Round 10 of the 2011 MotoGP World Championship takes place at Laguna Seca this weekend, and ahead of the Red Bull US Grand Prix the pre-event press conference on Thursday gave a preview of the action to come.
Championship leader Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda), who has won here in 2007 and finished second in last year’s MotoGP race, has seen his Championship lead cut to 15 points by Jorge Lorenzo over the previous two rounds.
Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: "I thought I would have pulled out a few more points last weekend but Jorge nicked them back off me in the last corner (at Sachsenring), so hopefully this weekend we can take the Championship advantage back out again.
"The last few weekends we’ve definitely had a good chance of winning, we’ve struggled a little bit in the practices and struggled to get our pace, but we’re pretty happy with the way we came back (for the race) in Sachsenring MotoGP. By race day we were competitive enough to win."
Discussing the atmosphere at Laguna Seca and the track’s layout, Stoner stated: "Coming to this MotoGP is unique, it’s quite different to the others. I love the atmosphere here and it’s just got something about it, the way the track flows.
"It’s tricky, it’s got some great points and some very difficult ones, it’s a little bit slippery and very undulating but in general I’ve always had success and been fast. The last couple of years haven’t been the best for us, but we’ve always been there or there about. It will be a tough weekend and after the last few we need to step it up a bit more, but I’m really looking forward to getting out there."
Defending MotoGP World Champion and race winner at Laguna last year Lorenzo is eager to keep closing the gap to Stoner at the top of the standings, and the Factory Yamaha Racing rider has been highly satisfied with recent results and improvements.
Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing YZR-M1 MotoGP) says: "In the past few races we have recovered some points on Stoner, but we have pushed a lot to do that. We had some difficult situations in the middle of the race, we had been quite far from the top guys, but in the end at the last moments we gained some points on Casey.
"We must push in every session, in the race, to gain these points but at least we are there and fighting for the victory, not like at the beginning of the Championship when we always struggled so much to fight for the win."
Lorenzo also outlined the special demands of the MotoGP circuit, and added: "It’s always great to come here to the US. The track is very different, very narrow in parts, it has very difficult points like the ‘corkscrew’ and some fast corners. I have some strong memories over the last few years, and it was only last year I took a (first) victory here."
Race winner last time out in Germany and continuing his climb back to full fitness, Dani Pedrosa will aim to maintain what has been a highly impressive return to MotoGP action.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: "The time to recover from the last race has been quite short. It was all on the left so my left side is quite sore but I will try to do my best here once again and to rest between sessions. I want to try and just have fun out there. Right now I am recovering and when you race in this kind of situation you also suffer because of pain. At the same time if we can get a good result I will enjoy it."
One MotoGP rider hoping for home inspiration at a track he has twice tasted victory on is Nicky Hayden, and the Ducati Team rider will try out the Desmosedici GP11.1 for the first time this weekend.
Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team GP11 MotoGP) says: "I have one of the new bikes so thanks to Ducati for making it available to me. At some stage we will definitely do some laps on it and see what I think.
"There are a few things about it, it has some potential and does some things better, but on the other hand we’re not here to test – this is a race so we don’t want to confuse things. We want to give ourselves the best shot on Sunday to get the best result. It’s worth risking it to try and find something a little bit better and hopefully on Sunday I can put up a lot better fight than I have been able to do all year.
"Your home GP is something special, but it doesn’t really make you go any faster! It’s not an easy moment for us right now but everybody at Ducati is really working hard and I have my team right behind me. I still think we can have some good results this year."
Adding to the home interest this weekend will be Ben Bostrom, 37, riding as a wild card for the LCR Honda team. The American will also fulfil his AMA superbike duties – a series in which he has won at Laguna before – making for a busy schedule.
Ben Bostrom (LCR Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: "It’s really an honor to be here, I have to thank LCR Honda and Michael Jordan Motorsports for their collaboration and even American Suzuki for allowing the opportunity and I just want to get out there!
"We’ve won and lost here, it’s a strange track. When you’re going fast it really comes easy, but when you fight the bike it feels like 100 laps. I watch these (MotoGP) guys in every race and it’s a dream come true ride an 800cc in MotoGP. I know they’re going to 1000cc next year so this could be one of the last, maybe the only, opportunities I have to ride this one."
Earlier on Thursday MotoGP Legends Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey, Kenny Roberts Sr and Kel Carruthers joined the current Yamaha Factory Racing riders Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies and Monster Yamaha Tech 3 pair Colin Edwards and Cal Crutchlow in Pit Lane.
The presentation, part of the ongoing celebrations this season to mark the Japanese factory’s 50th Anniversary of Grand Prix racing, saw the MotoGP Legends reveal their most memorable moment in Yamaha colours, as they looked ahead to this weekend’s action. Roberts had also earlier taken to the track on a specially prepared factory M1 in the celebratory livery and his 1980 World Championship winning YZR500 for a few laps, in preparation for a display on both bikes this weekend.