x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Laguna Seca proves lucky for MotoGP contenders

With its infamous Corkscrew turn, it is one of the most demanding on the MotoGP circuit and has recently become an uncanny identifier of the eventual world champion.

The US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca on Sunday.
The US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca on Sunday.

LAGUNA SECA, UNITED STATES // The track at Laguna Seca, with its infamous Corkscrew turn, is one of the most demanding on the MotoGP circuit and has recently become an uncanny identifier of the eventual world champion. Three times in the last four years the winner of the US Grand Prix has gone on to clinch end-of-season honours and Wayne Rainey, the three-time former world champion, believes this year will be no different.

Jorge Lorenzo, of Spain, emphasised the concept when he stretched his championship lead to a commanding 72 points with a victory at Laguna Seca on Sunday. But Rainey's main point is that the unique challenge posed by the tight, twisting California circuit requires competitors to showcase a broad range of riding skills - prerequisites for any would-be world champion. "Laguna Seca is very, very challenging with its elevation changes, blind corners, banked corners, up-cambers and flat stretches," Rainey said. "It's one of the most technically challenging on the circuit. It's very easy to over-ride the track and go slow and then it's also very easy to not go fast enough.

"So it's very difficult to find the zone to not rush it but yet be aggressive without overdoing it." Rainey, who has been in a wheelchair since he shattered his spine during the 1993 Italian Grand Prix, had his own explanation for why Laguna Seca has so often produced world champion winners. "This is a track where mentally you want to win and physically you want to win because your competitors that get beat here, they really get beat," the 49-year-old American said.

"This track has got a lot of circuits in it. So if you can win this race, you've got a good package that's going to carry you through the rest of the year." Scenically laid out in rolling hills overlooking the Monterey Peninsula, Laguna Seca is the shortest track on the MotoGP circuit but also one of the tightest. It has 11 turns with its most famous feature the Corkscrew, which plunges left and right through two tight corners over a drop of 45 metres. Other notable sections include the Andretti hairpin, the Rainey Curve and the Rahal Straight.

Asked what it was like for a rider to negotiate the Corkscrew, Rainey said: "It's very daunting, and it's very easy to get it wrong. "The Corkscrew is a corner that I personally did try to make a lot of time in but I also made sure I didn't lose time there. It's not one you want to mess up. "I raced four GPs here and I won three of them." * Reuters