MotoGP: 2009 Indianapolis Preview

All people want to talk about is 2010

MotoGP correspondent Bruce Allen previews the Indianapolis round of the 2009 season. Check back on Monday for the full report of the Indianapolis Grand Prix.

Even without some contrived “magic number” or the familiar imagery of the fat lady singing, the world seems to have conceded the 2009 MotoGP championship to Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi. The world, you see, is not dumb. Going into Brno two weeks ago, Rossi had established himself as the odds-on favorite to repeat as the baddest motorcyclist on the planet. His ensuing duel with teammate and rival Jorge Lorenzo, which culminated in Lorenzo’s crashing out and recording an all-she-wrote DNF, effectively turned out the lights on this year’s championship battle. Sure, there are a half dozen more races yet to run this season, including this week’s Indianapolis Grand Prix. But having Rossi up by 50 points with six races left is like trailing Kobe and the Lakers by 16 with four minutes left in the game. You may be able to make it interesting, but they’re not going to make the mistakes that will let you come back. And neither will The Doctor.

Valentino Rossi kissed the bricks at Indy after winning last year's race.

Let’s Talk About 2010!

With the 2009 championship virtually decided, people’s attention has started to wander. This week we got some clarity concerning who will be riding for whom next year. One writer presented his take on the subject in terms of “Bums without Seats” and “Seats without Bums”; I wish I’d thought of that one. Here is a look at what we know about the 2010 MotoGP teams at this point.

  • Fiat Yamaha – Rossi and Lorenzo are both on board for next year. One of them will win the title.
  • Repsol Honda – Pedrosa and Dovizioso are wrapped up or close to it. No drama here.
  • Ducati Marlboro – If it’s not Stoner and Hayden riding for the Bolognese factory, something’s up.
  • "Hey Suzuki. Remember me?"Gresini Honda – Marco Melandri and Marco Simoncelli, the dueling Marcos. Melandri will be #1 on this team.
  • Rizla Suzuki – Loris Capirossi and Alvaro Bautista. No reason to think they’ll be more competitive than this past year.
  • Aspar Ducati – Hector Barbera. By season’s end he will have jettisoned the training wheels. Next year’s Sete Gibernau.
  • Monster Tech 3 Yamaha – Colin Edwards is old and James Toseland is apparently heading to World SuperBike. Coupla empty seats here, perhaps.
  • LCR Honda – Randy de Puniet. I guess there has to be at least one French rider, and one umbrella girl with bunny ears.
  • Scot Honda – Gabor Talmacsi really packs the fans in at Brno, and next year will have his own “home race” in Hungary. But he’s a long way from being a contender.
  • Pramac Ducati – they seem to love Mika Kallio, who got bumped up into Stoner’s factory ride for three races this season. Canepa is not the answer, nor, clearly, was Michel Fabrizio. We’ll take a gander at Aleix Espargaro this weekend. Seems likely there will be a seat here next season, unless Pramac decides to cut back to a single bike, in which it’s Kallio for sure.

Valentino Rossi is racing to cement the 2009 championship but many other riders are racing for 2010 contracts.

There are undoubtedly some rich men around the world plotting and planning to reduce their net worth next year by assembling MotoGP teams. Dorna sure hopes so, since as things now stand they will have less than their mandated number of 18 riders on the grid. A larger problem, from where I sit, is the fact that only a half dozen of these riders can seriously compete for the podium each week. The rest are useful for filling out the field and increasing the opportunities available for would-be umbrella girls (Ed. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!). What MotoGP needs are some more strong riders and well-heeled owners willing to spend those riders into contention. What the sport doesn’t need is a few more years of processions led by two Fiat Yamaha riders, neither of whom can even bear to let the other’s name pass his lips.

Indianapolis in August – It’s Not Just Corn Anymore

For those of you traveling to Indianapolis this weekend, you’re probably aware of how much is going on. The usual Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule for MotoGP at the IMS. The Street Party in Broad Ripple Thursday evening from 5 pm to 2 am. XDL Sportbike Freestyle Championship riding competition downtown at the War Memorial on Friday and Saturday nights. Motorcycles on Meridian, south of Monument Circle on Friday and Saturday nights – cars NOT welcome. The Lucas Oil Indy Mile AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National at the State Fairgrounds on Saturday night, followed by a late night procession from the Fairgrounds to the Circle. Wall-to-wall activities at the track all day Friday and Saturday, including a free concert Saturday afternoon featuring soon-to-be-ex-MotoGP rider James Toseland and his aptly named band Crash.

Quick Hitters

Casey Stoner won't be in this weekend's race, and hopefully, neither will last year's hurricane.I knew Nicky Hayden wouldn’t be able to resist playing the “home track” card again this week, the same way he played it in Monterey. The seeds of my disappointment with his 2009 season were sewn at Indianapolis last year, when he led Rossi and the field for sixteen laps until finally succumbing to the Italian, all the while on a clearly inferior bike, and in a Category 1 hurricane. I thought at the time that his skills and Ducati’s engineering would make a formidable team this season. How I could have been more wrong, I just don’t know … Looks like Casey Stoner and Ducati need to work on their “circle of trust”, with the company seemingly caught off guard by Stoner’s announcement of his three race sabbatical, and Stoner probably feeling a bit wounded by all the talk concerning Jorge Lorenzo … Was it just November of 2007 when Ducati and Stoner ruled the world?

The weather forecast for Sunday is impeccable – sunny and 70 degrees. There is a chance of rain both Friday and Saturday however … In the Midwest, the summer of 2009 will go down in history as The Summer That Gave Global Warming a Bad Name … Bridgestone is bringing in its asymmetrical rear slicks again this week for the very left-handed, very counterclockwise Indy circuit.

It's not quite the Indianapolis Oval but this weekend's track features a lot of left turns, calling for Bridgestone to bring in asymmetrical tires.

The best value for your racing dollar this weekend is definitely the AMA race at the Fairgrounds on Saturday night. Twenty bucks gets you in the infield, and watching them taking the turns four abreast and sending clods of dirt into orbit will surely get your adrenaline flowing. And never mind the last turn of the race, four or five screamers drifting wide open into the front straight with the crowd losing it. Just doesn’t get any better than this. Check back Sunday for my report of the Indy Mile, and Monday for the Indianapolis GP wrap-up.

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