DUCATI MOTOGP TEAM GO 'STATESIDE' FOR ONE OF THE YEAR'S MOST SIGNIFICANT RACES FOR RIDERS AND FACTORY One of the most eagerly-anticipated and important events on the MotoGP calendar for Ducati and its riders arrives this weekend, with the...
DUCATI MOTOGP TEAM GO 'STATESIDE' FOR ONE OF THE YEAR'S MOST SIGNIFICANT RACES FOR RIDERS AND FACTORY
One of the most eagerly-anticipated and important events on the MotoGP calendar for Ducati and its riders arrives this weekend, with the US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca. It is one of two home races for Nicky Hayden and the scene of his debut victory in motorcycle racing's elite competition, which came in 2005 and was followed up by identical success on his way to the world title in 2006. Casey Stoner picked up the baton with victory in 2007 and the Australian was one half of an epic battle with Valentino Rossi last year. The pair fought elbow to elbow around the rollercoaster circuit but the fans were denied a grandstand finale when Stoner ran off track and crashed, returning to claim second place, such was the gap they had built up over the rest of the field.
Whilst the Ducati MotoGP Team riders both have great pedigree at the Californian circuit, the event also has special significance for the Borgo Panigale factory, with the US market one of their most important. On the opposite side of the Atlantic to its home, the Ducati brand has become a symbol of quality, high technology and exclusivity -- the distinctive characteristics of a product bearing the "Made in Italy" stamp.
Determination, dedication and hard work are the hallmarks of the Ducati MotoGP Team, which is ready to give full support to its two riders as they prepare to tackle the next challenge. Hayden is desperate to perform in front of his home fans and following a gritty and combative performance in Holland he is looking to continue with the progress he has made over the last few weeks. Stoner, meanwhile, is hoping to overcome the physical problems that have prevented him from challenging for victory in the last two races at Assen and Catalunya, although on both occasions he was able to stay in the championship hunt thanks to podium finishes achieved with the hard work and support of his team.
LIVIO SUPPO, MotoGP Project Director
"It is always great to race at Laguna and particularly so this year, with Nicky in our team! We'll do everything we can to make sure Casey is in the best physical condition possible and to give Nicky the opportunity to ride at the level we all know he is capable of at his favourite circuits, where he has scored two wonderful victories in the past. The bike is improving all the time and we're confident we can do well with both our riders this weekend."
CASEY STONER, Ducati MotoGP Team (3rd in the championship on 122 points)
"We have had some setbacks over the past couple of races that have prevented us from showing our full potential. We have done a lot of work on the bike and found a great set-up for the race on both occasions but I have not been in good shape when it was the moment to take advantage of that work. We have come straight to America from Assen and there hasn't been much time to recover, although I do feel better already. What we learned from last weekend is not to underestimate the symptoms. I have always liked Laguna, with its natural elevation changes, I love racing in America and the Ducati has always gone well here. We have the potential to challenge for a good result again but we'll wait until we get out on track and see how things shape up."
NICKY HAYDEN, Ducati MotoGP Team (15th in the championship on 26 points)
"We still have a lot of work to do but it has been nice to see a little progress over the last few weeks and at Laguna I really need to take another big step. I don't have any big plan or anything -- it's not that easy! All I know to do is keep trying and working at it and hope it will come. Laguna is a great track and very challenging. There are a few points that stick out but in general it is different to most tracks, which usually have a few different sections, whereas Laguna is basically just one section and you have to put it all together to make a good lap. This year we're racing in America on the 4th of July weekend and it's perfect - I can't think of a better way to celebrate the holiday than at the US Grand Prix! Also the fact my brothers will be racing on the same weekend in the AMA championship helps make it special for me. This will be the first time my American fans get to see me on a Ducati so that will be cool because there are a lot of strong Ducati fans in the states. No predictions or anything but we'll go full gas and see what happens."
Laguna Seca played host to the US Grand Prix on six occasions between 1988 and 1994 before being removed from the calendar. A series of major structural improvements to the facility saw the World Championship return in 2005, although only for the MotoGP class. The track, which flows around the undulating hills on the outskirts of Monterey, is most famous for the Corkscrew, a tight and spectacular left-right downhill chicane. In fact, the entire circuit is a rollercoaster ride, with a few short straights and a series of fast corners and elevation changes that often leave the front wheel pawing at the air. The 3.610km track is the perfect amphitheatre for the fans and is surprisingly straightforward in terms of machine set-up, with little opportunity to maximise full throttle. Frequent downhill braking zones put extra stress on the front end and make tyre wear a crucial factor.