First Impressions of New Indy Asphalt Leaves MotoGP Riders Unimpressed

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UPDATE: MotoGP riders after finishing FP2 said grip improved on the track, though anything off the racing line was quite slippery.

With MotoGP riders getting their first taste of the newly paved infield section at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the talk this morning after the Free Practice 1 session was about how the new track surfaces faired under the GP riders’ scrutiny. Though weather conditions were pretty much optimal, there is a virtually unanimous opinion that even without the bumps and curbing issues, the IMS track has worsened since last year. While most riders took issue with the virtually glass like state of the asphalt, the problem at Indy really is two-fold. Not only is the freshly paved tarmac devoid of any rubber to help aid the grip, but the infield, which is used almost exclusively for the Indianapolis GP, suffers yearly from dirt and debris.

“It is absolutely not improved. It’s very slippery, there is absolutely no grip. It was much, much, better the way it was before,” said a frustrated Dani Pedrosa. “You just can’t lean the bike on the corners…the tires were destroyed this morning. We hope with a little bit more running on the track, we can get a little bit better grip performance and tire wear, because at the moment it is completely horrible.”

Pedrosa’s sentiments were echoed by all the other riders we talked to, including the Yamaha Racing factory riders who had a dichotomy of results. Despite being fastest in the session, American Ben Spies was over three seconds slower than his pole pace from last year’s event. Having an even rougher time than his teammate, reigning MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo was down in ninth place on the session, just under two seconds behind Spies.

“I don’t feel safe on this new asphalt to be honest. I’ve never tried asphalt so slippery like this, and it’s very dirty,” explained Lorenzo. “Also, It didn’t improve much from the first lap to the last lap. I’m very disappointed about the new asphalt.”

“There are less bumps than last year, but the asphalt is so bad that I prefer the asphalt last year with the bumps. I hope, I really hope that it improves,” Lorenzo continued. “Like this, it is really uncomfortable to race, and I can’t imagine a rain race. It would be a disaster.”

Traditionally, the issue of dirt on the racing line lasts only in the early sessions, as the multiple volleys of motorcycles lapping the course helps clear a clean path around the IMS’s 16 corners. However, the issue of the track being slippery likely stems from the lack of rubber on the racing line, which helps give added grip to the motorcycles.

Because of the way motorcycle tires are shaped and corner through turns, bikes put down far less rubber into the course than a car would for example, meaning the bedding in time for Indy’s infield will take longer than traditionally at other events. We’ll have to see how over the course of today and tomorrow’s sessions the track improves, but right now there are some very skittish professional motorcycle racers in Indianapolis.

Photo: Yamaha Racing