Championship rivals Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo both have their minds on victory in this weekend's United States Grand Prix as the MotoGP circus arrives at Laguna Seca.
Repsol Honda rider Stoner leads by 15 points but has seen his advantage whittled away in the last two races. Despite that, the Australian is happy with the performance of his machine and expects to be fighting at the front this weekend.
“I thought I would have pulled out a few more points last weekend but Jorge nicked them back off me in the last corner (at Sachsenring), so hopefully this weekend we can take the Championship advantage back out again,” said the Australian. “The last few weekends we've definitely had a good chance of winning, we've struggled a little bit in the practices and struggled to get our pace, but we're pretty happy with the way we came back (for the race) in Sachsenring. By race day we were competitive enough to win.”
Lorenzo enters this weekend as the man in form after his comeback victory in Mugello and the dramatic last corner pass on Stoner in Germany. After Honda's early season domination, the defending champion is delighted to be able to challenge Stoner at the very front.
“In the past few races we have recovered some points on Stoner, but we have pushed a lot to do that. We had some difficult situations in the middle of the race, we had been quite far from the top guys, but in the end at the last moments we gained some points on Casey. We must push in every session, in the race, to gain these points but at least we are there and fighting for the victory, not like at the beginning of the Championship when we always struggled so much to fight for the win.”
Both protagonists were forced to give best to Dani Pedrosa in Germany, who took his first win since returning from injury but the Spaniard has admitted that the strain of back-to-back races may lead to discomfort.
“The time to recover from the last race has been quite short, it was all on the left so my left side is quite sore but I will try to do my best here once again and to rest between sessions. I want to try and just have fun out there. Right now I am recovering and when you race in this kind of situation you also suffer because of pain. At the same time if we can get a good result I will enjoy it.”
Joining the trio in the press conference was Nicky Hayden, who has two Laguna Seca wins to his name. The American will have the Ducati GP11.1 available for the first time but hasn't confirmed whether he will race it on Sunday.
“I have one of the new bikes so thanks to Ducati for making it available to me,” said Hayden. “At some stage we will definitely do some laps on it and see what I think. There are a few things about it, it has some potential and does some things better, but on the other hand we're not here to test – this is a race so we don't want to confuse things. We want to give ourselves the best shot on Sunday to get the best result. It's worth risking it to try and find something a little bit better and hopefully on Sunday I can put up a lot better fight than I have been able to do all year.”
Hayden, Colin Edwards and Ben Spies will be joined by a fourth American this weekend as Ben Bostrom makes his Grand Prix debut at his home event for LCR Honda.
“It's really an honour to be here”, added the 37 year old. “I have to thank LCR Honda and Michael Jordan Motorsports for their collaboration and even American Suzuki for allowing the opportunity and I just want to get out there!”
“We've won and lost here, it's a strange track. When you're going fast it really comes easy, but when you fight the bike it feels like 100 laps. I watch these (MotoGP) guys in every race and it's a dream come true ride an 800cc in MotoGP. I know they're going to 1000cc next year so this could be one of the last, maybe the only, opportunities I have to ride this one.”
The Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix weekend begins with FP1 at 6:10pm this evening (UK time) and The Checkered Flag will have full coverage throughout the weekend.