The latest news from around the world courtesy of Press Snoop Lynne Huntting...

NICKY HAYDEN of Owensboro KY gave himself an early birthday present Saturday with a record-setting MotoGP top qualifying lap at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for Sunday's inaugural Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix.

His time of 1:22.670 will go in the books because it is the first official qualifying lap for the premier international motorcycle series in the United States and at Laguna.

Hayden held onto his pole position despite a literally last minute effort by points leader VALENTINO ROSSI/Yamaha Factory Racing.

As the clock ran out, the TV cameras and the fans focused on the diminutive Italian as he sped around the circuitous elevated road course. But his best effort wasn't quite enough and Rossi will start in the middle of the front row, between Hayden and ALEX BARROS/Honda Pons, who qualified third.

Two more Americans start in the second row behind Aussie TROY BAYLISS, team-mate to Barros. Rossi's team-mate, COLIN EDWARDS of Houston TX starts fifth and JOHN HOPKINS of Ramona CA starts sixth, racing for the new Red Bull Suzuki team. Hopkin's team-mate, local lad KENNY ROBERTS of Mountain View CA starts twelfth.

Sunday, the riders, officials and dignitaries will stand in front of the starting grid for one minute's silence prior to the start of the MotoGP race, to honour the victim's of this week's London bombings.

Saturday noon DORNA, the organizer for MotoGP, inducted, as a MotoGP legend, four times 500cc World Champion EDDIE LAWSON into the MotoGP Hall of Fame. Lawson won three championships in 1984, 1986 and 1988 for Yamaha and then switched to Honda and won again in 1989. Lawson and current MotoGP Champion and 2005 points leader, Rossi, are the only two riders in the 55-year motorcycle grand prix history to win success top tier class championships on different machinery.

Lawson couldn't single out any of his world titles as his favourites. He was "so pleased I won here (at Laguna). The track now is a lot safer for us after all the recent track improvements."

Lawson commented that the MotoGP bikes have greatly advanced with technology since he raced. Everything has changed and it's amazing now. "Sure, I'd love to ride a GP bike now. They are a lot nicer than what we rode."

Included in the welcoming ceremonies were other world champions, representing in total 17 Championships: MICK DOOHAN-5; WAYNE RAINEY-3; KENNY ROBERTS-3; and FREDDIE SPENCER-2.

Lawson is racing this weekend, in the Yamaha/GE Superstars of Super Karts. He was on pole and finished third, behind winner DAMIAN PAYART and KYLE MARTIN. Lawson's good buddy, Rainey, was to have raced also but was forced into a spectator's role after suffering a minor accident earlier in the week.

Lawson and Rainey started this series a while ago. Karts are a hobby with Lawson, and he races for fun. He said he's "really enjoying it. We've (he and Rainey) mellowed out."

Taking great delight in the ceremonies was MAX PAPIS, on a busman's holiday. He came to the States a week early for next week's American Le Mans Race weekend at Infineon Raceway, and is spending time with his two-wheel pals, Rainey and Lawson. Papis was grinning from ear to ear and said he "had goose bumps" watching all the motorcycle legends gathered together.

Papis said he was almost set to race in the Super Kart race, but it couldn't be put together in time. He was going to race in place of Rainey, but there wasn't time to change Rainey's hand-controlled kart over to specs fitting the tall slender Papis.

Papis said his first Indy Car race was against Lawson, at Mid-Ohio. It was one of Lawson's last races. Papis had just signed on with CAL WELLS, and didn't know until years later that Wells had chosen Papis over Lawson for the ride. Wells told Papis three-years later.

 

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