Wednesday, July 16, 2008

MotoGP: Laguna Seca Preview

Well, it's time for the MotoGP circus to head to the good old U.S. of America for the first time this year, for the US GP at Laguna Seca. Let's have a look at the runners and riders who will hopefully entertain us at the Californian track.

Laguna Seca is a tight, twisty, anti-clockwise track that tends to find itself bathed in heat. The barriers are a bit close to the tarmac for the liking of some of the more safety-conscious riders such as Valentino Rossi. Sure, there are loads of European tracks which are as bad or worse, but they don't hold Grand Prix races on them (They just host World Superbikes instead - Brands Hatch being a great example).

So who are the main players who will be trying for a win?

Casey Stoner
The Aussie is on the kind of roll that would bankrupt Las Vegas, and he's won at Laguna before. In fact, his win last year can be credited with almost single-handedly having the tyre rules changed, since Stoner beat the 2nd-placed rider by more than 250 million years (I can't recall the exact time, but it was somewhere along those lines). I wouldn't bet against him.

Valentino Rossi
The Doctor doesn't really get on with this track. It's a bit dangerous for his liking, and not clockwise enough. That said, he is a genius and it wouldn't be a great surprise if he won.

Colin Edwards
The Texas Tornado is danged quick around this place, I tell you what. In fact, he's beaten Rossi around here on an identical bike, which didn't happen too often. He's been in great form this year, particularly in qualifying. If Michelin have a good day, he'll probably get that nimble Yamaha on the podium. The top step? Well, it's arguably his best chance.

Nicky Hayden
The Kentucky Kid has been having a terrible time on the miniscule Honda RC212V. However, he's brilliant around Laguna. The left-left-left nature of the track appeals to the dirt-tracker in him, and he's won here before. Nicky will never ever give up trying, and this is his best chance of a win too.

Chris Vermeulen
The horribly-hatted Australian is yet another Laguna specialist. He won the double at the last WSBK meeting to visit SoCal, a meeting which was memorable for the idiots running the PA playing Waltzing Matilda instead of Advance Australia Fair after race 1. He should have won here in MotoGP, but the bike ended up short about 100bhp when the outrageous air temperature started boiling the fuel in the lines. A bit of a dark horse, maybe, but he's in with a shout.

Others in with a chance
Well, you'd never count out the likes of Pedrosa or Lorenzo, even in their current injured states. You would however count out the likes of Ant West and Marco Melandri. James Toseland has WSBK experience here and should have a better weekend than he's been having lately (since he should get 3 days of dry setup time). It's not out of the question for another of the rookies such as de Angelis or Dovizioso to suddenly click with the track and bag a good result, but the unusual nature of Laguna makes this difficult. Look out for Anglo-American Jamie Hacking on the Kawasaki, who knows this place like the back of his hand and is said to have adapted well to the MotoGP machine in a private test in Japan, and Ben Spies on the Suzuki, who is an AMA champ and has also been pretty decent on a MotoGP bike.

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