It’s been a long summer break. Three consecutive weekends without racing – four, for the returning Moto2 and Moto3 classes – means that the MotoGP riders return well-rested and raring to get back on to a bike again.
Some, of course, have already spent some time on a bike over the summer, with both Yamaha and Ducati testing (more of which later), but for the most part, they have had an all too brief vacation cut short by a return to training. Training never stops for a motorcycle racer.
The location they make their return is a spectacular one. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the true home of American motor sports. It is a vast arena, a sprawling complex set inside a two-and-a-half mile oval (though it is more of a rectangle with rounded corners than an oval), housing an eighteen hole golf course, a magnificent museum, and acres and acres of space to roam around in.
It can seat up to 400,000, which it regularly does for the Indy 500. It oozes history; like Monza, everywhere you go, the ghosts of racing legends are at your side. In the shadows, you can hear them whisper.
The problem of having MotoGP at the heart of American racing is that to most Americans, motorsport involves four-wheeled vehicles. Americans love motorcycles, but the motorcycles they love are mostly American.
The real American motorcycle racing fans can be found on Saturday night a few miles away, at the Indiana State Fairground, where American motorcycles turn laps on an oval made of dirt. Those American motorcycle racing fans – hard working men and women come to watch the most blue collar of sports – are joined there by a large part of the MotoGP paddock, entranced by this most quintessential piece of Americana. The Indy Mile is just one of the things that make this weekend so very special.
Sadly, the road course inside IMS’s spectacular facility is not one of them. Originally designed to be run in the opposite direction for Formula One, the track which MotoGP uses is tight, with most of the corners closing up instead of opening out, as they were intended to be run the other way. The asphalt – though resurfaced – is a bit of a patchwork, with four different types of tarmac as the track runs onto and then off the oval, and through the center of the massive facility.
Last year, there were a lot of complaints that the new tarmac had no rubber on it, which led to a large number of serious crashes. The worst of those hit Casey Stoner, who effectively ended his season and his title defense there when he broke the bones in his foot and ankle. This year, the track should be a little better, now that it has had cars lay down a little rubber on the surface, but it remains a finicky and difficult track to ride.
You have to wonder if the memory of last year’s crashes will linger with the two men tipped to win the title this season. Both Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa return to action at Indianapolis still not fully recovered from their broken collarbones, and at the start of a triple header of three races on three consecutive weekends.
MotoGP is back in the United States this race weekend, giving American GP fans their third installment of two-wheeled prototype racing this year. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is playing host to the MotoGP traveling circus, with Asphalt & Rubber included in that statement.
It’s not clear at the time of this writing if The Brickyard will be on the 2014 MotoGP Championship calendar, as the iconic racetrack is rumored to be contemplating the use of its exit option in its contract with Dorna.
Probably one of the least favorite courses with the riders, IMS plays host to a fantastic facility, and is staffed with a great crew of workers. Downtown Indianapolis is also a draw during the weekend, but the fact remains that the infield course, with its mercurial low-grip asphalt and unnatural corner flow is a sore spot for the racers.
Always taking the full-length of the race weekend to come into form, Indy often catches out unsuspecting riders, who have ventured too far off the racing line. We’re not sure if this weekend is Indy’s swan song, but here is one more glimpse of MotoGP course, courtesy of James Rispoli on the GP Tech Moto2 wild card entry. Enjoy.
With MotoGP’s summer break officially underway (and just days away from now concluding), Asphalt & Rubber sat down with Randy Mamola at the finish of the US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, to get the Grand Prix legend’s perspective on how the 2013 MotoGP Championship was shaping up so far in his eyes.
Obviously, the man of the hour at the time of our discussion was Marc Marquez, who had just recreated one the most talked about passes in motorcycle racing history, and had won at one of the most enigmatic tracks on the GP calendar…after having never been to Laguna Seca before, naturally.
Sharing his insights on Marquez and the talent that the Repsol Honda rider exudes, Mamola gave us his unique perspective on the leaders for this year’s MotoGP title, amongst other issues in the paddock. Read the Q&A from our dialogue after the jump.
This morning, Asphalt & Rubber and other members of the English-speaking press were treated to a teleconference with Marc Marquez, which was hosted by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Currently leading the MotoGP Championship by 16 points, Marquez down-played his chances for carrying that lead to the end of the season, with the same boyish enthusiasm that he has shown throughout the season.
