The start of the 2013 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix (© Mike Meredith)Click to enlarge picture

The start of the 2013 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix, Laguna Seca, Calif., July 2013. Spanish racer Marc Marquez on the Respol Honda took the checkered flag in his first race at Laguna Seca.

The MotoGP World Championship is the top level of motorcycle racing in the world, where the best riders compete on exotic prototype machines powered by 1000 cc engines. Capable of top speeds approaching 200 mph, the actual cost of the 2-wheelers is a secret closely guarded by the teams, but it's rumored that a single motorcycle is valued at $1 million.

At Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., the riders fight to keep the front wheel on the track as they exit Turn 11 on to the main straight, where the speed trap at the start-finish line consistently records speeds of 165 mph as the riders continue to accelerate. When they crest the hill at Turn 1 it looks as if the bikes barely touch the track as they fly toward Turn 2.

The MotoGP World Championship returned to Monterey the weekend of July 19 - 21, 2013, for the ninth consecutive year and continues to be the largest spectator event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Monterey is filled with motorcycles the entire weekend, and not just the sport bikes you would expect to see at a MotoGP. Every type of motorcycle and motorcycle enthusiast is drawn to this event.

Watch Video:  Marc Marquez wins 2013 USGP

In an exciting race, rookie sensation Marc Marquez won last Sunday's Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, executing a dramatic pass at the track's famed Corkscrew turn to overtake nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi of the Yamaha factory team. The young Repsol Honda rider then executed a carefully calculated pass to take the lead from first-time pole-sitter Stefan Bradl on the LCR Honda. Marquez went on to take the checkered flag in impressive fashion for his first race at Laguna Seca, successfully recovering from a Saturday qualifying-heat crash.

With the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix win, Marquez continues to lead the 2013 MotoGP World Championship. His two closest rivals, reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) battled through the race, despite both suffering recent collarbone injuries. While the riders should have been on the sidelines recovering, these modern-day gladiators climbed on their bikes and earned valuable championship points, with Pedrosa finishing fifth and Lorenzo sixth.

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But there were plenty of festivities before the race even started. On Saturday night Monterey's Cannery Row was closed to traffic for the 15th Annual Race Night on the Row, with hundreds of motorcycles lining the entire length of the famous bayside street.

Ducati X2
During the Red Bull Grand Prix weekend, Ducati offered a few guests a special up-close look at MotoGP thrills with a ride on the Ducati X2. A Ducati MotoGP bike was fitted with a second seat and special handles to accommodate a passenger. After a medical evaluation, the passenger was fitted with leathers and climbed on the bike behind former World Champion rider Randy Mamola to experience first-hand the capabilities of a MotoGP bike.

With his new rider on board, Mamola then launched with the front wheel off the ground, using the wheelie to feel the balance of the bike with each new passenger as he accelerated up to 150 mph on the front straight. Each rider was given instructions on how and when to lean in, and Mamola gave additional instructions as they leaned into the turn, only inches from the pavement.

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Riders said that the most impressive thing about the ride is the brakes — how fast and how hard the bike will stop. The ride ended the opposite of how it started, with Mamola using the powerful brakes to bring the bike to a stop - up on the front wheel. It was the perfect end to the ultimate motorcycle thrill ride.