Corkscrew.
If ever a turn defined a track it's Laguna's Corkscrew. Variously described as 'riding off the end of the earth', 'surfing a 30ft wave' and 'dropping down a lift shaft', this is one of the great corners in MotoGP. The track has been resurfaced again this year so there will be new variables in terms of tyres and set-up.
The longest straight is just 996m long on a 3.610km track that winds around a compact footprint and turns back on itself providing four right-hand turns and seven lefts.
Set-up requires a bike that turns-in accurately and yet remains stable for the two main braking points, the Hairpin and that critical Corkscrew.
Nicky said: "It's a big thrill to be going back to Laguna for my home race and I'm really looking forward to having some fun there. There's actually a lot less pressure this year compared to last season because in 2006 I went to Laguna with a points lead in the Championship and I really felt like I had to win that race or it would send out all the wrong signals to my title rivals. Things have been tough this year and nothing's gone real silky smooth, but we've had a couple of decent results in the last two races so I'm definitely going to fight for this one. We've had some improvements to the machine recently and I've got a better feeling on it than I did at the start of the season. The competition's really strong in MotoGP and no-one's here to make up the numbers."
Dani said: "I'm happy to go straight to the U.S. Grand Prix because it means we can keep up the momentum we have from the win in Germany. This was a fantastic result for the team and I hope we can build on it. Last year we had a good result at Laguna Seca, which was really positive because it was my first visit to the track. It was very hot too last year - even hotter than the race we've just had in Germany - and I hope we don't get that weather again because it's really tough to ride in these conditions. The track has been resurfaced again this year so we're faced with a new bike and a new surface. This will give us plenty to do on the practice days, working out which tyres and settings are going to work best for the RC212V here. There is an interesting variety of corners - some with banking too - which means it's important to get a good machine balance between the higher-G corners and the flat ones"
Honda Motor Sports