This weekend's US GP sees MotoGP and Laguna Seca renew a relationship that is so important to both parties - and neither partner really knows what to expect.

Laguna has always been a stunning venue, but was ruled too dangerous for GP machines from 1995 to 2005, when the required safety changes were made and the MotoGP circus thus rolls into town for the eighth round of the 2005 MotoGP World Championship.

Only on Friday morning when the four stroke MotoGP machines wake up the residents of Monterey for their extended first practice will we know just how significant those changes are.

The MotoGP class is the main attraction but there will also be a full programme of the AMA Championships including the Superbikes. The American spectators have never seen a MotoGP machine in action.

Once they have got to grips with the new circuit, Valentino Rossi and Co. are certain to woo their new audience who will whoop and scream at the noise speed and sheer excitement generated by the new breed of grand prix motorcycles.

But while the machinery will be new to American ears, many of the MotoGP riders flying into California will be well known. In addition to home bred stars Colin Edwards, Nicky Hayden, John Hopkins and Kenny Roberts, a couple of the older members of the MotoGP Club competed at Laguna last time round.

Both Brazilian Alex Barros and Max Biaggi rode in 1994. Barros, who competes on the Camel Honda this year, finished eighth on the Suzuki in the 500cc race while Repsol Honda rider Biaggi was second in the 250s, which was won by Dariano Romboni.

That was a long time ago and perhaps the best people to judge just what an impact MotoGP is going to have - not only in California but throughout north America - are the riders who rode in the World Superbike Championship races at Laguna in recent years.

Former World Superbike Champion Troy Bayliss has no doubt about the impact MotoGP will make with the America fans:

"This will be the biggest bike race ever held in America," prophesied the Australian who returns to Laguna riding for the Camel Honda team. "Superbikes have always been big there but MotoGP will be awesome and everybody is so excited about going back there and you can certainly include me with them."

Bayliss won the first race at the World Superbike meeting at Laguna in 2002 and finished second to his great rival Colin Edwards in the second race the same year. He loves the 3.610km track in the hills above the Pacific ocean and the beautiful town of Monterey but he also has a word of caution for his fellow MotoGP gladiators.

"Safety is vital and I'm sure the changes they have made will make the track a lot safer but the fact the track is a little bit dangerous does add that little extra edge to the proceedings," explained Bayliss who last rode there in 2002. "I love going to Laguna and to go there with a MotoGP will be a fantastic experience."

While Assen has the old Veenslang corner, Spa Francorchamps Eau Rouge, Laguna has the Corkscrew. A left and right downhill swoop after a very fast approach, that is written into motor cycle racing folklore.

Many a champion has come to grief at the Corkscrew, although Bayliss warns there are some even more demanding corners waiting for his colleagues on Friday morning.

"The corkscrew is fantastic with such a fast approach and is very technical but I think turn one will be the place to watch," enthused Bayliss just at the thought of it. "It's very fast and I could take it absolutely flat out on a Superbike with a little bit of air between the tyres and tarmac. It could be a bit messy on a MotoGP machine."

He then continued with the lap: "Turns two, three and four are not that exciting but then you start climbing up through turn five and six which are awesome, towards the straight which leads to the Corkscrew. I love the next section down through the Rainey curve and turn ten to the last turn which is a bit stop and start into the start and finish straight."

Bayliss's excitement about returning to California reflects the mood of the MotoGP paddock. Everybody wants to put on a special show for a market and audience that is so used to glamour and glitz and to show them just what they have been missing.

That show will begin on Friday morning.

 

Comments

Loading Comments...