HOFFMAN TAKEN OUT IN CRASH AT LAGUNA SECA GRAND PRIX, DAVIES TO SUBSTITUTE

The Red Bull Laguna Seca Grand Prix kicked off at 10AM Friday morning, when the riders took to the track under gorgeous California sunshine and balmy weather conditions so different from the heat wave the year prior. 6 Laps into the first free practice session, Alex Hofmann, still recovering from an injured right hand, was brutally knocked off-track and into his Ducati when Sylvain Guintoli, himself a Laguna Seca and MotoGP rookie, missed his braking marker coming into the infamous Corkscrew, and collided with Hofmann at a high rate of speed.

Hofmann was able to stand immediately after the accident, but it was obvious that his left hand had been severely damaged by the charging Yamaha, and he grimaced in pain while his helmet and gloves were removed. Due to Laguna Seca's lack of frontage roads surrounding the track, the practice was Red-Flagged to clear the track of all riders so that an ambulance could carry Hofmann to the onsite medical center. He was then airlifted to the Surgery Center in San Francisco where he underwent a three hour surgery to repair damage to all the broken bones in his hand, including a split second metacarpal.

The Team was devastated to have lost Alex for the moment, and after travelling all the way to California from Sachsenring, it was decided that a second rider would be fielded. Former 250cc Grand Prix racer, Chaz Davies, was selected and his MotoGP baptism will be a trial of fire. Riding the Laguna raceway for the first time earlier in the morning on a 600, he took to the track in the second free practice session aboard the mighty Ducati Desmosedici GP7, determined to learn more about the bike, the notoriously tricky circuit, and Bridgestone tires.

Alex Barros rode, despite being in pain from his crashes in Germany, but was unable to truly lay down the laptimes he was looking for. The Brazilian will rest and recover tonight and come back stronger tomorrow.

Alex Barros (1'24.457 -- 24 laps)"For me, it wasn't an easy day. My hand was particularly painful and I wasn't able to ride well. Today I tried to ride without the aid of anaesthesia, but it was really impossible because I simply had too much pain. I was convinced that my hand was going to be a little better from last weekend, but now I know that I can't ride like I normally do, and for this reason I didn't get a good lap time. Overall, I'm satisfied as regard the bike. We found a good set-up and the tires, too, worked very well. I'm confident that if I didn't have this injury I could achieve a better result. Anyway, tomorrow before the start of the session, I will take an anaesthetic injection so it's less painful. I'm confident for the race, but we still have big range to improve.":

Chaz Davies (1'26.459 -- 26 laps): "I don't know what can I say, I'm simply surprised. I never thought about something like this. Riding with the best bike and tires of this moment, isn't a possibility that everyone has. I have never ridden both on this track and in MotoGP, but when the Pramac d'Antin Team made me this proposal, I couldn't refuse, because it's a once in a lifetime opportunity. There was just a half hour before the afternoon practice when I saw the Team coordinator coming; for a moment I didn't understand, then, when I thought back to Hofmann's crash I suddenly understood. I'm very happy for this opportunity, and I would to say thank you to the Pramac d'Antin Team, and also, get well to the Hoff."

Luis d'Antin -- Team manager: "Alex Hofmann's crash was very bad for us. This was one of Alex's favourite tracks and he was strongly motivated to ride on Sunday, but unfortunately MotoGP can also be like this. At the beginning we didn't know the best decision to take, then, we chose Chaz Davies to replace Hofmann on Sunday. For Chaz, it was his first day on this track and in the MotoGP class, too, but in this difficult situation he did relatively well. I'm confident that from now until Sunday, he will continue to improve."

-credit: pd'a