2008 Indianapolis Grand Prix MotoGP Results
Rossi wins inaugural Indy GP
It’s race day, finally! After lots and lots of preliminaries – practice, qualifications, more practice, and finally, this morning, the Rookie Cup race, the 125s and the 250s. Other than the Italian TV broadcast crew in the cubicle next to me, no one is terribly interested in the small caliber stuff. Most everyone is waiting on the main event. The Italian play-by-play announcer, by comparison, seems to be having kittens in his excitement over the 125s. I can’t imagine his rapture when the big bikes run.
The weather continues to be an issue. It rained off and on during the first two races, and the track is wet. No standing water is visible anywhere, so there are no particular hazards aside from the normal, life-threatening conditions that comprise motorcycle racing. Looking at the radar, most of the rain remains to our west and north, and it may stop completely before the 3 pm running of the Grand Prix.
As for the riders, the usual suspects have lined up to compete for the inaugural trophy. The rain seemed to bother Valentino Rossi more than it did Casey Stoner on Friday, which suggests that Stoner, in addition to having the faster machine, may find conditions friendly to his style of racing. Too bad Rossi is simply a better rider than Stoner. The other three Ducati riders don’t seem to have the trouble Stoner has in keeping his bike upright. I still think he needs to gain some weight. Lorenzo seems to be back to his usual reckless self; I expect to see him flying over his handlebars before the day is over.
The Americans are, for once, more than just a token threat in today’s race. Both Nicky Hayden and Ben Spies had strong qualifying runs, and look ready to compete with the front row riders. Hayden made a cameo appearance at the AMA race last night, and the dirt racing crowd LOVED this guy. He was on crutches, favoring his right foot, which was wrapped. Luckily, he won’t need his right foot very much today. Meanwhile, Spies is bidding to earn a full-time ride next year. He seems more accomplished than a number of the riders out there, based upon his showing yesterday.
* * *
Before the 250s can take the track at 12:30 pm, IMS closes it down – Hurricane Ike has arrived. The radar still shows most of the rain leaving the area by around 2:30 pm, so there is hope.
* * *
It’s now 2:15 pm, and the rain has left. IMS is frantically trying to dry the track, in advance of the 3 o’clock live race broadcast on NBC. Now, the weather is cooperating, in that the wind is blowing steadily between 30 and 50 mph, removing much of the rain it had dumped only 30 minutes earlier. The 250cc race has been moved back and will be run after the MotoGP. Even so, it’s going to be very close as to whether the race will be able to start on time.
* * *
At 2:45 pm, the bikes get on the track. Just after 3 pm, they’re racing.
Dovizioso breaks in front coming out of turn 1, and Hayden later passes him and spends most of the first ten laps in the lead, to the delight of the crowd. Rossi, who had fallen as far back as fifth, picking off riders one at a time, ends up in second place by lap four and begins stalking Hayden. After that, it became almost primitive – the hunter and the hunted. Rossi the hunter, patient, relaxed, biding his time, keeping the prey in his sights. Hayden, the hunted, painfully aware of whose hot breath was on his neck, perhaps sensing the inevitability of it all. Like a gazelle and a cheetah. Gazelles are fast, but cheetahs are faster. Gazelles know this.
And so it went. Rossi passes Hayden around lap 13, and begins building his lead. And then the rain starts gain, and the wind has become a gale. By lap 20, Rossi’s lead has grown to six seconds; unlike Friday, he is handling the rain easily, whereas Hayden is running more cautiously. If the race goes 28 laps, Hayden wasn’t going to catch Rossi. Under the conditions, it was possible Rossi, or any of the riders for that matter, might fall, a fact the IMS realized when it stopped the race after 20 laps. Barring an unforced error by Rossi, Hayden wasn’t going to win. 20 laps, 28 laps or 280 laps.
* * *
In the press conference after the race, Hayden admitted as much. He said he had used up a lot of the tread on his tires, a soft compound, during the first half of the race. When the track became soaked again, he didn’t have the grip he needed to catch Rossi. Rossi, who said the conditions were the worst he had faced in his career, had nothing to say about his Bridgestones. It was, he said, the wind, more than the rain that made it dangerous on the track.
The guy who had a great race was Spies. He led the Rizla Suzuki team, finished sixth under difficult conditions, and was stalking Casey Stoner towards the end of the race. Stalking Casey Stoner?!! How good must that feel to Ben? Way to go, Spies!
I expect that a number of fans in town for the weekend had a lousy time, due almost completely to the weather. Friday was difficult, and today was brutal if you weren’t under cover. The 250cc race, which had been postponed until after the main event, was eventually cancelled. The TV broadcast was left with 15 minutes of airtime to fill, after having lost the use of it’s skycam on lap 6 or so. Ironically, the weather for the AMA race on Saturday night was perfect, breezy and humid under a full moon. Perhaps Tony George’s rain gods felt sorry for the AMA crowd and ditched the imports for the weekend.
Disregarding the weather, the IMS did its usual great job of hosting the race. There were a number of auto racing fans here that discovered they really like watching motorcycles. The motorcycle fans, I think, felt somewhat legitimized, as though they had finally arrived, that running MotoGP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway allowed them to step up in stature. Both groups of fans, therefore, have good reasons to return. The economic difficulties so obvious in NASCAR and Indy car racing are nowhere apparent in motorcycle racing. You got the impression that the officials at the Speedway, the MotoGP people and the teams themselves enjoyed the first running of the Grand Prix. Next year’s race is on Aug. 29, and it’s already on my calendar.
|Indianapolis Grand Prix results|
|1||Valentino Rossi||Fiat Yamaha||37:20.095|
|2||Nicky Hayden||Repsol Honda||+5.972|
|3||Jorge Lorenzo||Fiat Yamaha||+7.858|
|4||Casey Stoner||Ducati Marlboro||+28.162|
|5||Andrea Dovizioso||JiR Scot Honda||+28.824|
|6||Ben Spies||Rizla Suzuki||+29.645|
|7||Sylvain Guintoli||Alice Ducati||+36.223|
|8||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||+37.258|
|9||Chris Vermeulen||Rizla Suzuki||+38.442|
|10||Alex de Angellis||San Carlo Honda Gresini||+42.437|
|11||Anthony West||Kawasaki Racing||+47.179|
|12||Toni Elias||Alice Ducati||+55.962|
|13||Randy De Puniet||LCR Honda||+57.366|
|14||John Hopkins||Kawasaki Racing||+58.353|
|15||Colin Edwards||Tech 3 Yamaha||+1:00.613|
|16||Loris Capirossi||Rizla Suzuki||+1:05.620|
|17||Shinya Nakano||San Carlo Honda Gresini||+1:05.54|
|18||James Toseland||Tech 3 Yamaha||+1:07.968|
|19||Marco Melandri||Ducati Marlboro||+1:21.023|