July 10, 2005 Americans Nicky Hayden and Colin Edwards struck a major blow for the sport of motorcycle road racing when they finished 1-2 and demoted the world’s best rider into third spot at the Red Bull United States Grand Prix here today. In showcasing the world’s best motorcycle racing event to the American public, Hayden and Edwards did their home country proud and will surely have enhanced the prospects for greater acceptance and coverage of MotoGP in the world’s biggest and most important motorcycle marketplace. For Hayden, with a career just beginning and a rockstar’s good looks and persona, his first MotoGP win is expected by many to move him into the elite and make him a regular contender for the win. For Rossi, it was business as usual because although he finish in third place, he extended his points lead to 79 points, giving him a three race lead (at 25 points for a win) with nine races remaining in the title chase.
It was only a matter of time before Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) made his talent felt in the hard-fought arena of MotoGP racing. The young American shone at his home race with a maiden pole and a career-first win. Not only did the American star provide Honda’s President, Mr Takeo Fukui who attended this race, with a victory, but Hayden also gave his father an unscheduled lap of honour on his all-conquering Honda RC211V Grand Prix machine.
The win was particularly satisfying for Honda – the official Honda factory team had not had a win since Rossi was last in their colours, at the final race of the 2003 season and no doubt they were feeling a win was long overdue. Similarly, Yamaha was celebrating its 50th anniversary at the event and had its official team decked out in the old yellow-and-black livery of Yamaha America, made famous by many racers over the years but particularly by the exploits of “King Kenny” Roberts who rode Yamahas to victory on every major stage of American motorcycle competition before winning three MotoGp titles in a row back in the seventies. Honda’s win rained on Yamaha’s parade and would no doubt have been particularly satisfying for Honda Japan given the importance and prominence of the win in this lucrative market.
That reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi finished third indicates just how much European riders were at a disadvantage – even the best the world has seen had no answer to the local expertise shown by Hayden and Edwards around the twists and turns of this tricky track. Similarly, those riders who had seen the circuit before from the recent rounds of the World Superbike Championships had an immediate competitive edge. Aussie Troy Bayliss was welcomed by all back to the front of the field – his friendly off-track demeanour and honest on-track efforts see him without a genuine foe, which is rare in this cut-and-thrust world. Everyone seemed willing to laud his efforts in qualifying fourth, and surprised that he finished sixth, as the Aussie who once finished on a World Championship event podium after having crashed twice during the race, always races better than he qualifies … except in this case.
Two riders who definitely won’t be on each other’s Christmas list in 2005 will be Alex Barros and Marco Melandri – a crash on the first lap saw both of them park their Hondas for the day and a particularly heated debate raged in the pits for several minutes between the two, who both felt they were contenders for the win today.
In the final Hayden was magnificent at this challenging Laguna Seca circuit. Not only did he dominate qualifying, but the former AMA Superbike Champion made the race his own as he led from flag to flag.
Max Biaggi (Repsol Honda RC211V) made inroads into the World Championship points standings with a powerful ride into fourth place. The Roman closed the points gap significantly over his second-placed rival Marco Melandri (Team Movistar Honda RC211V) – at least for now.
But the day belonged to Hayden, and few competitors could begrudge the American hero his hour of glory. “This is great,” said Hayden. “At my home Grand Prix, this is my first Premier win and I want to make sure this is the start of something good. Thanks to Honda, thanks to my Team for making this happen.”
Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda, 1st: “This is like a fairy tale. To come to your home GP and be fastest in nearly all the sessions and get pole and then win is just a dream come true. It s been a while since I won anything – except the dating game TV thing – and this feels amazing. For the race I put my head down and just rode my heart out the whole race. In the middle of the race I saw the time gap come down and I thought ‘oh no’. but I kept focussed. Getting Earl on the back at the end is a real dirt track thing. I owe my family everything. My Mum and Dad have given up so much for us all as a family. I remember the roof leaking as a kid when it rained as all the money we had went into racing. This win is for everyone in my team – for Honda in believing in me and for all the great fans around this track today who helped me so much . Every dog has its day and today it all just came together. I’m going to enjoy this moment for sure."
Makoto Tanaka, Repsol Honda Team Manager: “A very special day and one we will all remember for ever. Nicky has been the man to beat all weekend and in the end no one could touch him. His team did a great job and got the bike set-up well right from the start. They hardly changed a thing. We at Honda have always had faith in Nicky and today it all paid off. Mr Takeo Fukui, the President and CEO of Honda Motor Company was here to witness the first Honda win in the top class of GP racing at Laguna Seca ever. I am positive that now Nicky has tasted success we will be seeing more. Max had a quiet race in compassion but with Melandri crashing out, managed to close the gap to second place to only seven points.”
