SALINAS, Calif.--A journey through the racing pits and marketplace at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca during the weekend's annual Red Bull Grand Prix here unveiled a world of elite engineering and technology tied to some of the fastest driving machines in the world.
In today's elite racing motorcycles, sophisticated computer software analyzes and tunes competitive performance, as on this Yamaha racing bike being prepped by a mechanic.
The Red Bull Grand Prix packs several days of test runs, time trials, and elite motorcycle racing into the big weekend. During practice laps and time trials for the Red Bull Grand Prix, updated lap times are posted electronically to the media and throughout the pits on giant screens.
The main event is the Red Bull MotoGP U.S. Grand Prix, where this year Australian Tommy Casey Stoner beat out defending world tour champion Jorge Lorenzo.
Every aspect of a racing motorcycle, even its dormant tires, is closely monitored by pit personnel. These wraps keep racing tires on a Suzuki heated electronically at all times to maintain proper air pressure and rubber integrity.
Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda, and other racing teams rumble into Laguna Seca in fleets of semi trucks, unpacking expansive tents and piles of expensive electronic equipment to keep the racing bikes operating at peak levels. Professional pit personnel, like these Yamaha Racing technicians, can strip a bike down to its most basic parts within minutes.
Professional motorcycle racers speed at more than 200 mph when competing. Their tailored fire suits are designed to shape their bodies to the contours of a motorcycle and keep them safe by bracing their knees and elbows in saddle positions.
In between races, fans swam through a sea of outdoor vendor space. Ducati, Star Motorcycles, Yamaha, Honda, and their competitors put up modest tent cities where riders could get hands-on time with the latest dream cycles, gear, on-bike gadgets, and even hot new cars coming to showrooms in 2012.
One of many bikes on display for sale at local dealers, the 2011 Stryker from Star Motorcycles sells standard-equipped for about $15,000.
The Red Bull Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway gives riders a chance to scout out affordable dream bikes like the $10,000 Star Motorcycles V-Star 1300. Comparable competing street cruisers can easily run consumers upward of $15,000.