MotoGP 2010 Indianapolis Preview

For Lorenzo, one of the greatest seasons ever is within reach

MotoGP correspondent Bruce Allen previews the Indianapoli round of the 2010 season. Check back on Monday for the full report of the Indianapolis Grand Prix.

For Jorge Lorenzo, leading the 2010 MotoGP championship standings by the proverbial country mile, there should be but one objective for the season: keep his M1 upright. He is in the rare and enviable position of being able to win the title by playing it safe. Lorenzo ought to follow the example set last season by teammate and archrival Valentino Rossi who, after winning Round 13 in San Marino, eased up over the last four races and coasted home with the title.

The hyper-competitive Lorenzo may have larger ambitions – trump Rossi’s amazing 2003 feat of finishing on the podium every round. In 2003, there were 16 rounds, compared to the 18 this year. Getting 18 podiums (podia?) in one season would put him up there with the legends – Agostini, Roberts, Rainey, Doohan, and, of course, Rossi.

Jorge Lorenzo won last year's Indianapolis Grand Prix wearing a Captain America-themed helmet. According to a post on his Twitter feed, Lorenzo is switching to an Iron Man helmet for this year's race.

Naturally, the riders chasing Lorenzo desperately want him to think this way. If the Spaniard plays it safe, gathers points at every round, and avoids unnecessary risks, there is no way – make that NO WAY – anyone’s going to catch him. However, a serious crash, or two, could put the title back up for grabs again. For Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, this week’s race at Indianapolis, the first of a three-races-in-four-weeks stretch, would be a great place for it to happen.

Lorenzo’s 77 point lead over second place Pedrosa effectively shortens the competitive season by three rounds. (If Lorenzo still leads Pedrosa by 77 points after Sepang, he will have clinched, and the season would be over except for the shouting.) Pedrosa, therefore, must think of the next five races as the entire 2010 season. Ignoring Aragon, for which there is no recent history, here’s a glance at how the two Spaniards fared at the upcoming circuits last season.

2009 Venue Lorenzo Pedrosa
Indianapolis 1st 10th
Misano 2nd 3rd
Motegi 1st 3rd
Sepang 4th 2nd

These results occurred while both riders were desperately, and fruitlessly, chasing Rossi, who was cruising in clean air on his way to the championship last year. With no pressure on Lorenzo, and the crushing, eye-bulging strain on Pedrosa, the results this year are likely to favor Lorenzo even more.

Where, you’re probably wondering, does Ducati’s Casey Stoner figure in this discussion? Nowhere, is where. Despite sitting in third place, Stoner has yet to win a race this season. If you want to be in the conversation for a world championship, Casey, you need to win a few races. The disastrous start to his title chase this year has given way to a string of third place finishes, and a “gift” second place finish at Laguna Seca, courtesy of Pedrosa’s crash there. His recent performance parallels that of teammate Nicky Hayden, who started the season with four straight fourths. Neither rider figures in this year’s championship chase.

Bring on the Americans!

Ben Spies and Colin Edwards will represent the U.S. of A. at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Look for Spies to challenge for a podium.

The American contingent of riders at Sunday’s race will be pulling out all the stops in an effort to put a Yank on the podium. For Nicky Hayden, his wrist injury, suffered at Brno, comes at exactly the wrong time, and puts his “string” of consecutive podiums at Indianapolis in jeopardy. Hayden, too, might consider taking out one of the leaders and opening the way for Ben Spies, who has the best chance of the American riders to podium this week. As for his teammate Colin Edwards, perhaps he can regain the form that saw him finish fifth in last year’s Indy race.

Bring on More Americans (in Moto2!)

Indianapolis will also see three American riders in the first ever Moto2 race on U.S. soil. Kevin Schwantz is managing American Honda’s wildcard entry with Nicky’s brother Roger Lee Hayden. American Honda called on Erion Racing to help prep a Moriwaki MD600 race bike for Hayden who will race with Schwantz’s #34.

Kevin Schwantz is bringing his #34 out of retirement, lending it to Roger Lee Hayden and the American Honda Moto2 team.

Stafford, N.Y., resident Jason DiSalvo has drawn another wildcard. He’ll be riding an FTR M210 prepared by the GP Tech team.

Hayden and DiSalvo will join Moto2 regular Kenny Noyes, the Spanish born but American racer and son of journalist Dennis Noyes. Kenny Noyes races for actor Antonio Banderas’ Jack & Jones team.

Quick Hitters

Hiroshi Aoyama is expected to return to action this week after missing five rounds with a fractured vertebra suffered in practice at Silverstone. His return spells trouble for Alex de Angelis, who may have burned some bridges behind him at Moto2 and now has nowhere left to go … Andrea Dovizioso needs to get his mojo back. After starting the year with four podiums in the first five races, his last five rounds have featured a fourth, two fifths, a 14th, and a DNF. Is it a coincidence that his travails seemed to start at about the same time Casey Stoner announced his defection to Honda for next season? … Randy de Puniet took time out of his busy week to criticize the racing surface at the IMS, calling it unsafe. Just when I was starting to like de Puniet, after a heroic performance at Brno, he has to go running his mouth.

A Little Idle Speculation

How many seats will be up for grabs next season, and who’s in line for them? Without pretending to know more than you, I’d say the number is around four. Colin Edwards and Loris Capirossi clearly are not long for this premier class world, though Capirossi is reportedly close to a deal with Pramac Racing.

Nicky Hayden will try to keep his Indianapolis podium streak intact.

Lots of rumors are floating about Marco Melandri’s future working for Fausto Gresini. And Mika Kallio has almost assuredly worked himself out of a job next year at Pramac Racing. The leading candidates to replace Edwards and Melandri are Cal Crutchlow, currently riding for Yamaha in World Superbikes and Toni Elias, who is having his way over at Moto2 and is a virtual lock to return to MotoGP next season. There will likely be a long list of volunteers to take over for Kallio, but one wonders who in their right mind would sign on for a year of pedaling the woeful Rizla Suzuki around the world’s great road racing circuits.

Your Weekend Forecast

Randy de Puniet criticized Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week, saying it was unsafe with its different surfaces.

Those of you travelling to Indianapolis this weekend will find it sunny, clear and warm; Sunday’s high may reach 90 degrees. Saturday night should be perfect at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, where the Lucas Oil Indy Mile AMA Flat Track heats start cranking at 7:30. As for Sunday’s podium, I’m expecting a preponderance of Yamahas. I like Rossi to win, Lorenzo to place, and am pulling hard for Ben Spies to find a way around Pedrosa and Stoner.

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