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The World Championship is about to commence its 27th Grand Prix in the US, with the first one dating all the way back to Daytona in 1964.
On 2 February it was the 51st anniversary of the first time that the World Championships visited a US circuit. The very first US Grand Prix was held in 1964 at Daytona and was followed by a second a year later in 1965, when it was the legendary Mike Hailwood who took the 500cc win, with Alan Shepherd taking the 250cc victory. It would prove to be the last time the World Championships would visit the US for over two decades.
In 1988 the World Championship returned to US soil at another iconic circuit, Laguna Seca in California. In an era that was dominated by two stroke machines ridden by American and Australian riders, it was local hero Eddie Lawson who took the win on the way to the third of his four world titles in the 500cc class.
As an example of how hard many European riders found it to adjust to the new circuit, the 250cc victory was taken by a US wild card Jim Filice on a Honda NSR250 HRC provided by the respected coach Erv Kanemoto.
Local riders such as Wayne Rainey and John Kocinski dominated the next few editions of the US Grand Prix, as their local knowledge of the track gave them an advantage, and it took until 1994 for a European rider to stop this run in the 500cc class when Luca Cadalora won at Laguna Seca.
It would then be over a decade before the US Grand Prix made a return to the World Championship calendar, and when it did, it was all change. The MotoGP™ era had begun 4 years earlier, replacing the old 500cc class, and Loris Capirossi was the only rider on the grid that had raced at the circuit previously when the World Championships last visited 11 years earlier.
Once again, local knowledge would prove to be essential at the circuit, as the “Kentucky Kid” Nicky Hayden went on to claim back-to-back wins in 2005 & 2006 in front of his home fans, the latter victory coming on his way to the MotoGP™ title that year.
Casey Stoner became the first Australian to win in the premier class at Laguna Seca when he took the victory in 2007, as he claimed the title that year with Ducati. Valentino Rossi would go on to win in 2008, after an epic battle with Stoner over the course of the race. Rossi would also go on to take the win in Indianapolis two weeks later, which had been added to the MotoGP™ calendar that year, meaning there were now two races held in the US each season.
Laguna Seca and Indianapolis would be a staple of the MotoGP™ calendar for the next few years, and in fact in 2013 an extra date was added in the US, with the addition of the race at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas. In 2013, it was Marc Marquez the new MotoGP™ superstar that took victory in them all, on the way to the title in his rookie season.
Last year it was more of the same, despite Laguna Seca being dropped from the schedule, as Marquez went on to win at COTA and Indianapolis as he claimed victory in the first ten races of the season on the way to defending his title. Therefore it is once again the young Spaniard Marquez who will start the race as favourite, despite having not had the ideal start to his 2015 season in Qatar.
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