Friday Summary at Indianapolis: An Improved Track, The State of American Racing, & Yet More Silly Season Musings

08/09/2014 @ 5:51 am, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS


For the past four years, my coverage of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has followed something of a ritual. The riders would ride the track. The riders would talk to the media about how awful the track was, the bumps, the different types of asphalt, the drainage covers, the joints between the tarmac, the corners which were too tight.

I would write about what the riders had said in my nightly round-ups. And I would receive an email complaining about what I’d written from IMS’ otherwise excellent media office.

It’s hard to blame Indy’s media office for such a reaction. They are the best media office of all the circuits on the calendar, by a country mile, better organized and providing useful and timely information on everything happening on the track.

It is part of their duty to handle criticism of the circuit, especially that coming from a bunch of Europeans only using half the real Speedway track, and requiring corners. They were only doing their job.

They will have a much easier job this weekend. Rider reaction to the changes made at Indy has been overwhelmingly positive, with barely a whisper of criticism of the track. The single surface on the infield is a vast improvement, the changes to the track layout make it much more suitable for motorcycle racing, and most of the bumps have been removed.

The circuit is “more like a normal track,” as Marc Marquez put it. Pol Espargaro concurred. Indy is “more of a motorbike track” the Tech 3 man said.

There were still a few negative comments, and riders pointing out problems, but nothing much different to any other track in the world. Indy is just another circuit now, much the same as the rest.

It is hard to see many riders putting it in their Top 3 favorite tracks any time soon, but it is no longer the first circuit everyone mentions when naming where they would rather not have to go. That is a huge step forward for IMS, and testament to the enormous amount of work and effort put into the new layout.

It is also an encouraging sign of the circuit’s commitment to MotoGP. With Austin and Indy, the US looks set to retain two races for the foreseeable future. More importantly, fans and riders will be happy to go to both.

The biggest threat to the two US MotoGP rounds is the dearth of American talent. With Colin Edwards set to retire (sooner, rather than later, it now transpires, with money issues rumored to be behind Edwards’ early withdrawal from racing), Nicky Hayden hamstrung by a slow Honda and a severely damaged wrist, and Josh Herrin struggling to get his head around the Moto2 class, the future looks bleak for American racers in MotoGP.

The merest sliver of hope is that Cam Beaubier’s name is being bandied around in connection with Pramac Ducati, but beyond that, the names are few and far between. There are plenty of talented racers, but no way of getting them into racing at the international level.

The AMA has all but disintegrated under the auspices of the DMG, and it is hard to see where new talent will come from. The factories have left, and AMA meetings cut back from three days to just two.

That the problem needs to be addressed is self-evident, and Dorna – still keen to crack the US TV market, the most lucrative in the world – is rumored to be working with Wayne Rainey on arranging an FIM-backed North American championship to take on the AMA.

Their problem is that the AMA is run by the Daytona Motorsports Group, run by the France family, one of the richest families in the US. When it comes to lawyers, the DMG bows to no one, and is willing to defend their interests.

That, however, is a problem for the future. What of the race at Indy this year? The changes to the circuit have indeed made it less of a favorable circuit for the Hondas – there are fewer first-gear corners, Jorge Lorenzo said, and the changes make the track flow more – but that doesn’t appear to have affected Marc Marquez.

The Repsol Honda man was, as ever, the fastest on Day 1, beating second-place man Andrea Iannone by nearly a quarter of a second. The Pramac Ducati rider’s time is impressive, as is the fact that Andrea Dovizioso is in fourth and Yonny Hernandez finished in seventh.

That does not mean that Indy is a Ducati track however: the three Desmosedici riders ran line astern behind Valentino Rossi while the Movistar Yamaha was on a hot lap. It bumped the Ducati men way up the order, but does not reflect their real pace. Come Sunday, the Ducatis will be a good deal further back.

