FIAT Yamaha riders aim to end Laguna Seca drought
The Fiat Yamaha Team head to California this weekend for the eleventh round of the MotoGP World Championship in determined mood as they look to bury the memory of a nightmare race at Laguna Seca last year and avenge Valentino Rossi's misfortune in the last round at Sachsenring just a few days ago.
A bittersweet weekend in Germany saw Rossi lose ground on series leader Casey Stoner, who now holds an advantage of 32 points with eight rounds remaining, and the Italian is relieved to have the chance to redress the balance so soon and narrow the gap ahead of the summer break. The high point of last weekend was a fourth place finish for Colin Edwards from thirteenth on the grid and that strong result has provided the Texan with a much-needed confidence boost ahead of his home race.
The situation going into the eagerly-anticipated California date could not be in starker contrast to last season, when Rossi made the Transatlantic trip in great spirits on the back of a scintillating victory at Sachsenring. However, the Laguna race ended in disaster as the searing 56 C track temperatures took a heavy toll and Rossi was forced to retire just four laps from the end with tyre and engine problems. Similar tyre issues for Edwards compounded the effects of flu symptoms and an upset stomach that he had suffered throughout the weekend, limiting him to a ninth place finish despite qualifying on the front row.
Famed, feared and revered for the world-famous 'Corkscrew' corner, the Laguna Seca circuit near has lived up to its billing as one of the most exciting circuits in the world since MotoGP returned in 2005. With only a few short straights, a series of fast and sweeping corners and elevation changes that leave front wheels frequently spinning through thin air, the 3.602km circuit provides the ideal viewing spectacle for fans but is surprisin gly straightforward when it comes to machine set-up. Throttle connection is much more important than top-end power and the riders require a well balanced chassis set-up to deal with the frequent and dramatic elevation changes and corner variation.
Valentino Rossi - "No time to dwell" After missing the chance to recover ground on Stoner in this year's championship following his sixth-lap crash in Germany, Valentino Rossi says he is relieved to have such an early chance to put things right - with just seven days between the tenth and eleventh rounds of the season. Laguna Seca is one of only three circuits on this year's calendar where Rossi has never previously won, a record he is also looking to set straight this Sunday.
"Laguna was a great disappointment for me last year because I wasn't able to finish," says Rossi, who has also yet to take victory at Istanbul Park (Turkey) and Misano (San Marino). "I have never won there and after the disappointment of Germany I am determined to do so this time! I'm really glad we have such a short time between races because there's no time to dwell on what happened on Sunday, we just have to focus on Laguna Seca.
"With the way that our bike and tyres are working now, I think we have a great potential there. It's a great place to race and I think if they've made the improvements we hope to the track then it will be a good weekend. The championship is long and the important thing is to get as many points as possible from every race and arrive at the end still fighting."
Colin Edwards - "Giving it my all" Laguna Seca is one of the tracks that Colin Edwards pinpointed at the start of the season as having the potential of staging his first victory in the MotoGP class. The former World Superbike Champion has finished second on several occasions during his premier-class career, including the US Grand Prix in 2005, and is hoping to finally go one better and break his duck in front of his home fans.
"Germany turned into a really good weekend for us and I was very happy with the performance of my bike in the end - especially the tyres," reflects Edwards. "Fourth place at a track I don't like has given me a lot of confidence for Laguna Seca, a place I love, and it's good to go there on a roll. It's my home race and I've got lots of friends and family coming down to add to the support of a few fans, I hope!
"Last year I was pretty sick on race day and it wasn't a good experience but this time I'm feeling in great shape and I'm determined to go one step higher than in 2005. I know the track better than anyone and the fans always give me a real boost so I'll be giving it my all from Friday morning."
Davide Brivio - "Double target" Fiat Yamaha Team Director Davide Brivio has pinpointed twin objectives for his riders this weekend, with short and long term goals in mind. In both cases the target is to challenge for victory at Laguna Seca and put Yamaha back on the podium at a circuit they enjoyed so much success at during its first period on the Grand Prix calendar, when the factory won five of the six races premier-class races held between 1988 and 1994.
"We've got a double target for Laguna; a great home race for Colin and making up for Germany with Valentino," stated Brivio. "2006 wasn't a great year for us at Laguna and we were very unlucky but it's a nice place to go and race with a fantastic atmosphere so hopefully this time we can make the most of it! We know our package is very good now and our tyres are working very well, so we have the potential to do a great job with both riders in America.
"This is another demanding weekend for the team because it is a long way to travel in such a short space of time, especially with the time difference. Logistically it is quite tough but the situation is the same for all the teams and we will be working hard to make sure everything is in place for our riders to come out fighting on Friday morning."