Colin Edwards (Gauloises Yamaha Team) 2nd: "I made another bad start and ended up with two riders making a sandwich of me into turn one. They had my handlebars on each side and just carried me into the corner so I thought it was going to end in a big mess. Once I got clear of the group I got my head down and pushed as hard as I could to pass Valentino. At that point I still had something left to try and catch Nicky but every time I closed the gap he responded, so hats off to him. When the tyres went off I was just hanging on to finish the race. I knew I had an advantage of around two seconds over Valentino but on the last lap I looked at my board and it said 0.6. I guessed it must be a mistake but I then looked over my shoulder in turn two and he was right there! I thought "oh no, not on the last lap!" I gave everything I had left to hold him off and came close to crashing a few times so second place is really pleasing."
Davide Brivio, Gauloises Yamaha Team Director: "It has been a very good weekend for us and to have both riders together on the podium for the third time this year is a nice way to celebrate Yamaha's 50th Anniversary. It is great to see the yellow, white and black colours on the podium after so many years, but most importantly we have seen Valentino extend his advantage at the top of the championship and Colin get much closer to the top. It has been a positive Grand Prix in every aspect for us. We have also enjoyed the experience of being in California, and we look forward to coming back next year."
Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Yamaha Team) 3rd: "I lost some time during practice trying to learn the circuit so the bike was not at 100% today, and also our tyre choice was not perfect. Anyway, Nicky rode very hard and it was impossible to catch him today. I knew Colin was coming but I didn't realise how close he was and he caught me by surprise in the Corkscrew. I lost some time there but at the end he lost some of his rhythm and I tried to catch him. He turned around to look at me and I said: "Hello, I am here!" I thought maybe to attack on the last lap but then I had a vision of both Yamahas in the dirt so decided third place was okay, especially for the championship! Anyway, I am very happy because I expected this to be the hardest race of the season but I am the fastest European rider here and I fought with the Americans. I have learnt a lot to try and beat them next year! "
Max Biaggi, Repsol Honda, 4th: “It was a good race. Surely, we could have stepped on the podium this time, but it took me too long to pass Bayliss, who was slowing me down. So I lost the touch with the head of the race. I’m sorry, because I did a good start, from seventh to fourth place. I also liked the duel with Gibernau, tough but always fair. Well, I had fun. Today I really want to congratulate with my team mate Nicky and with his guys. He was simply perfect all over the week-end. Bravo Nicky!"
Sete Gibernau, Movistar Honda MotoGP, 5th: “I think that was one of my best races of the season, if not the best, even though the result might not reflect that. We found a better set-up than we had all weekend in the morning warm-up and I went out to give everything, even though I knew it would be tough starting so far back. We were able to maintain a high rhythm, the same as the guys at the front, and stayed consistent throughout the race. It hasn’t been an ideal weekend. When we go well in qualifying we don’t seem able to finish it off in the race and vice versa. I’m confident that when we manage to put three good days together again we’ll be back to winning races.”
Troy Bayliss, Camel Honda, 6th: “Sixth isn’t what I want, or what I expected here at Laguna. In the race I was just unable to find the kind of feeling I had in practice, I didn’t have the confidence on the front and hardly any grip at the back. I picked up some good points and I gained a place a position in the championship standings, but today I wanted more.”
Sito Pons, Camel Honda: “We have been incredibly unlucky in this race, because Alex was caught up in an incident he had nothing to do with, and he didn’t even get the chance to make the most of the competitive edge and pacy rhythm he demonstrated in practice and above all during this morning’s warm-up. Having seen his pace in the race he would almost certainly have been able to fight for victory. Troy got away well, but obviously he had a few difficulties because he was never able to ride as hard as in practice.”
Makoto Tamada, Konica Minolta Honda, 7th: “In the first turn of the race I had to leave the inside of the track to Barros and Nakano that have both touched me on the left side of the bike. I have seriously risked to fall, but somehow I made it to remain on my bike even if I lost precious time and some positions. While I was overtaking Nakano, at the end of the race, I have may cut the turn too much, touching with my left hand the rubber pole which delimit the circuit and this has blocked me for some successive turns. The RC211V and the tyres have been effective, allowing me to recuperate various positions. My feeling with the bike, in the final part of the race, with the tank almost empty and therefore lighter is surely improving. I consider this race for me and for the Team a positive experience, in fact is only from now that I am in good physical conditions after a series of disturbing inconveniences.”
