MotoGP 2012 Indianapolis Preview
Aliens Take Aim at the IMS Infield Track
At Laguna Seca, Repsol Honda’s retiring star, Casey Stoner, laid down a statement: Those of you who thought the 2012 championship was over should perhaps revisit this idea. His solid win over factory Yamaha star Jorge Lorenzo, with teammate Dani Pedrosa finishing third, brought the Australian to within 32 points of Lorenzo, heading into Round 11. The diminutive Pedrosa, in the midst of an outstanding season, is also in the midst of his two rivals, trailing Lorenzo by 23. All three need to eat their Wheaties this weekend.
The history of MotoGP at Indianapolis is starting to become etched in my mind, more than other circuits since I get better seats here in my home town. The 2008 inaugural race was held during Hurricane Ike, and Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi, who became Yamaha’s prodigal son this past week, tracked down Repsol Honda homeboy Nicky Hayden in a remarkably “wet race” called after 18 laps. In 2009 Rossi, who could have slammed the door on teammate Lorenzo, instead crashed out, letting Lorenzo win going away, being joined on the podium by Alex de Angelis and Nicky Hayden, the Kentucky Kid’s sole visit to the rostrum that season.
Two years ago, Lorenzo led the series comfortably in the scorching heat at Indy and was expected to win at The Brickyard. Pedrosa unexpectedly dominated the race, and Lorenzo managed a satisfactory third, but the day belonged to Ben Spies. The American, in the middle of his Rookie of the Year season on the Tech 3 Yamaha, took the pole late in the QP, ran with the big dogs all day, and held on to second place, the first podium for a satellite Yamaha since Colin Edwards’ at Sepang in 2008. Stoner wrestled with his Ducati all weekend, qualifying sixth and crashing out on lap eight.
Last year, Repsol Honda owned the world and the IMS, running away from the factory Yamahas. Stoner and Pedrosa blew away Spies and Lorenzo, spoiling the young American’s second consecutive podium in his home crib. It marked Indianapolis’ first look at Valentino Rossi wearing Ducati red, and it wasn’t pretty, as The Doctor qualified 14th and finished 10th, one of the most painful outings Rossi has endured in the premier class. Ever.
Seeking a trend, we can summarize: Rossi and Hayden, Lorenzo and Hayden, Pedrosa and Spies, Stoner and Pedrosa. Something for every taste and budget. No telling who may have the hot hand this year, other than the Ducati boys, who won’t.
The MotoGP World Tips Slightly on its Axis
Whenever there is change on the factory teams, I go into a bit of altered consciousness trying to make the adjustments. On the Repsol team - Stoner /Pedrosa to Pedrosa /Marquez. On the Yamaha team - Lorenzo /Spies to Lorenzo/Rossi.
Valentino Rossi back wearing Yamaha leathers in Alien-land. The sun will rise in the east; all is again right with the world. I’m flashing on baseball’s A-Rod, who went off to Texas to “win a championship” (good one, Alex) and ended up doing just that - with the Yankees.
At Ducati, Rossi/Hayden to Hayden and whoever Ducati ends up signing. Andrea Dovizioso is the latest rider rumored to be heading to Bologna, while his current teammate Cal Crutchlow had previously been linked. Ducati is also said to be pursuing a new development strategy, fielding factory-supported A and B teams, grooming younger riders with big potential and wide shoulders to ride for their satellite squads. See, Nicky Hayden, on a one year deal, is no spring chicken. Just sayin’.
If indeed the latest scuttlebutt proves true and Dovizioso signs with Ducati, it is additional proof that life on the factory teams, even Ducati, must be several orders of magnitude sweeter than life on the satellites. Dovizioso, on the Tech 3 Yamaha, has been hammering podiums all year, and is intentionally throwing away any chance of continuing to do so for probably two full years, thus completing his personal negative career hat trick. He got worked at Repsol Honda last year. He got worked just last week by factory Yamaha. And now he will turn himself inside out trying to race the Ducati, the Career Killer.
Speaking of screwed, we’re witnessing the dizzying rise and fall of Crutchlow, who took such an aggressive I’ll-Be-Doing-You-A-Bloody-Favor stance with the Bologna factory that they encouraged him to pound sand, as it were, and now may see his teammate land the job. Crutchlow’s options, apart from remaining on the Tech 3 Yamaha, are few. Cal needs new advisors less inclined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Next year, he won’t be the only Englishman on the grid, either. There’ll be a new Brit in town, most likely Scott Redding.
Toni and the Wildcards
This, unfortunately, is not one of the bands you’ll hear in the infield this weekend. With Hector Barbera questionable, dragging his three week old broken leg around, Toni Elias again brings his high-priced vagabond routine to the Pramac Ducati, which he was able to remain aboard at Laguna Seca for almost two full laps.
Steve Rapp returns with his Attack Performance Kawasaki-powered privateer after failing to qualify in Monterey. He is joined by Aaron Yates, fronting for Hoosier-based GPTech, sporting another homegrown frame and powered by Suzuki, which is kind of an oxymoron, but they’re new, so we’ll overlook the irony. Assuming one or both qualify, they’ll be battling with the CRT dregs and definitely trailing the Aprilia-powered ARTs beneath Randy de Puniet and Aleix Espargaro.
Your Hurrying Hoosier Forecast
Indiana has been broiling all summer; last week I cut my lawn for the first time since, like, May. But the weather forecast for race weekend is dry with temps in the ’70s. The IMS has been promoting the race hard this year, and attendance is expected to be up, way in excess of what they drew at the “U.S.” Grand Prix in frigging California. The Gen Con Convention is in town this weekend, billing itself as “the original, longest running, best attended, gaming convention in the world.” And Indy Fringe brings its “offbeat theatrical (freak) show” to Mass Ave. for 11 days starting on the 17th.
Let’s review. On Friday and Saturday nights we’ll have thousands of motorheads, gamers, and thespians sharing the same space downtown. The opportunities for some epic flash mobs are virtually endless. I’m taking the family down for a good old Hoosier family funfest on Saturday night, with pictures to follow. Check back here Monday for the race story.