Transatlantic challenge beckons for Camel Yamaha
Just five days after their stunning showing at the Sachsenring circuit in Germany the Camel Yamaha Team will be back on track on the other side of the Atlantic as the MotoGP World Championship takes another whirlwind trip across the globe from the east of Europe to the west coast of the USA.
Following an absence of almost a decade, the Laguna Seca circuit near Monterey in California plays host to the world's premier motorcycle race series for the second consecutive season and represents a crucial date with destiny for both Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards.
Last season both riders finished on the podium, an ideal way to celebrate Yamaha's 50th Anniversary and a fitting reward for the factory's role in bringing the sport back to the continent. This time, however, nothing less than a victory will satisfy the Italian and the American, who both have their own agendas as they tackle one of the most important races of the season so far.
For Rossi the eleventh round of seventeen represents another key opportunity to close the gap to series leader Nicky Hayden (Honda) and provides a chance to strike a major psychological blow on the Kentucky rider, who used his explicit local knowledge of the circuit to take victory last season. However, crucial data gathered by Rossi and his team in that race, as well as track modifications that have taken place since then in the interest of safety, have levelled the playing field and the reigning World Champion is confident the advantage can swing in his favour.
The goal for Edwards is to take his first ever victory in MotoGP racing after coming desperately close in the Dutch TT earlier this season. The American has shown flashes of winning potential this season and he would like nothing more than to finally savour the top step of the podium at his home Grand Prix before heading to Japan with an identical target at the prestigious Suzuka 8-hour race.
Following on from his remarkable victory in Germany, Valentino Rossi is looking forward to his second visit to California thanks to an enjoyable and promising Laguna Seca debut one year ago. The reigning MotoGP World Champion was the first non-American rider across the line as he took third place in his first ever USGP but this year he doesn't plan to have anybody in front of him at all as he looks to sign off for the summer with another maximum points haul.
"Even though I didn't know the track last year I was able to follow Nicky for many laps and then Colin too, so I learnt a lot from both of them," explains Rossi. "By the end of the race I was getting stronger and I actually set my best time on the last lap so I hope that this year we can be strong from the start and this time beat the Americans!´.
We had some difficulties with the bike in Germany and we don't have time to make many big changes before this weekend, but hopefully the good setting we found for the race on Sunday and the data we have from last year will be enough.
"The latest modifications to the track will make a difference and we will see how they are when we get there. After last year we discussed everything with the Safety Commission and we made some more suggestions to improve the track, because really it was not at the level of the rest of the championship. It's okay for Superbikes but we are coming into the corners 40km faster, so it was necessary to make some more changes, especially at turn one. Now we have to wait to see if it is better and safer this year."
Colin Edwards is approaching the second home Grand Prix of his career with his focus completely set on taking victory, despite his set-up troubles with the YZR-M1 in Germany. After finishing second to Nicky Hayden in Laguna last year and battling with the same rider for victory at Assen in Holland earlier this season - only to lose out in the final corner – conceding ground to his compatriot is a scenario the Texan does not plan on repeating as the pair tussle for home glory this time around.
"Before Sachsenring I said that I am not hoping to win at Laguna Seca, I am expecting to win, and that remains the case," affirms Edwards, who will be in Los Angeles on Tuesday to take part in a MotoGP bike parade along Hollywood Boulevard before attending the screening of the new MotoGP movie ‘The Doctor, The Tornado and The Kentucky Kid', in which he stars.
"We had our problems in Germany but we also had problems at Catalunya earlier in the season and seven days later I was fighting to win at Assen. It seems the bike that we have works at some circuits and not so well at others so, like Assen, Laguna will be a bit of a shot in the dark. One thing for sure is that I'm going to fight and barge and do whatever it takes to win. If it comes down to a scrap between the Americans, Hayden and I, then I know I can come out on top this time.
Hopefully the bike will work as well as it did at Assen and if it does than I definitely won't make the same mistakes."