Gianluca Montiron, Konica Minolta Honda Director: “All in all a satisfying race for us. A honourable seventh place in a competitive race. Makoto is recovering his physical condition and notwithstanding the last week medical operation to his right forearm he has gone through, he made it to maintain a good rhythm during the all race. This has been for us one of the first races of the season where we have raced in almost optimal conditions and this make us look in a positive way the rest of the season. We consider this the starting base to obtain those results that we all aim.”
John Hopkins, Suzuki, 8th place: “I’m disappointed, it’s definitely not where we wanted to finish. I got passed by a few in the beginning and it’s so hard to make the passes back. I ended up having to stick where I was, I tried for the longest time to get past Bayliss and it just didn’t come along.
“With the higher temperatures we had to use a harder tyre that we hadn’t really got on with all weekend and I didn’t feel too comfortable on it. I wanted to put on a good show for the fans and I’m sure I did as I was sliding around a lot all race. It’s good to see American riders one and two at their home GP, I just wish it was me.”
Tak Hayasaki, Group Leader Suzuki Motorcycle Planning Department: “This is the first time I have been to a MotoGP and was very impressed by how well the team works. It has great organisation and operation and the teamwork is very good, but the competition is very tough here. I realise that we need to get better but the time is so quick and we will have to do everything we can to get a better result.
“This visit is going to be a great asset for me. I have been very impressed with the promotion of the team and the support from Red Bull, but we are definitely looking for better results and I think step by step it’s not easy at all. I think we can do it, we will try 100%.”
Paul Denning, Suzuki Team Manager: “It looked like a frantic and hard race for all the top guys at the USGP. Starting from the second row, John stuck his Red Bull Suzuki right into the thick of the action in the early laps and hung in with the front running group. He got involved in a race-long battle with the Hondas of Bayliss and Tamada and it’s a testament to the way he is improving as a rider that he hung in there and didn’t make a mistake all race.
“We are still searching for a bit more torque and more grip. Bridgestone assisted us with the right choice of race tyre which stayed consistent to the end of the race, but maybe didn’t have the extra grip that John needed to stay in the mid-24s, which he was capable of doing in the shorter runs during the practice sessions. I’m sure Bridgestone will take the lessons learned from here and keep improving as we keep improving. The Suzuki GSV-R performed well here at Laguna and ran all weekend without missing a beat.
“The next race at Donington in two weeks time is another home GP for John, and I’m sure there are a lot of positives to take from this race to get a great result there. He is disappointed, but should be proud of himself today.
“Kenny will be disappointed to finish in 14th position at his home GP. He was inside the top 10 early on and I’m sure he would have liked to have put on a good show for the fans, but it was not to be. He has also gone well at Donington in the past so let’s move onto there and see what we can do.
“I’d like to thank Red Bull for partnering us at the Red Bull USGP. We gave it 100%, the bike looked awesome and we’d love to get Red Bull and Suzuki together again in the future.”
Shinya Nakano, Kawasaki, Ninth place: "It was a very hard race but over the final 15 laps I was able to race with Bayliss, Hopkins and Tamada, which is very encouraging for Kawasaki. I enjoyed the battle and I was able to learn many things about the track following Troy and John. The main point is we still need more top end power, plus a little more bottom end, to have a chance against these guys. The team did a very good job here and I was able to race with different electronic settings, which helped in the race. And our Bridgestone tyres had consistent grip for the race today."
Harald Eckl, Kawasaki Team Manager: "We made the best results we could out of our package today and both riders took points to keep Kawasaki third in the Constructors Championship, which is very important."
Ruben Xaus (Fortuna Yamaha Team) 11th: “Practice was unsatisfying for Rubén Xaus, who complained of being unable to show his talent and experience at the Californian track. After the race the team congratulated him nonetheless, "They did so because we keep picking up points. I got a bad start and sometimes starting from the back can be a hairy. The first corner is a bit dangerous and I tried to stay calm. After the mediocre practice sessions I had, to start from the back doesn't do wonders for your confidence. Anyway, the first five laps again were the problem. When I got past Rolfo (Ducati), who was holding me up a bit, I was able to ride at my potential rhythm of about a second slower than the leaders. The YZR-M1 reveals its secrets slowly to me, so it's hard work, but everybody in the team remains calm. We support each other through thick and thin. For now I'll have to be content with the Superbike race I won here in 2003."
