MotoGP 2012 Indianapolis Results
Pedrosa Wins Again in Indy, Cuts Lorenzo's Lead
At the start of Sunday’s Indianapolis Grand Prix, smart money was piling up on Repsol Honda mighty mite Dani Pedrosa and factory Yamaha’s struggling stud Ben Spies. Both had been fast all weekend, Spies having shaken off a big crash in his qualifying run to be fastest in the morning warmup. Lorenzo found a setting he liked late in qualifying and joined Pedrosa and Tech 3 Yamaha tough guy Andrea Dovizioso on the front row. By the end of the day, Pedrosa had taken another chunk out of Lorenzo, Spies had another DNF, and Stoner had shown some stones.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway has proven itself a formidable place to race motorcycles, with the long fast straight and the slow, twisty infield section, serving different asphalt on different sections of the track to keep it from becoming boring. The IMS track is slick and abrasive, reminding one of European bathroom tissue. Bridgestone brings in a bunch of tire choices, asymmetric rears, etc., and everyone has either not enough grip or too much. No blaming it on the weather, which was perfect this year.
On Friday, Hectic Hector Barbera, not four weeks past breaking his leg, climbs on his Pramac Ducati and immediately goes over the top, fracturing three small vertebrae and landing him back in a Spanish hospital. Enter Toni Elias, who would have a better day than he did in Monterey. Cal Crutchlow parted company twice with his Tech 3 Yamaha M1, once in FP1 and somewhat more forcefully in FP3. At various points during the weekend, Alvaro Bautista looked good, a carefree Ben Spies was flying, and even Nicky Hayden, armed with his new one year deal with Ducati, managed to finish 3rd in FP1.
Saturday’s QP featured three big high side crashes that affected the outcome of Sunday’s race. The first to go was Stoner, who was unable to leave the track under his own power and seemed to have issues (chipped bones and torn tendons, as it turned out) with his right ankle. Practice was briefly red-flagged to remove debris. Shortly after the re-start Spies went over the top of his Yamaha, one of those crashes that look worse than they actually are. Ben would return to practice on his #2 bike and put it into the second row for Sunday.
The third QP crash put Kentucky native Nicky Hayden out of the race with some cracked bones in his hand. Oh, and a concussion, which doesn’t bother him as much as his hand. The QP is red-flagged for a second time in order to help remove Hayden, who was briefly knocked out by the impact and seemed to have swallowed his Red Man plug, too.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
The weather Sunday in Indianapolis was, for late August, pretty much perfect. Sunny, breezy, scattered clouds, temps in the 70s. The bad news was that most of us had no idea whether Casey Stoner would be racing. Stoner realized that not racing today would essentially end any chance of defending his title. Although failure WAS an option, not starting was not, and Stoner looked remarkably quick during the warmup. The ugly question was whether he could fight through the pain for 45 minutes.
By lap four, Spies and Pedrosa had put some distance between themselves and a large second group comprised of Lorenzo, Dovizioso, LCR Honda rookie Stefan Bradl, the largely forgotten Alvaro Bautista on the San Carlo Honda, and Stoner, who was showing signs of life. Those of us who have watched Spies deal with bad luck all year long were unsurprised when, at the start of lap six, he blew his engine. At the moment it let go, Pedrosa and Lorenzo were able to avoid the thick white smoke. Not so for the rest of the group, all of whom lost time trying to avoid smoke, oil and each other. When the smoke cleared Lorenzo was out in front chasing Pedrosa, and everyone else was fighting over the last spot on the podium. There was, however, no new Pope.
For the fifth time this season, undoubtedly some kind of modern record, Andrea Dovizioso would drive his satellite Yamaha to claim that spot, holding off the wounded, snarling Stoner. Posterity would also observe that Pedrosa turned the single fastest lap ever here AND became the first two-time winner at Indianapolis, while Stoner would retire having won only three of his last four races on American soil. That Stoner would attempt the fourth on one leg would not go unnoticed.
Elsewhere on the Grid
Bautista drove his RC213V to a positive fifth place finish, his second-best result of the year after a fourth at Silverstone. This, along with Hayden’s DNS allowed the two to trade positions for the year, with Bautista, now seventh, leading eighth-place Rossi and Hayden in ninth. Stefan Bradl continued to perform well on the LCR Honda in sixth place, 27 seconds ahead of Rossi, whose name wasn’t called once all day. That Karel Abraham was able to capture eighth, in front of Yonny Hernandez and Aleix Espargaro on today’s two top CRT bikes, was due more to attrition than skill; only 16 bikes finished the race, one of which was the erstwhile Elias in 11th.
The feel-good story of the day, however, was Steve Rapp, collecting a World Championship point by guiding his Attack Performance privateer to 15th place after failing to qualify last time out in Monterey. The announcers were going on about some obscure record Steve now owns, something about the oldest guy to score his first world championship point yada yada yada. Steve is feeling pretty good about things right now, as he should, Guinness Book of Records or not.
I spoke briefly today with Geoff Maloney, the owner/operator of the GPTech team whose Aaron Yates finished the race, although out of the points. I asked Geoff why he would take eight months out of his life for one MotoGP weekend that most of us will forget before November.
“I can’t explain it in terms you would understand,” Maloney said, shaking his head and smiling. I expect he’s right about that. I also expect that guys like Fausto Gresini, Herve Poncharal and Paul Byrd would understand perfectly.
Next Week in Brno
It’s back to the Czech Republic next week, where 140,000 crazed fans will come out on Sunday to root for Karel Abraham, and where the circuit really needs to buy a vowel or two. Lorenzo and Pedrosa are threatening to make 2012 into a two-man race, while Stoner faces some difficult, irrevocable decisions. And while Rossi has found his home for the next two seasons, the same cannot yet be said for Dovi, Crutchlow, Spies or a number of others. Rossi’s story came out this week. I expect Dovizioso will be signed at Ducati in time for Brno.