the latest news from around the world, courtesy of press snoop Lynne Huntting

Most people reckoned that Red Bull would be underwriting the estimated $2million cost for safety upgrades to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in order for FIM approval of the 2005 Moto GP. But not so. Red Bull will be the title sponsor for the 2005 US Grand Prix, but the cost for improvements will be borne by Yamaha, which is pleased to do so and celebrate its 50th anniversary with 100,000 fans.

The Federation Internationale de Motorcyclisme and/or Federation Internationale de l'Automobile require track safety inspections and homologations every two years. Yamaha stepped up to the plate for the large cost of upgrading the run-off areas on each corner of the eleven-turn 2.238-mile road course. There will be no changes to the track itself, other than the widening of the front straight by moving the wall back on riders' right.

Work begins 15 November. Each corner will get extended gravel traps and run-off areas and new kerbing. There will be major excavation at Rainey Curve/Turn Nine, as well as at Turn One. The hillside will be cut away, and more than 50,000 tons of dirt will be moved. The bridge will be moved on Christmas Eve. The paddock will be operational, but the track will be completely closed for 45 days, between 2 May and 15 June 2005.

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca has hosted motorcycle races for years, including the USGP for two years in the mid nineties. This century the World Super Bikes have raced at the track, which started its life as a US Army base Fort Ord. The WSBK contract was up this year, and GIL CAMPBELL, CEO/GM of Sports Car Racing Association of Monterey Peninsula, said the timing was right for the FIM series to come to California - an event which has been long time in the planning stages.

Something new for the Laguna race which doesn't ordinarily occur at FIM races will be the sale of a limited number of paddock passes. And for those with a three-day ticket, there will be a free pit tour on Thursday.

Yamaha will become the 'official motorcycle' of the SCRAMP-operated circuit, owned by the Monterey County Department of Parks and Recreation.

There has been no announcement yet as to what support races will be part of the weekend. Campbell said to wait for the surprise announcement.

I vote for World Superkarts, as raced by WAYNE RAINEY, who won three consecutive 500cc World Championships racing for Yamaha in the early nineties - and EDDIE LAWSON, who won the 500cc World Championship four times in the 1980s. Lawson and Rainey were team-mates and remained close buddies. Lawson encouraged Rainey to get back into racing after his crippling crash while leading the 1993 Italian Grand Prix. Lawson designed a special kart for Rainey and the two race for fun on the West Coast. Rainey raced World Championship motorcycles for six years, winning 24 races. He now lives with his family in Monterey.



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