For 2014, Indianapolis Motor Speedway has reconfigured its infield track for its hosting of the Indianapolis GP for the MotoGP Championship — this much you should already know. I won’t rehash details, but the three-bullet primer to the changes afoot is that the track is slightly longer, has improved passing zones in three reworked areas (highlighted in yellow), and will be made of one consistent asphalt layer.
Astute motorsport aficionados may have noticed that Indianapolis Motor Speedway debuted a new infield layout for IndyCar’s new and upcoming GP of Indianapolis, which in turn begs the question whether the new infield changes for IndyCar will affect the course for MotoGP. We called up IMS to get the scoop, and the answer is yes…but also no.
One race down, two more to go in the first of MotoGP’s two triple-headers in 2013, and this is the most brutal transition. After a draining race in the humidity of the Midwest, the teams and riders pack up, head east and face a wall of jet lag before getting ready to race at Brno, one of the most physically demanding circuits on the calendar.
After that, they get to pack up again and head back west, just a short hop this time to the UK, its one-hour time difference from Brno small enough not to cause jet lag, but just enough to throw your body clock just out of kilter.
Whether Brno will produce the same flashes of excitement, which Indianapolis did, remains to be seen. At Indy, the riders encountered what they described as the best surface they’d ever seen at the track – relative, of course, to previous visits – and that helped in some small way to spice the racing up a little.
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.
In a weekend filled with intrigue, subtle sword play in the pre-race conference, and the heartbreak of not seeing Nicky Hayden start the race on Sunday, it was the venue itself that received the most attention, unfortunately of a mostly negative sort.
Without a doubt, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway received a spot on the MotoGP calendar in 2008 because of its iconic status in the world of motorsports. Sure, Laguna Seca has a great reputation as well, but you can ask pretty much anyone the world over if they have heard of Indianapolis, and the answer would be in the affirmative — and unlike Laguna, they don’t have to ride a motorcycle or own a Porsche to be familiar with the track.
And so, despite an uninspiring infield course purpose built for the ill-fated Formula One rounds, the famous Brickyard became part of the MotoGP calendar and has a contract to run through 2014.
In the last two visits to IMS, Casey Stoner has complained more and more vocally about his dislike of the circuit, primarily due to the surface makeup, which changes several times per lap. Dr. Martin Raines, the official statistician for MotoGP calls the section from T10 to T16 “a mickey mouse track” and certainly watching the bikes make their way slowly though there and through T2-T4 on the circuit, one can see what he means.
Even if the circuit were run the other direction (as originally designed – and impossible for motorcycles because there would be no runoff available in T1) the racing would still not be awe-inspiring, due to the tight corners, and almost total lack of elevation changes.
Until this year, however, no matter how processional the racing may have been, no matter how much complaining there may have been from the riders about the nature of the circuit, the general consensus between fans, teams, and media alike has been that it was an amazing event. Let’s face it, Indianapolis knows racing.
Indianapolis knows how to put on a show for race fans and for the traveling circus as well, and they did not disappoint this year either. The infield was packed, attendance was in the same ballpark (possibly higher) than last year, and the atmosphere downtown (especially along the meridian) was hard to describe to non-attendees.
And yet there came a point this weekend where the Indianapolis GP needs to receive criticism, and hopefully investigation, to fix or at least understand three serious points.
Indianapolis is not given to great racing – a lack of use on the infield road course means that the track is usually fairly dirty once you get off line – and Sunday was no real exception. The MotoGP and Moto2 races were tactically brilliant and masterful displays of crushing the opposition, but neither was particularly entertaining to watch. Fortunately, nobody had told the Moto3 riders about the lack of great racing, and the youngsters got the day off to a fantastic start, with the race decided in the last sector of the track.
“I’m really not even upset about it,” said Ben Spies after his disappointing finish at the Indianapolis GP. Calm and collected after watching the motor on his Yamaha YZR-M1 blow-up down the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s front straight, Spies explained that he is really at the point where his bad luck, as many are calling it, is at a laughing point. Ben has already made an announcement that he will not be with Yamaha for the 2013 season, and Valentino Rossi has already filled the void left by the Texan at the factory team, but the issues surrounding Ben’s misfortunes continue to be raised.
Talking to the assembled press after the Indianapolis GP, Spies cracked open the door a bit further, and cast some light on what has been occurring within the Yamaha camp. With Yamaha seemingly believing that Spies was not racing at his full potential, the American explained that after the Italian GP at Mugello, he was told by a high-up at Yamaha that he better race 100% at Laguna Seca, or not bother coming to the race at all.
One of the first race weekends of the season to have consistent weather, race fans seemed all set for some fine MotoGP racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this Sunday. The positive vibe would be stricken though, as three riders hit the tarmac hard during Saturday’s qualifying. Out for his home Grand Prix, Nicky Hayden would have to watch the race from the Ducati garage, while Ben Spies and Casey Stoner overcame injuries to brave the breach once more.
With Rossi continuing to struggle on the Ducati, Dovizioso (the man tipped to replace Rossi at Ducati Corse) sitting on the front row with a satellite bike, and Dani Pedrosa topping the time sheets at the pole-position, eager to claw some points back in the Championship from Jorge Lorenzo, the Indianapolis GP at least sounded interesting on paper, though was quite the opposite once it came to actuality.