Marquez Wins Laguna Seca

story and photos courtesy MotoGP

Marc Marquez (above) won the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, becoming the youngest ever back-to-back race winner in MotoGP™. The Repsol Honda Team rider extended his championship lead while LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl celebrated a first premier-class podium finish from pole position. Valentino Rossi held off Alvaro Bautista for the final rostrum spot.

On Saturday, Bradl had stormed to a maiden pole position while Marquez suffered a crash in qualifying. On Sunday, the Spaniard patiently followed the German before pulling off a clean manoeuvre at the end of the 19th lap. Five riders failed to make the distance at the notoriously difficult anti-clockwise circuit, the shortest on the calendar.

Marquez’s third victory of the year equals the sum of reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo. The Repsol Honda rider sank as low as fourth after a poor start, but stayed ahead of Bautista in the early stages and crucially pulled off a confident pass on Rossi at the world-famous Corkscrew corner. He soon homed in on Bradl, overtaking the German and winning by 2.2 seconds. In doing so, Marquez wins for the second time within the space of a week and steals former double champion Freddie Spencer’s record of being the youngest MotoGP™ rider to triumph in consecutive Grand Prix. Furthermore, he makes history by becoming the first rookie rider to win at Laguna Seca.

Bradl’s ride to second was one of calm and composure. A clean getaway allowed the LCR Honda MotoGP rider to head the field from his first ever pole in the top class. The 2011 Moto2™ World Champion was assisted by the fact that those behind him were battling early in the race, but by the 17th tour had the recovering Marquez only two tenths of a second behind. Once the overtake had occurred two laps later, Bradl comfortably managed a two-second gap back to Rossi to clinch his maiden premier class podium, improving on his previous best of fourth – achieved on three occasions.

Yamaha Factory Racing’s Rossi has now taken the chequered flag inside the top three for as many races in a row. The Italian, who had famously overtaken Casey Stoner at the Corkscrew five years ago, was this time passed in the same place by Marquez before holding off a significant attack from Bautista over the closing laps; the Spaniard briefly edged ahead before the final corner, but was kept behind. Another third place for Rossi sees him jump ahead of Cal Crutchlow for fourth in the standings.

Laguna Seca had always promised to be a weekend of damage limitation for both Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) and Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team). Both men continue to suffer with left collarbone injuries as they finished fifth and sixth, with Pedrosa having moved ahead of his rival in an overtake at the Andretti Hairpin. The duo both finished in front of Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Crutchlow, who on Saturday had been left confused by a crash before taking part in Q2 with his second bike.

The top ten was completed by Ducati Team’s Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso – who during the race made side-to-side contact on the start/finish straight – and Avintia Blusens’ Hector Barbera, who became the first rider other than Aleix Espargaro to lead the CRT runners in 2013. Espargaro crashed at the last corner, while Power Electronics Aspar teammate Randy de Puniet retired with technical problems. Tech 3’s Bradley Smith also stopped with mechanical gremlins, while the first two retirements were PBM’s Michael Laverty and NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Claudio Corti. In 11th place, Ignite Pramac Racing’s Alex de Angelis scored while covering for the injured Ben Spies, while Colin Edwards finished 12th for Forward Racing. The top 15 was completed by Danilo Petrucci (Came IodaRacing Project), Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing) and Yonny Hernandez (PBM).

With the first half of the season now complete, MotoGP™ heads into its summer break before returning at Indianapolis in mid-August. Marquez carries a 16-point advantage over teammate Pedrosa and has finished on the podium in eight of his first nine races since joined the premier class as reigning Moto2™ World Champion.

