MotoGP Laguna Seca race report—Stoner makes the right choice
Repsol Honda rider choose soft option tire to pass early leader Jorge Lorenzo and win; Dani Pedrosa third, Nicky Hayden sixth, Colin Edwards 13th, Valentino Rossi and Ben Spies crash out
Casey Stoner decided to go with the soft option rear tire, and it paid off with his third win at Laguna.
Yamaha Factory Racing's Jorge Lorenzo held the lead for half the race, but eventually was overtaken by Casey Stoner.
Dani Pedrosa was in touch with the leaders for the better part of the race until some mistakes dropped him back to a lonely third.
Ben Spies was a solid fourth until a freak swingarm failure at the bottom of the Corkscrew caused him to crash out of the race.
Nicky Hayden got some payback on Stefan Bradl from Mugello by catching and passing the German to finish sixth.
Valentino Rossi crashed right in this spot while on the brakes on lap 29.
MONTEREY, CA, JULY 29 – Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner took a gamble on a tire that paid off with his fourth MotoGP race win of the season in front of over 52,000 fans packing the hills of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix.
Stoner went with the soft option Bridgestone rear, rather than the medium that his teammate Dani Pedrosa and both Yamaha factory riders chose. Stoner knew he’d have to manage the tire wear, but on a day when the temperature didn’t get as high as had been forecast, Stoner was masterful in his strategy.
The reigning world champion slotted in behind Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo and Pedrosa for two laps before passing Pedrosa early on lap three. Then he sat on Lorenzo in a virtual replay of last year’s race. When Stoner decided to make his move he made it in the same “corner,” the Turn 1 left hand kink taken in sixth gear banked over. Last year the move came on the outside of Lorenzo on lap 27 of 32, today it was up the inside five laps sooner. The result was the same.
Stoner sped to victory by 3.429 seconds to become the first three time winner of the Laguna Seca race since it returned to the MotoGP calendar. Lorenzo was second and Pedrosa a fading third after a few hairy moments.
“Yeah, it wasn’t a gamble but we had to be careful with it as well,” Stoner said of his rear tire choice for the Laguna MotoGP race. “We knew that if we went out there and tried to burn it up right at the beginning we’d struggle with it a lot later in the race. So my plan was to try and get a good start and use the extra grip at the beginning, try and pull and gap and let everybody else sort of burn their tires up before and let me relax my tires a little bit.
“But the plan didn’t work. I was fourth going into Turn 1 and had to try and pick my way back through. But Jorge and Dani were riding good fast lines, especially; I wasn’t able to get through and so I was using up my tires a little bit too much to try and overtake. So we decided to back off a little bit, try to ease my tires up, try and slow everything down and run my own pace so I could run my own lines and I wasn’t watching someone else. Then towards the end of the race we decided to sort of start going again, slowly ease the pace back up and get the bike moving again.
With the race win at Laguna Seca, Stoner cut the MotoGP championship gap to Lorenzo to 32 points with eight races remaining—Pedrosa is nine points ahead of Stoner—and the reigning world champion knows he has to do more than chip away if he’s to retire with a third world title.
“Yeah, well, you know, you say keep chipping at it, but I need to do more than just chip away at it,” he said. “Especially with these guys, you know, every week you’re not going to be able to keep winning and keep chipping away at it, it’s bloody hard work against these guys.
“We have to do something a little bit extra and you know a little mistake in Sachsenring really cost us. But at the same time you know that was basically just giving Jorge back the points we took off him from his unfortunate accident in Assen. My biggest mistake was the last time out in Mugello, that lost us the main chunk of points and that was the one I’m most disappointed in.”
Lorenzo wasn’t disappointed to have finished second, nor did he think the harder tire would turn out to be a mistake. During the MotoGP race it became obvious the softer one was the right choice at Laguna Seca.
“Sometimes you find something that is not working on and today the rear tire was not helping us a lot to keep a constant pace,” he said. “In theory the hard one gives you a better feeling when you are making laps at the middle of the race till the end, but this time the theory doesn’t work.
"So, anyway, Casey was riding so constant and so constant pace, so yeah, maybe I could try to force a little bit and to take so many risks to try to win, to try to overtake him, but sometimes we must think about the championship and today second place is a good place for us."