Alex Hofmann, Kawasaki, Twelfth place: "I was on full lean angle in turn eleven when the gearbox shifted into neutral. I couldn't click it straight back into first because I would have high-sided. It was a pity because I was ahead of the group that included Roberts and then I had do it all again to pass Elias and Roberts back. Eleventh was possible without that lost time. In the race I was much more comfortable with the track, I now understand the Corkscrew. I was able to run a consistent pace with good grip and I'm happy to get some points. The crowd was amazing today."
Toni Elias (Fortuna Yamaha Team) 13th: "I'm satisfied. We faced a difficult weekend and at least we will take home three points. The race was so tough. My wrist was hurting a lot after four laps. I think the sedation we injected didn't work as it should have. It was important to finish though, and I hung on behind Hofmann (Kawasaki). This is a legendary track, and I'm happy to race here, which has been one of my dreams and that is another reason to be satisfied. However we need to improve. I want to return next year and give it all when I'm in top shape, so I can show a better result then this year."
Kenny Roberts Jr, Suzuki, 14th place: “We couldn’t put on a competitive performance whatsoever here and I feel bad for family, friends and fans that had come to watch. On the other hand this is what racing is about if you’re not competitive it looks real bad and at the moment I’m struggling. We will keep trying, I have a strong team and hopefully we can figure out what’s going on with the package and get back to where we want to be.”
Marco Melandri, Movistar Honda MotoGP, dnf : “The lead group were really close together in the final corner of the first lap and they braked really hard in front of me. I also had to shut off and lost the front. I crashed and I’m sorry for taking Alex Barros down too. It’s a shame it ended that way because in the warm-up I felt much better on the bike and my objective was to finish the weekend off in the best way possible. I hope we can get back on the right track when we return to Europe over the next few races.”
Alex Barros, Camel Honda, dnf: “We were just in the early stages of the race when Melandri bumped into me and made me crash. We were just at the end of the second lap, and I even left space for him to get into the corner, but he hit me anyway. It’s not something to do after just one lap of the race. It’s a shame, I’m so disappointed, because this was a race that I felt I could win.”
Pos. Rider Manufacturer Nat. Total Time 1 N. Hayden Honda USA 45' 15.374 2 C. Edwards Yamaha USA +1.941 3 V. Rossi Yamaha ITA +2.312 4 M. Biaggi Honda ITA +4.216 5 S. Gibernau Honda ESP +4.478 6 T. Bayliss Honda AUS +22.381 7 M. Tamada Honda JPN +22.493 8 J. Hopkins Suzuki USA +23.148 9 S. Nakano Kawasaki JPN +23.625 10 L. Capirossi Ducati ITA +26.123 11 R. Xaus Yamaha ESP +43.512 12 A. Hofman Kawasaki GER +50.957 13 T. Elias Yamaha ESP +51.343 14 K. Roberts Suzuki USA +1' 13.749 15 S. Byrne Proton KR GBR +1' 24.256
Championship standings MotoGP
Pos. Rider Manufacturer Nat. Points 1 Valentino Rossi Yamaha ITA 186 2 Marco Melandri Honda ITA 107 3 Max Biaggi Honda ITA 100 4 Sete Gibernau Honda ESP 95 5 Colin Edwards Yamaha USA 93 6 Nicky Hayden Honda USA 85 7 Alex Barros Honda BRA 74 8 Loris Capirossi Ducati ITA 55 9 Shinya Nakano Kawasaki JPN 55 10 Troy Bayliss Honda AUS 47 11 Carlos Checa Ducati ESP 40 12 Ruben Xaus Yamaha ESP 33 13 Makato Tamada Honda JPN 27 14 John Hopkins Suzuki USA 27 15 Olivier Jacque Kawasaki FRA 25 16 Toni Elias Yamaha ESP 18 21 David Checa Yamaha ESP 4
Manufacturers standings MotoGP
Pos. Manufacturer Points 1 Yamaha 190 2 Honda 166 3 Kawasaki 75 4 Ducati 64 5 Suzuki 35 6 Blata WCM 4 7 Proton KR 1 8 Moriwaki 1
Team standings MotoGP
Pos. Team Points 1 Yamaha Racing Team 279 2 Team Movistar Honda MotoGP 202 3 Repsol Honda Team 185 4 Honda Camel 121 5 Ducati Marlboro Team 95 6 Kawasaki Racing Team 93 7 Fortuna Yamaha Team 55 8 Konica Minolta Honda 39 9 Team Suzuki MotoGP 38 10 D'Antin MotoGP 7 11 Blata WCM 4 12 Team Roberts KR 1