The Fiat Yamaha Team flies west today for the first North American stop of the season, at Laguna Seca in California. With Jorge Lorenzo leading the championship and Valentino Rossi back in action after six weeks out through injury, the team is in high spirits and looking forward to what is always a favourite race for all involved.
Barcelona-based Lorenzo has won five races this season and come second in the remaining three so he arrives in the States as the man everyone wants to beat, with a 47-point lead over Dani Pedrosa in the championship. His first visit to Laguna Seca in 2008 saw him fail to finish but last year he put in a brilliant performance whilst struggling with a shoulder injury to storm home in third behind his team-mate and he is hoping for another visit to the podium, at the very least, this time around. On route to Monterey Lorenzo and Tech 3 Yamaha colleague Ben Spies will make a stop at the home of American talk-show host Jay Leno, where they will be shown round the star's world-famous garage, which houses a incredible collection of over 200 cars and motorcycles.
When he broke his leg just a little over six weeks ago it was not expected that nine-time World Champion Rossi would be seen on track before Brno at the earliest, but the irrepressible superstar has surprised everyone yet again with a return to racing last weekend and a competitive one at that, missing out on a podium by just two tenths of a second. While not yet back to his best the Italian hopes to be stronger again this weekend and feels ready to face the demands of the spectacular circuit. He finished second last year but the memory of his incredible win there in 2008, which he still cites as one of his best ever races, is never far from the minds of his fans.
Laguna Seca sits on the side of a hill just outside the coastal town of Monterey, a couple of hours south of San Francisco. The sometimes intense dry heat, unpredictable asphalt and anti-clockwise layout provide a break from the norm and the riders are forced to adapt their style somewhat after a summer on the fast and wide European tracks. The track boasts some of the most spectacular elevation changes and dramatic corners on the world championship circuit, the most notorious of which is the infamous 'corkscrew.'
Jorge Lorenzo - "Always aiming for the podium"
"This is the first time this season that we've left Europe and I'm excited to be going to Laguna Seca again, one of the most famous tracks in the world. I like riding there and one of my aims is to win there, some day! I have had some crashes there but last year I also took the pole and made it onto the podium. We come from a second place in Sachsenring and our target remains the same, to be consistent and to always aim for the podium. Before the race we will go to see Jay Leno and also I will hopefully visit the headquarters of Twitter in LA."
Valentino Rossi - "Try to improve a little bit more"
"I was so happy to be back in Sachsenring and to be fighting for the podium, even though I just missed out, was more than we could have hoped for. I still have some pain in my leg but I am growing stronger every day and I hope this week that I will be in better shape once again and I can try to improve a little bit more. Laguna is different to anywhere else we go but it's always great fun to ride there and the last two years I've had great races."
Wilco Zeelenberg - "Feeling confident"
"This is the ninth race of the season and we have won or been second in every one so far so we come to America feeling confident. Laguna is a different track to anywhere else we go with different demands on both bike and rider, but Jorge seems to be able to cope with everything he comes to this season so we have no reason not to hope for another good weekend. We have a comfortable cushion in the championship and we will try to keep it that way by continuing to get on the podium each week."
Davide Brivio - "You never know what will happen!"
"We are arriving in the US after an incredibly exciting weekend in Sachsenring, when we not only enjoyed having Valentino back but also got to see him ride an amazing race so soon after his injury. You never know what will happen with him! Our target this time is the podium, so we will work with this in mind. We also need to try to improve some areas of our bike because our plan is to have a really good end of the season when he's back to full fitness."
Valentino Rossi : Information
Lives: Tavullia, Italy
GP victories: 104 (78 x MotoGP/500cc, 14 x 250cc, 12 x 125cc)
First GP victory: Czech Republic, 1996 (125cc)
First GP: Malaysia, 1996 (125cc)
GP starts: 231 (170 x MotoGP/500cc, 30 x 250cc, 30 x 125cc)
Pole positions: 59 (49 x MotoGP/500cc, 5 x 250cc, 5 x 125cc)
World Championships: 9 Grand Prix (1 x 125cc, 1 x 250cc, 1 x 500cc, 6 x MotoGP)
Jorge Lorenzo: Information
Lives: Barcelona, Spain
GP victories: 30 (9 x MotoGP, 17 x 250cc, 4 x 125cc)
First GP victory: Brazil, 2003 (125cc)
First GP: Jerez, Spain, 2002 (125cc)
GP starts: 135 (40 x MotoGP, 48 x 250cc, 46 x 125cc)
Pole positions: 38 (12 x MotoGP, 23 x 250cc, 3 x 125cc)
World Championships: 2 (250cc, 2006/7)
Laguna Seca: Record Lap
C. Stoner (Ducati) 2008, 1'21.488
Laguna Seca: Best Lap
C. Stoner (Ducati) 2008, 1'20.700
Grand Prix Results: Laguna Seca 2009
1. D.Pedrosa (Honda) 44'01.580
2. V. Rossi (Yamaha) +0.344
3. J. Lorenzo (Yamaha) +1.926