Trackside Tuesday: A Victim of History?

08/21/2012 @ 4:43 pm, by Jules Cisek35 COMMENTS

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.

First off, the crashes of first Casey Stoner, then Ben Spies, and finally Nicky Hayden during QP need to be examined. For the Kentucky Kid to miss what he calls the “homiest of home rounds” was heartbreaking, but such is racing. But, when three extremely talented riders crash during the same session, and in basically the same exact location, it raises eyebrows.

As you can see in the photo above the track gets very dirty off the tracing line (and the surface type changes dramatically). In many cases this is unavoidable (I’ve seen similar buildup at Brno), but the marbles are just the start of the issue. What you don’t see in the photo is the lack of grip that riders reported once off the racing line. The bottom line is, the infield course simply does not get enough use and there’s never enough rubber laid down.

I am not sure how to fix this, but the “mickey mouse track” would make for an awesome autocross event…or ten. To be fair, of the five riders asked about grip during the post-qualifying conference, only the three MotoGP riders echoed concern about grip. Moto2’s Pol Espargaro and Moto3’s Sandro Cortese both said that not only do they like the track, they also did not feel the grip levels were a problem on or off the racing line.

This is almost certainly because the braking and acceleration forces produced by the Moto2 & Moto3 bikes don’t come close to the grip requirements needed by MotoGP, especially once they are off the racing line.

Last year, riders said the infield portion of the track was extremely abrasive, and even though Jorge Lorenzo’s soft tire gamble wasn’t a total failure, it would seem the abrasiveness is still there as his tire began suffering midway through the race (note: the track was “completely” repaved – meaning from T4-T16 – for 2012).

The second and third problems this weekend had to do with personnel, and these are more difficult to fathom given the history of the sport, and the usually exceptional professionalism of everyone involved with the event.

It’s simply impossible to not feel outrage over the handling of fallen rider Héctor Barberá in T16 during the red flagged FP1 session. After falling hard on his head and back, laying prone for some time in the run-off, Barberá was lifted under the armpits and knees and placed onto a stretcher before being taken to the ambulance.

This stunned almost everyone who saw it, as even most casual fans know, or have at least seen, the proper way a fallen rider is placed on a stretcher involves the neck/head being held and rotated with the body, while rider’s body is rotated sideways, the stretcher pushed underneath, and the body rotated back before being lifted and carried to the ambulance.

The medical staff on-hand failed to handle a situation they have been trained for correctly, and reminded us of the difficult to watch scenes of Tomizawa’s stricken body getting shuttled off the track at Misano and Simoncelli’s stretcher dropped at Sepang. Given the injuries Barberá suffered, this could have had tragic consequences that simply cannot be excused.

Finally during the MotoGP race a lapped rider, Steve Rapp, failed to move out of the way of a much faster Jorge Lorenzo, causing the latter to even flail out with his foot in frustration as he finally got past the CRT wildcard.  I have received a confirmation from Mike Webb, Race Director for the FIM, that well in advance of Lorenzo’s arrival behind Rapp, he requested and received confirmation from the Clerk of the Course that blue flags were displayed.

From where I was standing (about two-thirds of the way between T16 and T1, on the outside of the straight and immediately on the wall – and let me tell you – there’s nothing quite like the feeling of a 250hp
screaming MotoGP bike going by at full throttle just five feet from you), I did not see any blue flags at either end or along the 3-4 flag stations on the straight when Rapp came through followed by Lorenzo.

Rapp didn’t see any. Neither did Lorenzo. A Facebook user correctly quipped “don’t they have blue flags in Nascar???” They’re actually blue with a yellow stripe through it in NASCAR, but close enough.

There have been many many questions asked about the status of Indy for next year given the upcoming opening of the Circuit of America in Texas, and now after the race given the many issues that came to light during the 2012 MotoGP weekend. However race track contracts are not rider contracts, and the money involved is astronomical.

As a racing super-fan and friend of mine points out, Indianapolis is one of the only tracks on the MotoGP calendar that never even blinks an eye at the sanctioning fees Dorna imposes on each venue. Not to mention that the location is excellent for almost every American race fan not already covered by Laguna Seca.

