MotoGP: 2009 Indianapolis Results

Rossi un-slams the door on Lorenzo

Over the last three rounds of the 2009 MotoGP season leading up to Sunday’s race in Indianapolis, Valentino Rossi had punked teammate and archrival Jorge Lorenzo to the tune of 41 points, extending his lead in the championship standings to an almost insurmountable 50. During this period, Lorenzo’s veneer had started showing some stress cracks, as he recorded brutal DNFs at both Donington and Brno.

At the Motor Speedway, Rossi had the opportunity to put his rival and the 2009 season on ice. Instead, he crashed out on Lap 9 and watched from his garage as the Spaniard took the checkered flag and breathed new life into his slim title hopes. What was The Doctor thinking?

A rare mistake by Valentino Rossi has revived Jorge Lorenzo's championship hopes.

The usually jubilent Valentino Rossi seemed less upbeat after seeing his lead in the championship cut in half.MotoGP riders are nothing if not risk takers. By playing it safe, aiming for a string of top five finishes to close out the season, Rossi could have simply let the math do the work for him. Kick a few field goals and take the points each week, stiff-arm his Fiat Yamaha teammate until he ran out of season – something akin to a high-speed rope-a-dope. Such a strategy probably would have driven Lorenzo mad, elevating his frustration level until he burst into flames, figuratively speaking. It would have been a safe, relatively easy, relatively boring way for Rossi to assure his seventh premier class championship. But playing it safe isn’t what got Rossi where he is today. His heritage, temperament and metabolism make such an approach virtually impossible.

Rossi’s plan today appeared to be the same as it always is: win the race. But while a decisive win today might have given him major warm-and-fuzzies and Lorenzo a bleeding ulcer, the downside risk was considerable. His accelerating lowside in Turn 1 raised Lorenzo, phoenix-like, from the ashes and allowed the rest of us to maintain a modicum of interest in the remaining five rounds of the season. A big ol’ modicum, actually.

In Case You Missed The Race

One of the multitude of technical flaws with my race reports is my consistent assumption that readers have not only watched the race but have also read the more technical, coherent reports thereon, allowing me to dwell on the more obvious points and exercise my inclination to make fun of stuff I don’t fully understand. But if you were unable to watch Round 12 – perhaps you were being held prisoner at your wife’s baby shower, or trying to look up old girlfriends on Facebook – here’s some of what you missed:

  • For the second round in a row, a San Carlo Gresini Honda rider appeared on the podium. Seriously. At Brno, it was Toni Elias. Today, it was Alex de Angelis, who managed a credible second place finish and gathered a little momentum in advance of his home race next week at San Marino. De Angelis was fast all weekend. (Fausto Gresini should have fired these two after Motegi, as they have been nails since they started looking for new rides for next season.)
  • Racing for a contract for 2010, Nicky Hayden earned his first podium finish of the season.
    Chris Vermeulen lost his ride for next season and seemed to have lost his way on the track as well.
    Nicky Hayden held off Andrea Dovizioso over the last few laps to secure his first podium for Ducati Marlboro, finishing a relieved third. The Americans in Sunday’s sparse crowd of 75,000 probably enjoyed seeing Nicky on the podium more than they enjoyed seeing Pedrosa sliding across the grass on Lap 3. Too bad Hayden was unable to give de Angelis more of a fight for second place.
  • Colin Edwards gave an uninspired performance for his fans, starting and finishing in fifth place despite having Rossi and Pedrosa crash out in front of him. This was an opportunity for him to visit the podium for the first time this year, and he couldn’t get it done. However, in that he managed to finish one spot in front of teammate James Toseland, he would probably tell you that the weekend was a complete success.
  • Dani Pedrosa started on the pole and led convincingly for four laps before his lowside at Turn 16. He was able to get his bike up and running again and ended up finishing tenth, turning a bunch of very fast laps with divots affixed to the right side of his Repsol Honda. There is no quit in this guy.
  • Aleix Espargaro, the Rider du Jour for Pramac Ducati, started his first MotoGP premier class race today and did not finish last. He beat Scot Honda’s Gabor Talmacsi by 12 seconds and finished ahead of crashers Melandri, Canepa and Rossi. Years from now he’ll tell his grandchildren that in his very first MotoGP race he thumped the legendary Valentino Rossi.
  • Newly re-signed Rizla Suzuki rider Loris Capirossi edged out replacement Ducati factory rider Mika Kallio for seventh place. The two would have finished tenth and 11th if not for the three Italian riders crashing out. And Pedrosa was only 12 seconds behind them at the end, despite having lost most of a full minute on his Lap 3 lowside.

Looking AheadHey Bruce, how'd you convince the wife to take this picture of you and the Playboy Bunny?

And so the MotoGP medicine show opens next weekend at the Grand Prix Cinzano di San Marino e Della Riviera di Rimini with Rossi leading Lorenzo by a still-significant 25 points. And make no mistake about it, 2009 is a two-man race, as Stoner continues to sit at 150 points and Pedrosa remains stuck at 141. Barring injury, neither stands a chance of overtaking Rossi or Lorenzo. The rest of the field is fighting over table scraps and looking to secure or solidify rides for next year.

The schedule for the remainder of the season looks like this: After San Marino, the riders take their fall break (didn’t they just finish their summer break?), returning the first weekend in October for Round 14 at Estoril, hopefully with Casey Stoner in tow. Two weeks later they’re Down Under at Phillip Island. The last weekend in October and it’s on to Sepang in Malaysia for a little satay and kangkong belacan. The season finale takes place over the first weekend in November at Valencia. My hope for this season is the same as my hope for every MotoGP season – that the title remains up for grabs for as long as possible.

I believe Jorge Lorenzo shares this wish. I’m pretty sure Valentino Rossi does not.

MotoGP Top Five standings (after 12 rounds)
Pos. Rider Team Points
1st Valentino Rossi Fiat Yamaha 212
2nd Jorge Lorenzo Fiat Yamaha 187
3rd Casey Stoner Ducati Marlboro 150
4th Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda 141
5th Colin Edwards Monster Yamaha Tech 3 123

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