Talking to journalists for the first time since the announcements that he would be leaving Ducati and joining Yamaha, Valentino Rossi provided some interesting insights today at the Indianapolis GP pre-even press conference, which showed his reasoning for the switch in teams, as well as how Rossi views his future in MotoGP. Perhaps the most interesting remark from The Doctor was his own questioning of his alien status, saying that he no longer knew whether he was a top rider in the sport.
Beyond the opportunity to question Rossi over his decision to move back to Yamaha, there was ample build-up, by both fans and journalists. The build-up of course pertained to seeing Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi in the same room with each other, as highly critical statements by Stoner were made this week in the media over Rossi’s tenure at Ducati. Putting the kibosh on the expected fight between the two riders, Stoner made it clear that the article in question was a composite of statements he has said in the press over the pass one and a half years, and that he made none of those statements in the past week.
Another interesting point included Rossi conceding that rival Jorge Lorenzo would be the #1 rider in the factory Yamaha team, though Lorenzo admitted later in the press conference that the distinction carried little weight when it came to parts and development, as Yamaha supplied riders equally within the team. Unwilling to talk money figures with his contract, Rossi would also not speculate on whether he and Lorenzo would share the same livery, i.e. sponsors, for next season.
With the atmosphere in the room palpable, Rossi fans will be interested in hearing The Doctor talk about his career with new uncertainty, and dwell on the possibility that the best of his motorcycle racing years might be behind him. A selected portion of the press conference transcript is after the jump.
Breaking his left leg (fibula & tibia) during a training accident, Pramac Ducati’s Hector Barbera will be unable to ride for the next four to six weeks. Missing MotoGP’s stops at Laguna Seca and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Pramac will replace Barbera with two-time former-MotoGP racer, Toni Elias.
Replacing his fellow countryman at the Laguna Seca round, and likely at the Indianapolis round as well, Elias himself has some interesting news, as the former-Moto2 Champion was ousted from his Moto2 ride on the Mapfre Aspar team. Elias’s results during his return to Moto2 have been anything but impressive so far this season, especially after his dominant Championship win in 2010.
The folks at GP Tech are no strangers to running wild card entries at Indy, as the American motorcycle parts seller fielded one-off wild card rides in the Moto2 Championship at both the 2010 and 2011 Indianapolis GP’s. Using FTR-built bikes, GP Tech raced with Jason DiSalvo in 2010, were the American rider finished a very respectable 9th place, while in 2011 Jake Gagne rode to a forgettable 31st spot.
Stepping up to the big-boy leagues, GP Tech has been granted a wild card entry for the 2012 Indianapolis GP, and will run a Suzuki GSX-R1000 motor in a billet aluminum frame that is being prepared by BCL Motorsports. GP Tech has also tapped Vesrah Suzuki/MCJ Motorsports to help with the project, which should give us some clues as to whom the unnamed rider will be for the Grand Prix race.
Ben Spies’s sophomore MotoGP season of 2011 can only be described as a wild roller coaster ride. The former AMA and World Superbike champion finished on the podium four times in 2011 including a legitimate alien-slaying maiden victory at Assen, but was also tempered by an equal number of non-scores and several other generally forgettable weekends.
Indianapolis was the scene of a season highlight for the Texan. Running Yamaha’s red and white 50th anniversary GP colors for the final time, Ben sliced his way to a podium finish against track conditions that provided no real passing line to speak of and finishing behind only the lightning fast Hondas of Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa.
Having nearly won the last race of the 800cc era, Ben will no doubt be looking to challenge for the 2012 title. “There’s always a changing of the guard”, he has been quoted as saying on more than one occasion. Could he be referring to himself? Time will tell.
Despite the criticisms from GP riders, the Indianapolis GP has been renewed on the MotoGP calendar through the 2014 season. With Dorna keen on having a larger US presence, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway wanting to continue to host the premier classes of motorcycle racing, the biggest issue for the contract’s renewal (besides tarmac conditions), was the scheduling involved with IMS, Laguna Seca, and MotoGP.
Wanting to have the two US GP rounds back-to-back, Dorna faced two circuits with very inflexible summer schedules. Able to now schedule the Indianapolis GP for August 17th-19th in 2012, the Indy GP has effectively been moved a week earlier in the year, and will likely follow the Laguna Seca GP in 2012, with Brno to follow afterwards.
While conditions vary from race weekend to race weekend, it is rare that GP riders find themselves with a brand new track surface to deal with when they arrive at a venue. Looking to placate the complaints about the bumpy infield that have been heard at Indy during previous rounds, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway completely resurfaced the interior section of the course, which is used only once a year when the MotoGP circus comes to Indiana.
This meant that Friday practice was held on a track free of any rubber from past sessions, causing all the GP riders to complain loudly about the slippery and dangerous conditions of the ‘green’ surface. Not only was there no old rubber to add grip to the MotoGP machines, but the aggregate used in the resurfacing was still sharp at the surface, which meant tires were shredded in record time by the abrasive macadam, leaving an amazing amount of slag at some corners.
As more sessions were completed, grip improved enough that Casey Stoner was able to set a new track record, and the racing line was defined clearly enough by the dark bits of line running between the fields of rubber marbles. The abrasive nature of the new surface still caused many problems during the race as several riders retired due to front end tire issues. Local hero Nicky Hayden gambled on a softer front tire, and found that while able he was able to chase down and pass the factory Hondas for the first time this season, the softer front tire’s rapid deterioration caused him to come into the pits to assess its condition, much to the dismay of fans attending the Indianapolis GP.
MotoGP racing action comes to us this weekend from the World Championship’s last stop in the United States for the season: Indianapolis. Though conditions were a little bit cooler at Indy than they were earlier in the racing weekend, riders still had to test the limits of their tires to go the full 28 lap race distance. With only 64,151 fans in attendance for the race, the stands at The Brickyard were a bit more sparse than in the past (there were 30,340 attendees on Friday and 40,275 Saturday for a total of 134,766 in attendance for the event).
Despite the turnout, all 17 MotoGP riders showed up for the Indy GP, as the MotoGP Championship was far from its conclusion this season. Looking to further secure his lead in the points, Casey Stoner started today’s race on pole, followed by Ben Spies and Dani Pedrosa. With the Yamaha poised to disrupt the flow of the factory Hondas, most fans’ eyes were on the Texan as he attempted to mount a race victory in front of his home crowd. As conditions ripened for a record setting race lap, you’ll have to read after the jump to see who set it.