- Round 8: Laguna Seca, USA
- Track length: 3610 m
- Opened: 1957
- Circuit tel: +1 (0) 408 648 5100
- Circuit web site: http://www.laguna-seca.com
After more than ten years absence from the MotoGP World Championship it was announced late in 2004 that the Laguna Seca circuit would once again features on the 2005 race calendar. The US event was excluded back in 1994 due to track safety concerns and limited crowd attendance figures, despite continued success with the World Superbike Championship. However since signing the agreement with MotoGP, which cemented the return of the US GP, a significant investment has been made to improve track safety and the circuit facilities. Combined with increased interest in the championship buy the US public Laguna Seca is now promising to be a spectacular affair. However, unlike any other race in the championship, the 2005 US GP will only feature the MotoGP class from the regular schedule, with the GP250 and 125 classes being replaced by local AMA events including the AMA Superbikes.
Most circuits have at least one distinguishing feature that ensures it stands out from the crowd, but none more so than the Laguna Seca Corkscrew. The rather short, by MotoGP standards, 3610m circuit still has some of the highest variation in elevation changes compared to any track on the MotoGP calendar, all culminating around a short chicane which not only boasts a tight left right sequence but also a elevation change just as dramatic. Riders will climb up one of the fastest section of the circuit only to be met by a blind left hand turn that drops away down into what is literally the type of corkscrew you'd expect to find on a big American rollercoaster.
In addition the Laguna Seca layout includes a high speed kink (main straight), a series of long radius slow turns (turn one) and a hard braking 90-degree left hander (the last turn). With so much to consider the word in everyone's minds involved with the set-up of the YZR-M1 will be "balance" - balanced chassis geometry, balanced suspension movement and balanced power delivery. The aim is to offer the rider confidence, because at Laguna Seca a confident rider is a fast rider. A bike pumping out 240 horsepower on this circuit will tend to become very lively very easily, so stability will take priority over agility despite the twists and turns of the infamous Corkscrew.
With both Gauloises Yamaha Team riders Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards very happy with the base set-up of the YZR-M1 little will be changed with the overall geometry. Sure minor suspension adjustments will be made to support stability, and possibly a slightly longer swingarm could be considered at some stage during the weekend to improve this further, but it's the way the M1's power is delivered that the engineers will concentrate their efforts. A linear delivery, even at the slight expense of outright power, should help stability and prove easier to put in fast consistent laps.
For the tyre manufacturers it's going to be a very difficult race, despite their best calculated estimations. With no MotoGP experience at the US circuit exactly how the combination of the track surface, track temperature and the 240 plus horsepower will affect the compounds and constructions will be difficult to predict and could have a very significant influence on the outcome of the race. However despite all the efforts of the engineers, chief mechanics and tyre technicians track knowledge will play a bigger part in the result of the US GP. In addition the rider's ability to compensate for the neutral balance of the bike by adjusting their body weight to maximize traction will also be a key.