The Ducati will be getting a new engine, although this will come only on Saturday. The new engine is mooted to have more power, which should help along Indy’s massive front straight. Speeds are already high, with Alvaro Bautista clocking 342.5 km/h, 6 km/h faster than last year.

A bit more top speed should make the Ducatis hard to beat down the front and back straights. Whether Cal Crutchlow gets the new engine remains to be seen. The Englishman himself does not expect to do so, and given Ducati’s policy, his expectations may well be correct.

Other expectations were met. With the paddock assembled once again, MotoGP’s silly season switched to high gear. Both Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales admitted they were close to a deal with Suzuki, though both men were cagey when questioned about it.

Jack Miller gets closer to a deal with HRC almost every day, and the rumor mill suggested he may not be the only rider to make the leap straight to the premier class from Moto3.

Respected Spanish journalist Mela Chercoles of AS reported that Yamaha was keen to sign Alex Rins and take him straight to MotoGP. This confirms talks I have had with several senior Yamaha figures, who expressed an interest in Rins, citing a lack of available talent in Moto2.

Rins himself dismissed such rumors. He was grateful for the interest Yamaha was showing in him, he said, but said he will only go to MotoGP “if the world ends next year, which isn’t going to happen.” Rins’ wit is as sharp as his riding, always a good sign for a top racer.

The weather remains a worry, with rain showers falling on Friday, and more expected on Saturday. That could throw MotoGP FP3 into disarray, which explained the rush for a good time on Friday afternoon.

It would be a shame for qualifying to be ruined by the weather, but going by the lap times, it may be the only hope of stopping another Marquez whitewash. One day he will be beaten, but judging by the first day of practice at Indy, it won’t be this Sunday.

Photo: © 2014 Tony Goldsmith / TGF Photos – All Rights Reserved

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.

  • Jw

    When the manufactures cherry pick riders out of m3 along with all the media hype that goes with it, the m2 class in my mind, somehow does not have the relevance it once had (the forgotten child).

    As a fan, my own interest is primarily in MGP then m3 and then m2 (too much Honda – me no like this). Moto3 skipping straight into moto gp makes me wonder if this will diminish the m2 class and possibly upset sponsors that provide the required financial support.

    Anyone else thinking along these same lines? Or am I orbiting the wrong planet again.

  • L2C

    With Colin Edwards set to retire (sooner, rather than later, it now transpires, with money issues rumored to be behind Edwards’ early withdrawal from racing)…

    Are the money issues related to Colin Edwards’s personal financial situation or Forward Racing’s financial situation? That statement is not very clear.

    It’s also confusing because I thought Forward’s financial situation had improved. Stefan Bradl joining the team when they can barely afford to pay Edwards doesn’t make sense or sound good. And at the start of the season, FTR were blaming Forward for the delay of delivering the new chassis, and Forward were saying that FTR’s money issues were the problem.

    Anyway, not trying to get gossipy about Edwards or Forward, just want clarification on the quoted statement that’s all.

    Respected Spanish journalist Mela Chercoles of AS reported that Yamaha was keen to sign Alex Rins and take him straight to MotoGP. This confirms talks I have had with several senior Yamaha figures, who expressed an interest in Rins, citing a lack of available talent in Moto2.

    I knew Yamaha was up to something! Herve Poncharal stating that Bradley Smith had two more races to show his stuff didn’t sound like a vote of confidence in Smith’s abilities to me. If Rins is signed next week, we’ll know that Smith’s world with Tech 3 has come to an end, and Rins’s career in Moto 3, as well.

    August 9, 2014 at 7:04 AM

    Jw says:

    When the manufactures cherry pick riders out of m3 along with all the media hype that goes with it, the m2 class in my mind, somehow does not have the relevance it once had (the forgotten child).

    Moto3 skipping straight into moto gp makes me wonder if this will diminish the m2 class and possibly upset sponsors that provide the required financial support.