Other than being knocked down by Alvaro Bautista in Assen, Lorenzo has finished first or second in every race.
Pedrosa lost touch with the leaders at Laguna Seca after one mistake and was trying to make it back up when the mistakes started multiplying as the MotoGP race wore on. Then things got worse.
“I tried to pick back up and I start to close the front because I was trying to brake late, so I was a few times almost on the floor,” he said. “Even then I didn’t slow down, I tried to keep pushing because I didn’t want to finish third. But today this was it for me. I had no more left and they were a little faster, one or two tenths per lap and this was it.”
The leaders had quickly pulled away from what was at one time a five-rider battle for fourth. Yamaha’s Ben Spies led the way until a freak equipment failure ended his MotoGP race exiting Laguna Seca's Corkscrew on the 22nd lap. Spies had just loaded the rear tire when the swingarm broke, though neither he nor anyone on the team would be more specific. The worry is that it could have happened in Turn 1 or to championship leader Lorenzo.
“Felt good in the race,” he said. “The last ten laps we definitely were starting to pull away. And I had a little left up my sleeve for the last ten laps and was feeling good. We started stretching out on Dovi and I think we had a little over second when it happened. All of a sudden when I got to the bottom of the Corkscrew the bike just went completely out from underneath me and had no control. It didn’t even slide, anything, just completely went to the bottom. Didn’t know what happened at first. Honestly I thought I hit a huge bump, but there’s no bump. Then we got the bike back and saw what happened.
“And, yeah, it’s frustrating. It’s one of those things, it’s nobody’s fault, it’s not my fault, the team’s fault. Just more bad luck. But was pretty apparent today.”
That handed fourth in the Laguna Seca MotoGP race to Monster Tech 3 Yamaha's Andrea Dovisioso, who held off teammate Cal Crutchlow by less than two-tenths. Finishing fourth ended Dovi’s string of podium finishes at three; a fourth would have been a career best for him in MotoGP.
Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden was sixth, having passed LCR Honda MotoGP rookie Stefan Bradl on the inside of Rainey Curve on lap 27. Hayden tried a radically different set-up on his Desmosedici, with a different headpipe, longer wheelbase, and lower center of gravity. It helped, but he still finished 27 seconds behind the winner.
At least he finished. Teammate Valentino Rossi’s MotoGP race at Laguna Seca ended on lap 29 when the front folded as he was entering the Corkscrew. The bike made it all the way to the air fence, Rossi stopped well short and walked away, though clearly unhappy.
“I lost the front as I touched the brake and for me it was a big surprise because I was going quite slow,” he said after his first non-finish of the season. “But always this weekend we have had some difficulty to put some heat into the front tire and I saw the front tire after 30 laps and it looked brand new. It is a pity because we have had this problem a lot of times and we are not able to fix.”
As for the first half of his second season with Ducati, he said, “It has been very difficult and probably worst than last year or more or less the same. It is very difficult to keep enough concentration and power, especially mentally to remain concentrated when you understand you can only fight for a not very important position. Last year the second half of the season was very bad so we have to try and make the maximum every weekend.”
MotoGP Laguna Seca race results:
1. Casey Stoner (AUS) Honda
2. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Yamaha
3. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Honda
4. Andrea Dovisioso (ITA) Yamaha
5. Cal Crutchlow (GBR) Yamaha
6. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati
7. Stefan Bradl (GER) Honda
8. Alvaro Bautista (SPA) Honda
9. Aleix Espargaro (SPA) ART/Aprilia
10. Karel Abraham (CZE) Ducati
11. Randy De Puniet (FRA) ART/Aprilia
12. Yonny Hernandez (COL) FTR/Kawasaki
13. Colin Edwards (USA) Suter/BMW
14. Ivan Silva (SPA) FTR/Kawasaki
DNF Valentino Rossi (ITA) Ducati
DNF Ben Spies (USA) Yamaha
DNF James Ellison (GBR) ART/Aprilia
DNF Danilo Petrucci (ITA) Ioda/Aprilia
DNF Mattia Pasini (ITA) ART/Aprilia
DNF Toni Elias (SPA) Ducati
DNF Michele Pirro (ITA) FTR/Honda