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post #1 of 2 (permalink) Old 07-21-2006, 12:32 PM Thread Starter
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MOTOGP - Americans On Racing at Home


ROAD RACING - Americans On Racing at Home
By Henny Ray Abrams
Yanks A Lot 7/20/2006

They all want to win their home grand prix, the four Americans, but Repsol Honda's Nicky Hayden has to be considered the favorite.

The “Kentucky Kid” is the MotoGP World Championship leader after 10 of 17 rounds, though with little comfort. World Champion Valentino Rossi is recovering from a few earlier in the season miscues and Hayden’s teammate Dani Pedrosa remains a legitimate threat in his rookie season. All of which should add up to a dazzling display of riding in Sunday’s second annual Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

“It’s nice to be back and definitely always looking forward to coming home,” Hayden said on the eve of the championship weekend. “It’s always special to race in front of your home crowd and all your friends and family. Yeah, but things have been going really good this year. Been having a lot of fun and feel like I’ve been improving, so looking forward to try to get everything right and be strong on Sunday.”

Winning now means adding at least five crucial championship points and denying Rossi those same points. But Hayden is under no illusions.

“Sure, a win on Sunday would be really sweet, but you know it’s going to be tough,” he said. “I’m expecting it to be a lot tougher than last year. You know, the track looks like they made a few changes and looks quite good. Other than the surface maybe in a few spots, but definitely looks a little bit safer.”

Which should make for better racing all around. Last year the track was criticized by the Europeans for being unsafe; $7 million later, the track has been transformed.

“I’m expecting Sunday to look like some of the last few,” Hayden said. “I know the fans enjoy it, but also the riders, I mean that’s what we love. Those are the funnest ones, especially Mugello. You know, when the crowd is into it and the racing is good it makes it fun for everybody.”

As giddy as he was last year, Hayden is even more so in 2006.

“I would say this year maybe just more excited, because you know it could be because also the championship just makes every race more fun and more exciting because it’s bigger than just one race,” he said. “Like I was saying, you can only want to win so bad. I wanted to win Germany really bad and it didn’t happen. Here it’s not like I’m going to try any harder or anything else. Last year was really special, but those kind of weekends don’t happen too often.”

Camel Yamaha’s Colin Edwards said a repeat of last year’s second place finish could be difficult.

“Yeah, I think it might be a little bit different story,” he said. “Last year we definitely had an advantage, the American guys. A few of the tricks that were involved in a good lap time last year are kind of gone, I mean, since they repaved it and they kind of knocked down turn one and the Corkscrew. I think the American riders will be starting from scratch as well as the Europeans. It’s kind of a new track. We’ll see what happens. It’s definitely not going to be as easy as it was last year, but we’ll be fighting to the end.”

As will Rizla Suzuki’s John Hopkins, the southern Californian still looking for his first MotoGP podium.

“The bike this year is a lot better than what we had last year,” Hopkins said. “I can honestly say that the technology just wasn’t advanced with the Suzuki last year. We struggled a little bit. But this year the bike’s extremely well and the Bridgestones, I think they’re going to work extremely well here. The main objective is to just improve on what we finished last year. I can honestly say, as well, I’m probably riding with a bit of a chip on my shoulder just to go out this weekend and show what I can do.”

Kenny Roberts Jr. has shown what he can do for much of the year. After several years in the wilderness, the 2000 500cc World Champion is clearly the comeback rider of the year thanks to Honda and Michelin, and his father putting a team together that’s had him near the front more that at any time since his championship season.

“Still the responsibility of us doing well and myself starting to learn how to ride again at the front still comes down to Honda giving us some advice, getting the chassis working,” he said of a crucial bit of wisdom imparted at the fourth round of the championship in Shanghai. “I think we’d still be struggling quite a lot without that situation. It’s not just me, it’s not just the team, it’s everybody involved. Without every single piece of the puzzle-just one little piece out, as you’ve seen at the first half of the year, or the first quarter of the year, our results are 12th, 10th, something of that nature. So everything has to be right to be at the front.”

Which is where Valentino Rossi has been for most of his career. And he comes to Laguna having not won here and needing every point he can get if he’s to win his sixth consecutive premier class title.

“ Anyway, I try to win also last year with my maximum effort, but last year Nicky (Hayden) and Colin (Edwards) were faster than me,” he said. “For sure this year is very important also for the championship, but is one of the next seven races. Have the same points than the next races. For sure a win here is a great pleasure, because I never win in Laguna. But is one of the next seven.”

