2011 MotoGP Indianapolis Preview
For Jorge Lorenzo in 2011, It's Now or Never
MotoGP correspondent Bruce Allen previews the Indianapolis round of the 2011 season. Check back on Monday for the full report of the Indianapolis Grand Prix.
Despite competing in the closest premier class season in recent memory, Yamaha rey de reyes Jorge Lorenzo can clearly see his slim chances of repeating in 2011 circling the bowl. His race at Brno two weeks ago was an opportunity lost at a circuit custom-made for the M1. A poor tire choice caused him to surrender another 12 points to the surging Casey Stoner. With three races in the next four weeks, Lorenzo needs to fish or cut bait. Right now would be fine.
At this point in 2010, he enjoyed a 68 point advantage over Dani Pedrosa, needing only to not crash out of all of the remaining races to capture the title. In 2009, then-teammate Valentino Rossi was 50 points up on the Mallorcan, who was pressing, having crashed out of the previous two races at Donington and Brno. Lorenzo knows as well as anyone that this is not hand grenades – close doesn’t count. Nor are there any moral victories. What he needs – this week in Indianapolis, next week at Misano, and four weeks hence in Aragon – are wins. Convincing wins. If he can cut Stoner’s margin to 20 points or less heading to Motegi, it will set up a fascinating finish to what has been an interesting season.
Stoner, for his part, has been inconsistent at the tracks comprising the final quarter of the season. He ran 6th at Motegi in 2007 and Sepang in 2009. In Malaysia last year he crashed out on Lap 1. Perhaps most memorable was his sighting lap high side at Valencia in 2009. But in 2011 he is not wrestling the devilish Ducati Desmosedici; he’s stroking the smooth-as-silk-and-lightning-quick Honda RC212V. Lorenzo can’t rely on poor performances from Stoner down the stretch. If he’s going to repeat as world champion, he’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way – by beating the best riders in the world. All of them, including Casey Stoner. Mano a mano.
Speaking of Motegi
Now that the environment around Motegi has been officially declared “safe”, at least for the time being, the teams are, one by one, falling into line. First was the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha bunch, followed this week by Team Aspar, and now the Factory Yamaha team. Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo have begun backing away from their earlier pronouncements that they definitely would not compete in Japan no how no way. The world, it seems, is now making plans to travel to Japan in early October for some moto racing.
With one notable exception. Valentino Rossi, former king of the universe, announced last week that he “probably won’t race” in Japan this fall. Huh?
One thing Rossi is not, now nor at any time in the past, is dull. Personally, I suspect that he would rather discuss the weather in Japan than his performance this year on the Ducati. Hell, he would probably rather discuss the finer points of boiling turnips than his 2011 season. But this announcement, after the release of the findings of the study group commissioned to evaluate the situation, has a strange kind of clang to it. If I were given to analogies, I would suggest that this is comparable to turning laps three seconds slower than Stoner and Lorenzo. That, and running those laps in the opposite direction of the field.
Bad News and Good News
By now, most everyone has heard about the tragic collapse of the stage at the Indiana State Fair last week, which took seven lives and altered the trajectories of many others. The accident is still being investigated by a number of agencies, and much of the debris is still on the track. As a result, the AMA Indy Mile, one of my favorite events every year, has been cancelled for 2011. Originally scheduled for Saturday the 27th, there was no way to get the track ready in time without destroying evidence and offending family members of those injured and killed in the mess. The lawsuits have begun to fly. Bring back The Indy Mile in 2012.
The good news: American riders J.D. Beach and Jake Gagne have secured wild cards for Sunday’s Moto2 race. The 19-year-old Beach will replace Italian Tommaso Lorenzetti with the Aeroport de Castello team, while 17-year-old Californian Gagne will race alongside Moto2 regular Kenny Noyes on a second FOGI/GP Tech machine. (Ed. And though he is actually Colombian, American racing fans should also look for the 2010 AMA Daytona Sportbike Champion Martin Cadenas who will race as an injury replacement for Blusens-STX racer Yonny Hernandez.)
Gagne was the winner of the 2010 Red Bull Rookie Cup, which Beach won in 2008. Going straight to Moto2 without even a cup of coffee in the 125cc division is like skipping 9th, 10th, and 11th grade, going straight from middle school to senior year, if only for the prom. Best wishes to both young champions.
Your Brickyard Weekend Forecast
It’ll be sunny and warm in Hoosierland this weekend. The newly-paved infield section of the course figures to be fast and smooth. No more whining from Stoner and the like about the various racing surfaces. Last year we saw Pedrosa joined by Spies and Lorenzo on the podium. In 2009, It was Lorenzo, flanked by Alex de Angelis (?) and homeboy Nicky Hayden. In three years at Indianapolis Stoner has never podiumed, but that is likely to change this year. My best guess is that the podium will feature Lorenzo and Stoner, with Spies and Dani Pedrosa fighting for the third spot. Look, too, for an announcement that Indianapolis will continue to host their Grand Prix for the next few years.
Click on this link for a rundown of the activities this weekend in Indianapolis. And if you’re in town for the races don’t miss Motorcycles on Meridian Friday and Saturday nights downtown.