MotoGP™ Race Classification
1- Marc Marquez SPA Honda 1:41.259
2- Stefan Bradl GER Honda 1:41.259
3- Valentino Rossi ITA Yamaha 1:41.259
1st CRT 10- Hector Barbera SPA FTR 1:41.259


Hayden announces exit from Ducati

Ducati Team’s Nicky Hayden announced he will not be with the team from 2014

The second MotoGP™ race weekend in the United States kicked off today with the pre-race press conference at the Red Bull US Grand Prix in Laguna Seca, where Repsol Honda Team’s current championship leader Marc Marquez was joined by Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Cal Crutchlow, Yamaha Factory Racing’s Valentino Rossi, NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards, NGM’s Alex de Angelis, substituting for the injured Ben Spies in the Ignite Pramac Racing Team, as well as Ducati Team’s Nicky Hayden, who announced he will not be with the team from 2014.

Marquez, who has never been to Laguna Seca before, is looking forward to tackling the tricky track: “I expected less blind corners. It looks like a very different track, but we’ll see on the bike. Especially the banking corners will be interesting.” And responding to questions about how he felt about being the championship leader, he added: “For sure it’s good for the show, but it’s quite close. Only 37 points back to Valentino in 5th.”

Crutchlow, who had yet more heavy crashes last time out in the Sachsenring, is keen to head into the summer break with another strong result: “It’s been a good first half of the year, and without my crash in Barcelona it would maybe have been even better. Last time out in Sachsenring was a strong result, and I hope to keep that momentum going.” Regarding his fitness he said: “After the crash I felt quite sick, and every time I’ve eaten since I’ve felt quite sick. So I’ve had some more checks, but everything is recovering quite well.”

Rossi, who had an infamous battle here in 2008 with Casey Stoner, is looking to improve over the last race: “I like the circuit a lot. It’s special and different. In the past it has not been one of my best circuits, except in 2008. Sachsenring was a good weekend for me, but on Sunday I was not fast enough, so here we need another step. We need to understand the level of Dani [Pedrosa] and Jorge [Lorenzo] – me and Cal are not so far, but we are a step back.”

Hayden, who won here back in 2005 and 2006, told the press that this will be his last year here with Ducati: “The first couple of years here went to plan, and especially the first year was a dream. We’re not coming here in our best moment, but hope to do something good before the summer break. I’m not coming back to Ducati in MotoGP™ next year – I’m not really sure what I’m going to do. I’ve got some options that are interesting.” When pushed about whether his options are in the premier-class or other championships he joked: “I’m note sure Repsol Honda’s going to come and knock on my door. Of course MotoGP is where my heart is, but I’ve got to weight up the options. Unfortunately results haven’t gone as planned over the years, but it is what it is.”

His compatriot Edwards is in a similar situation of uncertainty about his future, and started off the press conference prompting his team, tongue-in-cheek, to sign Hayden and make a “Team America”. About his and the team’s progress so far he said: “It seems like step-by-step we’re getting there. In Barcelona Bridgestone brought a rear tyre I like and we’ll have the same here, which I like. I don’t have anything either [for next year], but the team is working on something which should improve performance [verbal agreement for Yamaha engine lease].” As the oldest rider in the paddock, a question about his motivation to stay in the class was met with: “I love poppin’ wheelies!”

De Angelis was pleased to get the opportunity to ride the Desmosedici here in Laguna Seca, saying: “This is a great chance for me, but it will be a very hard weekend! Thanks to Ducati for calling me, and thanks to NGM for the chance. It is special to work with Ducati, and my aim will be to improve my lap time ever time I’m on track.” He had some time on the bike previously in Misano, and commented: “It’s the fastest thing I have ridden in my life.”

The press conference was a light-hearted affair, with many questioning whether Marquez had secretly tested here at the track on a private bike. He responded a firm no, whether Crutchlow joked that if he is fastest early on, “we’ll know he was here two weeks ago.” Further adding to Marquez’s growing status among the experienced riders was Rossi’s advice to him about this weekend: “My advice to Marc is to go very slow this first year, learn the track, and then come back fast next year.”

Another amusing fact was the coincidence that the track doctor, who will be the one declaring Pedrosa and Lorenzo either fit, or unfit to race, is called Dr. Rossi. When asked about this, Rossi joked: “For me they are clearly unfit!” But added after that he was no relation.