Talking about his success at The Brickyard in the Moto2 class, Marquez could be a dark horse for the upcoming Indianapolis GP, which has been dominated by the Repsol Honda machines the past three years; and if there is one thing that is certain about the young Spaniard, you can’t count him out on race day.
With IMS providing us with a transcript of the teleconference, you can read Marquez’s response to a wide range of subjects, all after the jump.
Ben Spies’ absence due to his shoulder injury will extend to Laguna Seca. The Texan is still going through physical rehab to get the shoulder he injured at Sepang last year up to strength, and he hopes to be back to full fitness for the final US round of MotoGP at Indianapolis at the end of August.
With Spies still out for two more races, the Ignite Pramac team needs a replacement. Michele Pirro will take Spies’ place at the Sachsenring in just under two weeks’ time, but Ducati’s official test rider is not available for Laguna, as he has more testing scheduled that week at Misano in Italy.
As a result, Pramac has asked Alex De Angelis to step in for the Laguna Seca round, as the lack of a Moto2 round at Laguna means the NGM Forward rider is availabe to take Spies’ seat at the California circuit.
De Angelis already has MotoGP experience, having raced two seasons for the Gresini Honda team in 2008 and 2009, and having replaced Hiroshi Aoyama for three rounds in 2010.
Talking to the Indy Star, Mark Miles (CEO of Hulman & Co, the parent company to Indianapolis Motor Speedway) has put some doubt into the historic venue’s commitment to host the MotoGP Championship.
Having a contract to run the race through the 2014 season, Miles said that IMS might opt-out of the final year in its agreement with Dorna (IMS apparently has this option for a brief window after the 2013 Indianapolis GP).
“We’re going to make the most of the opportunity,” said Miles talking to the Indy Star. “Our mindset now is that we’re going to go through 2014, but we’re going to look at this year and evaluate it right after.”
However while the news has focused so far on IMS’s ability to opt-out, both Dorna and Indianapolis Motor Speedway have options in their contract to go through with the 2014 round, and with a bevy of variables in the air, we may or may not see three American GP rounds next year.
That MotoGP is too Iberocentric – too many Spanish races, and too many Spanish riders – is obvious to all who follow the sport, with the possible exception of a blinkered Spanish journalist or two. The series has to change, to move away from having four races a season in Spain, and to explore new markets in South America and Asia.
This is exactly what is to happen, according to an interview Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta gave to the Reuters news agency on Friday. Reuters reporter Alan Baldwin spoke to Ezpeleta at the Barcelona circuit, where the Dorna CEO was attending the Formula 1 race.
In the interview, Ezpeleta laid out his intentions to move away from Spain and, to a lesser extent, the US, and towards Asia and South America, with new races to be held in Brazil and Asia, though as he has done before, Ezpeleta would not be drawn on exactly which Asian country.
After years of being competitors, the FIM and TTXGP have finally come together to form a new cohesive series, and now they are finally ready to debut the name of their new lovechild, the eRoadRacing World Cup.
Premiering with six racing events, three in Europe, and three in the United States, the 2013 eRoadRacing provisional racing calendar primarily piggybacks off the FIM’s other Championship events, with the Indianapolis GP being the highlight addition to the schedule.
With American teams racing at two MotoGP Championship races (the other being Laguna Seca), and the Europeans racing in front of two World Endurance Championship crowds (Oschersleben & Le Mans), the exposure factor should be conducive to sponsors as well as teams for the 2013 season.
Additionally, the eRoadRacing calendar leaves a big enough hole open in its schedule for teams that want to race at the TT Zero event at the Isle of Man TT. Now isn’t that sporting? A still unset World Final is expected to be held in Asia, at the conclusion of the American and Europeans series. The provisional calendars for both series are after the jump.
AMA Superbike runner-up Blake Young will ride the Attack Performance CRT machine at all three US MotoGP rounds this year. The former Yoshimura Suzuki rider has signed with Attack Performance owner Richard Stanboli to race at the Austin, Laguna Seca, and Indianapolis rounds of MotoGP, aboard the Kawasaki-powered CRT machine designed and built by Stanboli and his team.
The Attack CRT bike has been undergoing some major changes since making its debut at Laguna Seca in 2012, where it was ridden by US veteran racer Steve Rapp. According to Roadracing World, Attack owner Stanboli has modified the chassis to work better with the Bridgestone tires, and has altered the firing order of Kawasaki ZX-10R engine to more closely resemble a Yamaha R1 engine.