MotoGP rookie sensation Marc Marquez arrived at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with two tasks: 1) learn a challenging circuit; and 2) retain or improve on his two-point lead in the world championship.
At the pre-event press conference, the Repsol Honda rider admitted he was surprised by the circuit’s unique layout. “I expected less blind corners. On a scooter, we can see it’s quite bumpy.”
Marquez had no advance information about the circuit. “I tried to come here with a streetbike,” he said, “but, in the end, it was not possible.”
Asked if he had any advice for Marquez, Valentino Rossi said, “Go very slow in the first year.”
“I don’t think Marc needs my advice,” said Cal Crutchlow.
Marquez was immediately fast. “I tried to be careful on the first lap,” he said. “With Bridgestone tires, you cannot be slow. It’s better to try to push. In FP1, I felt stressed on the bike. In second practice, I started to enjoy the bike and tried different lines. Turn 1 is difficult because you need confidence. It’s sixth gear and the bike is flying.” A photo of Rossi showed both wheels off the ground.
“The Corkscrew was difficult to understand,” said Marquez. “You cannot win a lot of time there. You need to push in other corners.” I watched Marquez run over the painted alligator teeth at the bottom of the Corkscrew. “That was intentional and a mistake,” he said. “The grip is not the best and you cannot open the gas. I need to find a compromise.”
On Saturday, Marquez led both practices and lowered his lap time. Near the end of qualifying, however, he crashed unhurt. LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl won pole position by .017 seconds. At the post-qualifying press conference, Marquez was smiling. “I have a good pace,” he said, “and I feel strong for tomorrow.”