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post #2 of 2 (permalink) Old 07-21-2006, 12:33 PM Thread Starter
You got the talkin' done
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Join Date: May 2006
Location: Alaska, WI
Posts: 15,711
Location: Alaska, WI
Sportbike: 2016 Honda Africa Twin & 1979 Honda CB750F
Years Riding: long enough to have fallen off a few times - glad I wear a helmet!
How you found us: Loose Lips Sink Ships, Loose Wires Cause Fires
MOTOGP - Rossi Talks at Laguna


ROAD RACING - Rossi Talks at Laguna
By Henny Ray Abrams
World Champion 7/20/2006

Camel Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi arrived in Monterey for the Red Bull U.S. GP in the unfamiliar position of trailing in the championship. Repsol Honda’s Nicky Hayden has a 26 point lead on Rossi, but the Italian has seven races to close the gap and clinch his sixth consecutive premier class title. To do it he’ll have to go through Hayden and possibly other Americans, which is added motivation heading into Sunday’s 11th round of the MotoGP World Championship.

“Yes, for sure is important,” to beat the American riders, a tanned and relaxed Rossi said under the Yamaha hospitality tent on Thursday afternoon, “especially because this year (Nicky) Hayden is at the top of the championship and try to beat him in his home grand prix is a great motivation. I think will be hard because Nicky was fast last year and this year is faster, so is even more difficult. I have more experience on this track, so maybe we’re able to do a better result.”

To be competitive he needs to be quick in qualifying, something he’s struggled with recently. It was only at the last minute, in the Sunday morning warm-up, that he was able to turn his M-1 into a race winner at last week’s German Grand Prix.

“For sure this year is a difficult year for us,” he said. “In every racetrack we need to fight and struggling a little bit with the bike and work for very much for be competitive on the Sunday. In Sachsenring, we arrive at the right setting just before the race, but the important thing is we arrive just before the race.

“For sure is difficult, you know. The balance of our bike is so delicate. When is OK, I’m happy, is fast. The important thing is try to start in the first two rows of the grid, because with the qualification we have some problem. In Sachsenring I did a fantastic race and I’m confident for the future, but I know is difficult.”

Adding to the difficulty is that everyone will be racing on a brand new, recently re-paved surface at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

“For sure we don’t have a lot of grip from tomorrow,” he began, “and especially the grip coming better and better until Sunday, I think. So is another big difficulty for the setting of the bike, because with more grip you need to modify the setting. For us is maybe one problem more. Last year we had too much bumps. We touch a lot of time the end of the fork and the spring on our bike. I think is a new asphalt, maybe not maximum, but for the future is better than to have big bumps for sure.”

Rossi was among the riders on the GP Rider Safety Commission who advocated a number of improvements for the 2.2-mile road course. All the changes were made, but Rossi hadn’t had time to see much of the work because the track wasn’t yet open.

“So, we fight a lot with the safety commission because last year was too dangerous,” he said. “This track is not at the same level with the other tracks. But the Americans work well. This grand prix is important for everybody. They did all the work and now I go to check. We have the new asphalt. I see already the turn one, have a lot more run-off area. I think is OK.”

Kenny Roberts Jr., another member of the commission, pressed to have the turn one rise lowered by three feet, but the crown was only dropped six to eight inches, he said.

“I agree with Kenny, but is the same,” Rossi said. “Is difficult, is difficult, because you need to cut the hill. We fight also for that and we fight also for the two big jumps of the Corkscrew. But on the Corkscrew they say is more easy and more flat and turn one is more or less the same. The important is we have the space, because last year we had two meters (of run-off in turn one).”

On another matter, Rossi denied reports that he didn’t want young Australian Casey Stoner on the team. Speculation was that Stoner would take some of the attention from Rossi’s Australian crew chief Jeremy Burgess.

“No, is not true,” he said. “I speak with Yamaha and Yamaha say to me they speak with (Casey) Stoner. For me is OK. I say to Yamaha I don’t have particular problem to have Stoner on the team.” But he isn’t ready to say goodbye to current teammate Colin Edwards just yet. “I’m very happy with Colin (Edwards) and Colin have seven races to be more competitive because is a difficult year for us, but I think Colin is a very good rider, so I think he have some chance to keep his place for next year. But if arrive other riders for me is OK.”

And arriving in American seems to suit Rossi. He, Edwards, and a few others spent a few eventful days in Las Vegas following last year’s USGP.

“Yes, I like it here and is important to make a grand prix here for all the riders, for all the American riders, for all the other riders, for Yamaha, for Honda is very important,” he said. “In fact, when we fight for the safety, the money arrive and the work arrive. This means this grand prix is important. I’m happy to come here.”

Just not one week after Germany.

“Yes, yes, for sure,” he said with a laugh. “I think this year the calendar is not one of the best. We work for next year for make a better calendar for sure.”

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