    Excellent points, Jw! I hadn’t thought of that, but I would guess it would depend on the frequency of the plundering. Miller straight to MotoGP definitely affects the market value of the guys he’s skipping over, those Moto2 riders who traditionally would have been considered next in line to get a shot in the premiere class. Rins making the jump would also have the same effect.

    If similar happens again next year during silly season, I would expect protests from intermediate class because how are those teams supposed to create ever-increasing value for the riders and the sponsors, indeed for the show, if the class is being made irrelevant by the sophomore class.

    Something to think about, for sure.

  • KSW


    Good points, nice story. Luckily IMS has the tax payers of Indiana paying for there inability to make money so they did get that every several years capital infusion from the tax payers of Indiana. Do those Indiana tax payers get a “Local Discount” they really should. I’d say Indiana residents should have there own section on the Start finish line under the shade, for free.

    On DMG, the old France family has a little money compared to those other successful U.S. private companies who don’t live off tax dollars. Honestly, the France family is middle income when it comes to wealthy Americans these days. You think they have lawyers? I’ll take you to see some private business legal departments. If Bridgepoint, the PE who is behind all Dorna goings on, can’t match the France family with lawyers then wow, they are a great illusion.

    The best AMA rider in 2014 is James Rispoli as he’s over at BSB. Beaubier going to Ducati would be a bigger mistake then was made by whomever signed Herrin. Others failures shouldn’t have made Herrin “the one”.

  • KSW

    To be clear, Beaubier is good, Hayes better and Herrin?????????

  • Jw

    It is nice to have peers that occasionally agree. I have learned more about this sport on A&R than any other means.

    Many enlightened contributors to this site, we know, thank and acknowledge them.

    Likewise we tolerate those who chime in on occasion who have the GP knowledge depth of a birdbath.

  • No MotoGP team is going to hire Hayes. Period.

  • KSW


    That is for sure, but with one year contracts here, two year contracts there……

    For those who where at Lemans and saw Hayes, his intensity, knowledge and fastest in the dark while he was on track…. Hayes can just plain ride….. You know he would have done way better than Herrin.

    Beaubier, he’s really worthy of more than AMA and Ducati.

    Having just said no to Daytona’s offer for a campsite at Next Years Daytona 200 I hope the rest of you bitching are also, taking your dollars elsewhere.

    Now, I’ll go play in the birdbath.

  • L2C

    I’m pretty sure the birdbath comment was not directed at you, KSW!

  • KSW

    Why thank you L2C.

    Anstey, winning and setting lap records at the TT/NW200.

    Hayes, younger than Anstey, stuck in AMA. Sad really. I’d market the piss out of the Hayes/Paris and if no one in industry saw that as an opportunity over Herrin? Wow.

    Now, how about some Indy photos from the lads this Saturday? Come on Jens, Scott, Tony.

  • Good points, gents.

    Gotta say, I’m bewildered by all the talk of Rins and Miller going straight to MotoGP. Thankfully, Rins is wily, despite his youth. He stayed in Moto3 to ensure he developed his potential prior to stepping up to Moto2. I’d be surprised (and possibly a bit disappointed) were a team able to blind him with Euros and convince him that a step up to the big show was a good idea.

    Same for Miller. I think he’s a great rider and he’s got a saleable character. That said, I don’t see the same maturity of, say, Sandro Cortese’s campaign that won him the Moto3 championship a couple of seasons ago. Cortese’s step into Moto2 was pretty textbook, IMO, in that his first season was more downs than ups. This year is much stronger for him.

    I get the whole raw talent thing, I really do. I also dig the charisma that will sell TV time. Miller’s occasional slip of profanity in his excitement is endearing in a bad-boy kinda way. (Similar to Gerhard Berger’s F1 interview in Austria earlier this season where the first words he uttered were, “They told me I can’t say f@%k.” Cue giggles from those of us who followed his career over many years. We knew it was coming.)

    Anyway, I digress. Curious to see money issues surrounding Edwards’ retirement. I’ll bet word of that will have Bradl’s complete attention. Yikes.