The battle for the title continues as riders prepare for Round 12 of 18 of the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix in the Red Bull Indianapolis GP. Coming off a victory in the Czech Republic Grand Prix on Aug. 14 at Brno, Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner extended his points lead over competitor and reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo, who finished fourth in possibly his worst race this season.
It was the Australian's sixth victory of the season on the RC212V for his new team. Stoner's teammate Andrea Dovizioso finished on the podium with him and sits 23 points behind Lorenzo in the points, adding further Honda pressure to the Yamaha rider. "The championship is now even more difficult for us," reflects 2009 Red Bull Indianapolis GP winner Lorenzo, "but that doesn't mean it is finished. There are still a lot of points to be played for, so we must focus on winning the most races we can."
Winning at Indy, where riders compete at speeds approaching 200 mph on the 16-turn, 2.621-mile circuit, will be a new challenge for all the drivers. Reacting to feedback from competitors after last year's race, in June IMS officials resurfaced 1.5 miles of the course, from Turn 5 through Turn 16 - basically, everything but the 2.5-mile oval. Riders had expressed concern about Turn 6, a sweeping left-hander off the oval's Turn 2, and Turn 11, a right-handed horseshoe turn before heading back onto the oval. The decision was made to resurface the entire infield at the same time, making it smoother, faster and safer.
"It was awesome," exclaimed MotoGP Ducati Team Nicky Hayden after conducting a tire test last month for Pirelli. "We wanted smooth, and we got smooth." Once the bikes lay down some rubber for better grip, he predicts that Lorenzo's the track record of 1:40.152, set in 2009, will be shattered.
The bigger question seems to be whether or not Lorenzo can shatter the Honda domination and stand on the podium again - a place only he and Nicky Hayden have landed in each of the previous Red Bull races at Indianapolis. Lorenzo may have the fire in the belly, but his Yamaha is a little down on power compared with the Hondas, which seem practically invincible.
Lorenzo's teammate on the Yamaha Factory Racing team, Texan Ben Spies, is fifth in the championship, flying fast under the radar. Despite a pinched nerve in his neck, he brought home a fifth at Brno and could be a force to contend with here.
Despite lingering stiffness from a shoulder injury last year and struggling to adapt his riding style to the Ducati, seven-time MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi has managed to climb to fourth in the points standings. The Doctor's teammate, 2006 World Champion Nicky Hayden, trails the Italian in seventh, mired in mid-pack and hampered by his relegation to Rossi's unofficial test rider and the team's virtual Number 2. However, the Kentucky Kid likes Indy, which he considers his home track, and those extra test sessions may give him an edge.
Fueled by the momentum of his first MotoGP podium at Brno, another Honda-powered rider could be a factor in the Red Bull race. Sophomore rider Marco Simoncelli finished third on his San Carlo Honda Gresini machine, placing him just behind Hayden in the points standings.
But it's the Honda factory team that most expect to top the podium. Stoner's teammates, Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa, hold 3rd and 5th in the championship battle, respectively. While Pedrosa has demonstrated short-run speed comparable to Stoner's, the Spaniard has been a runner-up too many times to convince anyone he has what it takes to win. Odd-man-out Italian Dovizioso also carries the speed, but he suffers from inconsistency.
Riders: Stoner 218, Lorenzo 186, Dovizioso 163, Rossi 118, Pedrosa 110, Spies 109, Hayden 103, Simoncelli 76, Edwards 75, Aoyama 70, Barbera 62, Abraham 46, Elias 43, Bautista 39, Crutchlow 34, Capirossi 29, De Puniet 19, Hopkins 6, Akiyoshi 3. Manufacturers: Honda 260, Yamaha 217, Ducati 127, Suzuki 45.
Party, MotoGP style
When racers aren't racing, where do they go? To other races, of course! MotoGP week in Indianapolis offers ample opportunities for spectators and participants.
The Lucas Oil Indy Mile AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National returns to the Indiana State Fairgrounds Pepsi Coliseum, with Endurocross on Friday, Aug. 26. Qualifications start at 3 p.m., with heat races beginning at 7:30 and finals at 9:30. An all-day open house takes place at the legendary Indy Mile on Saturday, Aug. 27. Last year's guest Nick Hayden is expected to make a repeat appearance.
Ducati Indianapolis has scheduled an open house on Thursday, Aug. 25, from 11-6 to welcome fans. Bike displays, food and drinks, drawings and music by the Pesky Varmints highlight the day. On Sunday, Aug. 28, they take it on the road with the Ducati Red Snake Ride to Ducati Island, leaving their shop at 7:30 a.m. Monday, Aug. 29, they host a track day at Putnam Park for all bikes.
But you don't have to leave the track to have a good time. The new "Main Street" through the IMS infield sets the scene for party and bike-related attractions during the Red Bull Indianapolis GP. Music, motorcycle competition and fashion will be featured, with motorcyclists allowed to park on Main Street for the first time.
Other popular events at the track are moving to an evening schedule. The Riders for Health auction, featuring rider interviews, will be held at 5 p.m. Friday adjacent to the main stage in the IMS infield. The Pit Walkabout, which provides fan access to the garage area to see the MotoGP prototypes up close, will take place from 5-6:45 p.m. Saturday. The Yamaha Rider Q&A, featuring Reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo, Ben Spies, Colin Edwards and Cal Crutchlow, will be at 5:45 p.m. Saturday on the Red Bull Energy Station Stage in the IMS infield.
If you're looking for live music, check out "IMS After Dark." On Friday, Crash, a band led by two-time World Superbike champion and former MotoGP rider James Toseland, will play from 7:15-8:15 p.m. on the Red Bull Energy Station Stage. Appetite For Destruction, a Guns 'N Roses tribute band, will be on stage from 8:30-10.
Saturday's sounds will be provided by acoustic pop/freestyle artist Kelley James at 6:30 p.m., followed by DJ Mick Boogie. Electro-rock band Ghostland Observatory takes the stage at 9. Between sets, fireworks will light up the night.
While on the grounds of the Speedway, be sure to stop by the mobile SPEED Party Pit on the Midway between Turns 9 and 10 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for free prizes, autographs sessions, celebrity Q&A sessions, pictures with the SPEED Umbrella Girls and live Indianapolis MotoGP coverage under the 2,000-square-foot tent. For rider appearance schedules, visit: http://www.facebook.com/speedtv.
[A+E] Written + Spoken Word
[A+E] Written + Spoken Word
[A+E] Visual Arts + Museums
[Food+Drink] Beer + Wine, Festivals + Parties
[A+E] Written + Spoken Word