What would you do to watch a race? To ensure that you wouldn’t miss it, even for a minute? My home comes to a standstill every Race Day evening. I hold on to the remote for my dear life, no one’s allowed to have a conversation on anything, except of course the race, and god forbid someone walks across the television. So, yes, I just about turn into a tyrant. But, this Sunday, I will be a subdued, sleepy, slightly grumpy tyrant, looking on at sunshiny California and the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
That’s the deal with time zones. The race begins at 2.30am in India. Seven hours later, I will be at work battling Monday morning meetings and other project thingummabobs. You would think I’d just record the race. Uh-huh. The thought hasn’t even crossed my mind. Why would you even think that?
Besides, silly season’s begun at MotoGP, Valentino Rossi scored his best run yet at Mugello and will probably try to repeat that miracle, and it’s possible that Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner will play chase down the Corkscrew. Miss it? No way!
Anyway, MotoGP has finally meandered its way through Europe and on to the US shores, and Laguna Seca. Oof. That very name sends shivers down my spine. I have flashes of that incredible Rossi vs Stoner showdown – ironically this time, it’ll be Rossi on the Ducati. If you haven’t seen it (blasphemy!), here it is, yet again. If you have seen it, go on, see it once again. I insist.
But first, the track itself. What’s not to love? It was built in 1957 and its classic feature is The Corkscrew or Turns 8 and 8A. It’s one of those challenging sections with elevation changes that sometimes defy sanity. The section drops 59 feet between the entrance to the turn and the exit at Turn 8A. From Turn 8 to 9, the elevation drop is 109 feet! This is also where Rossi famously overtook Stoner in 2008, scoring his first US victory. The circuit runs anti-clockwise with 11 curves and a track length of 3.58 kms. The dream run, of course, came with Nicky Hayden in 2005. He scored his first GP win here, when MotoGP returned to the US after 10 years. This time, we need to watch out for Jorge Lorenzo, who has been fast this season. He has also been on pole here for the last three years.
Speaking of Lorenzo though, his teammate Ben Spies caught everyone off guard with his little Twitter news. He will be leaving Yamaha after this season. He has kept his cards pretty close so far, though he did say at the pre-race press conference, “I’ve known for quite a bit what my personal decision was and I thought this was the right time to do it with all the contracts happening with other riders.” You can read more about it here.
Of course, that little piece of news has set everyone off. We all know Vale hasn’t been a happy trooper at Ducati. There has been so much of back and forth so far, and then there have been those meetings with the people over at Audi. Of course, Cal Crutchlow has been offered a seat with the team. Who will go, we wonder? Nicky Hayden or Vale? Or will they even go? And of course, the kicker question, will Vale move to Yamaha and take over Spies’ spot? Will he play second fiddle to Lorenzo? That has happened in the past, hasn’t it, much to Vale’s chagrin?
I know we want that. It would be ideal wouldn’t it? But, there’s something so wrong with that idea. In so many ways, it sounds too much like giving up. Yes, the Ducati isn’t the best of machines right now (I know that’s an understatement). Imagine though, a Championship win with the Dream Team? That’s stuff of dreams. And if that happens, it will be nothing short of legendary. It will be Vale’s “up yours” to the naysayers. I know I sound idealistic, a dreamer even. But, Vale doesn’t really seem the sort who would back away from a challenge.
Vale’s choice though is important. In so many ways, it will decide his future, the way his career will turn. He said so himself. Crash.net quoted him as saying, “From one side (at Ducati) we have a lot of work to do, but good impression and good feeling for the future. With some other choice (assumed to be Yamaha) is more safe and more sure that it is possible to be competitive in a short period… It is also a particular moment in my career, so I have to decide what is more important for the future.” You can read the story here.
Lorenzo however, has said to the media that the move will be a great thing for Yamaha. “…because we were a good pair in the past…The preference is to have a competitive rival in the same team. It would be a good stimulation for me to be better and faster each year.” I wonder what Vale has to say about that.
With each day though, the 2013 grid becomes a little clearer. Last night, Hayden announced that he had signed on with Ducati for one more year. Rossi though had another frustrating practice session after he crashed within 10 minutes of the session. The Ducati comes to Laguna Seca with improvements. Time will tell how far this will take the team. Till then, there is a part of me that hopes Rossi stays on at Ducati. There’s just too much unfinished business there.
Joan’s smile says it all: Strength, Faith, and Courage. Here it is:
Stay Strong Joan.