One of the
most extraordinary things that I have heard in my time as a MotoGP journalist was
on the opening day of the 2007 Valencia post-season test.
As editor of the
official series website, I was able to wait inside the Yamaha garage as Jorge
Lorenzo met his crew for the first time.
What was the future world champion's first question
for Ramon Forcada, Daniele Romagnoli and the rest of the team upon being
explained the intricacies of the M1 and the traction control system?
can I wheelie it like Casey Stoner did at Laguna Seca?"
He saw Stoner lifting up the front in the US GP
first-hand this past Sunday, in a race that was notable for some statements of
intent from the frontrunners.
The Laguna Seca round is always seen as a key point in
the season. It comes at more or less the halfway point of the campaign, it
precedes a short summer break and is something a little different for the
riders. Of the six previous visits since the track's return to the calendar,
four of the race winners went on to win the title.
Lorenzo was fantastic all weekend, and showed his
fighting spirit by continually pushing his bike to new limits in practice. And,
when it pushed him back in a practice start mishap, the Spaniard did something
that caught this columnist's eye. The next day, he went straight back to the
treacherous turn five that spat him off in FP2 and the 2008 race, and put that
particular demon to rest.
He was impressive in racing with the restrictions of a
hip injury, getting the holeshot from the normally unstoppable Dani Pedrosa and
trying to lead from the front. He beat every other Honda apart from Stoner on
raceday. What does it mean, then, that the Australian could still find
something to take the win?
Firstly, that the World Championship leader isn't
riding to preserve his lead just yet. If Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Spies or anyone else
is within realistic catching distance, then Stoner will try and hunt them down.
He showed some of the racecraft that some parties have accused him of lacking
in showing Lorenzo his front wheel on the inside repeatedly, then sticking the
definitive pass via the reigning champion's preferred method: 'Por Fuera', or
round the outside.
Yamaha are almost at Honda's level at the moment,
especially at the past two rounds at tight circuits where top speed is not such
an issue. The steps forward have been made with the chassis alone, so sparks
should fly at Brno when the new engine developments are put in place. As
riders, I would place the on-form Stoner slightly ahead of Lorenzo at the
moment, but not by enough to cruise to the title.
Will Lorenzo be watching Stoner's wheelies from afar
many more times this season? He'll have a few weeks to think about it this
summer, and then we will all find out at the Czech Republic.
Seca is more than just a corner
Every time the United States Grand Prix comes around,
plenty of coverage is given to 'The Corkscrew'. MotoGP is never afraid to
embrace a cliché, and thus typically there are dozens of features about - and
mentions of- the descending chicane. When Valentino Rossi made the race-winning
pass there in 2008, the attention only intensified.
The riders have a slightly more reserved take on the
turn: Yes, it's special, interesting and unique, but there are other places
where more time and positions can be gained. Pedrosa and Lorenzo have both been
eliminated from Laguna Seca races at turn five, and this year turn one took
It's one of the toughest corners on the calendar, but
is all-too-easily overlooked due to the Corkscrew hyperbole. Like the
inevitable rodeo photo-opportunity, perhaps this side of the US GP could take a
rest next year.