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Page last updated at 11:25 GMT, Saturday, 4 July 2009 12:25 UK

Matt Roberts' Laguna practice report

US MotoGP, Laguna Seca
Date: 4-5 July
Saturday 4 July: Qualifying: Qualifying: 2150-2300, BBC Red Button/online Sunday 5 July: 2200-2300, BBC Two/online

By Matt Roberts
BBC Sport at Laguna Seca

Nicky Hayden
Hayden's holiday weekend did not get off to the best of starts

America's Nicky Hayden wore a 4 July fireworks helmet design on the first day of practice for the US Grand Prix - but it turned out to be a damp squib for the locals who had come along to cheer their man, with the Kentucky Kid flogging around in 14th place.

"We certainly ain't been letting off any rockets today," moaned the Ducati rider, who complained of a lack of acceleration from his Desmosedici - the one area where the Bologna banshee has tended to excel so far, despite its handling difficulties at most other circuits.


Hayden's explosive team-mate Casey Stoner had no option but to keep some powder dry as he paced himself for a taxing weekend ahead, with physical exhaustion still a major issue.

With just six days to recover since Assen, a 10,000-km trip under his belt and an eight-hour time difference to contend with, Stoner was already feeling peaky after just an hour on track.

"The doctors can't give me antibiotics because they don't know what they're dealing with - the symptoms only arise when I physically exert myself, at which point I go rapidly downhill," he explained after the session.

"I am trying some new medication and even though I feel worse today than I did on day one at Barcelona or Assen, I'm hoping it might come good for Sunday. Either way, it's damage limitation for me again in terms of the championship."


Stoner's mood was briefly lifted on Tuesday with a trip to the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park, although considering his condition he could be forgiven for not joining Randy de Puniet and Toni Elias on the Jurassic Park rollercoaster.

The trio also visited the sets of Jaws, Fast & Furious, and The Mummy, although Toni seemed more taken by meeting Bart Simpson.


A few people had to eat Toni's shorts in practice on Friday, as he responded to a 20-second penalty for some fast and furious riding in the last round with his best opening-day performance of the season.

Toni Elias
Toni Elias meets the fans in California

He lapped fifth fastest and is likely to get better, with two 2008 chassis to be made available to him on Saturday for the first time this year.

At every round so far this season, his manufacturers HRC have forced him to use at least one of the 2009 model bikes rejected by Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso.

But now he has two identical frames that will make set-up work for the rest of the weekend much easier, and could see finally the Spaniard make an impact at the front.


Gabor Talmacsi will have two entire machines available to him for the first time this weekend, with the Scot Racing Team finally being forced to release Yuki Takahashi because of economic constraints and injury.

The team had been close to extinction before the Hungarian brought financial backing to the Barcelona race and they had been running one bike per rider since then.

However, they couldn't muster the funds for two more bikes and Takahashi, who is suffering with a slipped disc in his back, was the obvious casualty.


Of course the box office attraction at any MotoGP race right now is Valentino Rossi and the Italian is happy to dictate the script, even when part of an all-star cast including fellow legends Wayne Rainey, Eddie Lawson and Kenny Roberts Sr.

Valentino Rossi
One of the most familiar sights in racing - Rossi's back wheel

The world champions were all on track on Thursday for a SuperKart 'exhibition' in which things inevitably got competitive, with Rossi coming out on top in a one-lap sprint, with 'Grand Marshal' Colin Edwards waving the chequered flag.

"We had a plan, and it didn't quite work," laughed Rainey, who regularly races the karts that lap around Laguna at a similar pace to the MotoGP bikes. "We were all going to stay together, but suddenly we looked round and said 'where did Valentino go?'"

The rest of the MotoGP field had a taste of that last Saturday in Holland and on the evidence of today there could be a similar ending to the story here on Sunday.



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see also
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Simoncelli confirms MotoGP switch
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Matt Roberts' MotoGP column
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Rossi pips Lorenzo in epic finale
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