Nancy Knapp Schilke
Dani Pedrosa laid down the early gauntlet for this this weekend’s United States Grand Prix. It is the first of two MotoGP races on American soil. The Repsol Honda Spaniard topped for practice time sheets with his best lap of 1:21.088 in the afternoon at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the scenic Monterey area of the Pacific Ocean. His rival and countryman Jorge Lorenzo was second on the day with a 1: 21.422 followed by Casey Stoner at 1:21.457.
"We did a good job today, we managed to get a good lap time in the morning and improved it in the afternoon, although the grip level was very poor and we struggled a bit with the rear," said Pedrosa.
The home of the famous “Corkscrew” had two great and closely fought practices today, which bodes well for qualifying tomorrow. Pedrosa broke the MotoGP record on the hilly road course, and he if keeps his pace that was 0.369 seconds faster than his teammate Stoner, he will be the Honda to beat. However Stoner was on a hot lap when he was held up in traffic, forcing the Aussie to leave the track before returning.
Stoner commented, "It hasn't been a particularly eventful day, we didn't really get the package we were hoping for. We struggled a little this morning with stability on the soft tyre; we improved it slightly this afternoon on the hard tyre but found the bike to be quite aggressive and there wasn't much grip."
For the current points leader, he was just over three-tenths off of Pedrosa’s hot lap, and only 0.035 seconds ahead of the Australian. Lorenzo’s Yamaha factory teammate Ben Spies had a best lap of 1:21.708 to land fourth on the day. The American recently announced that he is leaving the Yamaha factory team at end of the 2012 season.
"This afternoon we tried the hard rear tyre but it didn’t work as well as the soft one this morning. We have to try the soft again tomorrow to improve the setting for the hard so we can decide which tyre to use for the race," Lorenzo said.
The bets are already on to which of the two Tech 3 Yamaha riders will end up with the factory ride in 2013. Andrea Dovizioso again showed his speed by landing the fifth fast lap time with a 1:22.021. However his teammate Cal Crutchlow crashed as he headed into turn 10 and he can soothe his wounded pride by being sixth with his best lap of 1:22.258; he was not injured.
Nicky Hayden signed a one-year extension with the Ducati team this morning, and the American took the seventh best lap time at 1:22.434. The American’s teammate Valentino Rossi was ninth with a 1:22.772.
Besting the Italian was LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl, and this was his Laguna Seca debut! Bradl turned his fastest lap of the day at a 1:22.568. Rounding out the top ten was Álvaro Bautista for the San Carlo Honda Gresini team with a 1:22.853.
Two other riders crashed today, and both at the third turn. Bautista was the first one and shortly afterwards, Rossi ended up crashing, which brought out the red flag. The two had separate incidents and the good news is that neither was injured.
There is one more chance for the riders to have the perfect setup for the California track prior to qualifying. Practice three will be in the morning followed later by the tightly contested run for the U.S. GP pole,