MotoGP Round 9 at Laguna Seca -
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MotoGP Round 9 at Laguna Seca


MotoGP Round 9 at Laguna Seca

By: Tom Halverson

Photo credits: www.motogp.com

 

The 2013 MotoGP paddock headed stateside, for round 9 of the championship, at the Mazda Laguna Seca raceway in Monterey, California.  Last time out, at the Sachsenring, MotoGP rookie, Marc Marquez, took his second win of the season as well as a scant two-point lead in the championship standings.  This would be Marquez’ first visit to the challenging California circuit, and many of his rivals were counting on his unfamiliarity with the track to work in their favor.

lagunaseca

Marquez’ main title rivals, Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo and Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, had originally planned on skipping the Laguna Seca round to allow their injuries to further heal.  With Marquez’ now heading the championship points standings, Lorenzo and Pedrosa decided to return to action, at Laguna Seca, and try to limit Marquez’ increasing championship points advantage.

The Laguna Seca round is also the final round before the riders take a month-long summer break and marks the time when teams and riders start making plans for next season.  The big news, this weekend, was that factory Ducati rider, Nicky Hayden, was informed by Ducati that his services would not be needed, next season…basically, he got sacked.  As usual, the rumor mill went into overdrive, with Hayden making a switch to the World Superbike championship being the most discussed option.  Satellite Honda riders Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl have also been under scrutiny for subpar results, and the pair needed to put in some solid performances for the rest of this season in order to secure their respective rides, for next season.  The biggest piece in the ‘silly season’ puzzle is Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow.  Crutchlow has been adamant that he wants to stay with his current team, but with factory support, or that he will go elsewhere.  All signs point to him ending up on Hayden’s soon-to-be-vacant factory Ducati, but, you never know.  Stay tuned.

As it usually does at Laguna Seca, Friday’s first practice session was a foggy affair with the riders basically tip-toeing around the circuit.  Dani Pedrosa, still on the mend, chose to sit the session out, altogether.  Crutchlow went on to top the session, although the lap times were pretty much irrelevant.  On to the remaining practice sessions on Friday and Saturday…everyone’s theory that Marquez would struggle to learn the track was put to rest as he took the top spot in all three remaining sessions.  In qualifying, Marquez looked to be on course to take pole position at his Laguna Seca, but a crash in the final moments put an end to that as Stefan Bradl went on to take his maiden MotoGP pole position, with Marquez in second, and Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi rounding out the front row in third position.  The injured duo of Lorenzo and Pedrosa managed decent qualifying positions of sixth and seventh, respectively.   American wildcard entry, Blake Young, had a weekend to forget, as he crashed his Attack Performance CRT bike during the second practice session.  While Young walked away with just a sore knee, his bike suffered a laundry list of damage, including a cracked frame, which was unrepairable.  Since the team did not have a spare frame, it was the end of their weekend.  They will be back at the Indianapolis round, in August.

bradl

The weather on Sunday was perfect for racing as the riders gridded up for the 32-lap race, a minute of silence was observed for fallen World Supersport racer, Andrea Antonelli, and guitar guru, Joe Satriani, kicked out a guitar solo that vaguely resembled our national anthem.  The lights went out, and polesitter Bradl held his number one position into the first turn, followed by Rossi and Marquez.  The front three positions remained unchanged for the first three laps, until Marquez put a move on Rossi, in the corkscrew.  In what was almost a reenactment of Rossi’s infamous 2008 ‘through the gravel’ pass on Casey Stoner, Marquez also completed his pass via the gravel on the inside of the corkscrew to take over second position.  Rossi got ‘Rossi’d’!  With Rossi out of the way, Marquez set his sights on race-leader Bradl.

marquez

With 19 laps to go, Marquez had pretty much reeled in Bradl, and was just looking for a way past.  While Marquez was stalking Bradl, Rossi was still back in third position, fending off the Honda of Bautitsta, who was putting in a rather spirited ‘contract time’ performance.  With 14 laps to go, Marquez went past Bradl, into the final corner, to take over the lead.  Bradl needed to fight back, right away, but once Marquez hit the front, he quickly pulled out a sizeable gap, and was never challenged for the win.  Marquez took the win, while Bradl landed his debut MotoGP podium finish, in second.

Behind them, Bautista’s attack on Rossi didn’t quite materialize, and Rossi claimed the final position on the podium.  To Bautista’s credit, he produced his best result of the season, so far, in fourth…that should help with his contract negotiations.  Pedrosa and Lorenzo had a decent day of championship points damage limitation, and finished fifth and sixth, respectively.

rossi

 

Marquez’ win was the third of his rookie season.  He became the youngest rider, ever, to take back-to-back wins in premier class, and increased his points lead to 16 in the process.  The MotoGP paddock now has about a month’s break before returning to action.  Some riders will head home to continue recovering from injuries, some will just relax, and some will head to the Texas Tornado Boot Camp to ride motorcycles, shoot guns, and drink beer.   The paddock will reconvene in Indianapolis on August 16th where American rider, Pramac/Ignite Ducati’s Ben Spies, will make his much-anticipated return.  See you there!

podium

 

Race result;

1)      Marc Marquez/Honda

2)      Stefan Bradl/Honda

3)      Valentino Rossi/Yamaha

4)      Alvaro Bautista/Honda

5)      Dani Pedrosa/Honda

6)      Jorge Lorenzo/Yamaha

7)      Cal Crutchlow/Yamaha

8)      Nicky Hayden/Ducati

9)      Andrea Dovizioso/Ducati

10)   Hector Barbera/FTR CRT

 

Championship points after round 9;

1)      Marc Marquez/163

2)      Dani Pedrosa/147

3)      Jorge Lorenzo/137

4)      Valentino Rossi/117

5)      Cal Crutchlow/116

6)      Stefan Bradl/84

7)      Andrea Dovizioso/81

8)      Alvaro Bautista/71

9)      Nicky Hayden/65

10)   Aleix Espargaro/52