I don’t expect the surface of the track to get much better for 2013 and certainly the layout of the track won’t be changing but let us hope that lessons are learned from the personnel mistakes made at this year’s Indy GP. In all other ways, this is still a place that buzzes with racing heritage, acceptance, and draws a good sized American crowd.

At the same time, due to the history of the venue perhaps some of the outrage is simply a product of extremely high expectations.

Jules Cisek is a race fan and photographer. He is also the producer and presenter of the MotoPod podcast. You can follow him on TwitterFacebook, or on the MotoPod Facebook page.

Photo: © 2012 Jules Cisek / Popmonkey – All Rights Reserved

  • Right on, mate. It really is a disgrace that lives have to be unnecessarily risked at this pig pen of a track.

  • 76

    Yeah the moto2 riders really cant be used to evaluate the track for RW grip levels that GP bikes need. Moto2 bikes put out 120 to 130hp at RW max, GP bikes 250 to 280 give or take depending on manufac and whos talking. Completely different worlds, and one that heavily relies on TC in these cases.


    Indy is a terrible track for spectators. I am pissed off that I spent $260 for two seats in the “Penthouse” for my wife and myself. The seats were folding chairs, at least 50 years old, and covered in dust and pigeon crap. The overhead has paint peeling everywhere. The public address system sucks; I couldn’t understand a word all weekend. This simply is not a roadracing track for motorcycles. From the best seats in the house, you can only see three corners out of 16. Also, the amount of police reminded me of a presidential inaugural here in DC. I understand the terrorist threat issue, and the need for security, but it felt like the police were just waiting for an excuse to bust people. And the use of unmarked Ford Mustangs to snag motorists is just too much. I won’t ever go back to Indianapolis for a race. Laguna Seca is ten times better for the race experience.

  • rob

    my thoughts about Indy are similar. to many crashes and the racing was strung out. when was the last time Moto2 was boring.
    i was at Indy this past weekend. I talked with with Indy Racecar, NASCAR fans. i explained how exciting Moto2 and Moto3 racing was going to be.
    I will go next year but please fix this course. is it going to be a golf course/race track or is it going to be a real road course?

    Lots of elavation changes are awaiting on the golfcourse!

  • Calisdad

    1- Casey should STFU and go off in the sunset. He would NEVER make a Grand National Champion.

    2-The handling of HB was inexcusable.

    3- Want a poor sound system? Try Laguna. Same for seating unless you show up with a full wallet.

    4-Lorentho, as is now the pronunciation, wasn’t held up by Rapp and had no business showing a foot.

    5- the issue with the crashes should be focused on the POS tires they are forced to use.

    6- Perhaps a 2 1/2 mile oval will separate the men from the boys. No blue flags allowed.

  • jeff

    Am I crazy to think that the riders would learn that T-13,14 was treacherous after the first, at least second highside? Lots of ambition outweighing talent last weekend.

  • J W

    Too many casualties for One weekend, I am glad I didn’t pay to go there.why not the Larry Miller track. I am curious why it would not work for GP, it is a purpose built track right? What say Ye?

  • Spamtasticus

    1- Casey should STFU and go off in the sunset. He would NEVER make a Grand National Champion.
    ME. I’m sure you are a much better racer than Stoner. No? STFU…

    2-The handling of HB was inexcusable.
    ME. That was a gimmie.

    3- Want a poor sound system? Try Laguna. Same for seating unless you show up with a full wallet.
    ME. The seating at Indy is garbage. The only time I ever had a good view was when I was in one of the suites and had to fight off a douche from the Rolls Royce suite for a spot standing on the walkway behind the suites. And that setup cost a fortune. Every other year I gave up and watched in the paddock TV.

    4-Lorentho, as is now the pronunciation, wasn’t held up by Rapp and had no business showing a foot.
    ME. Really, are you 12? Name games? May I suggest you look at the race again. He was severely held up. If that is too hard just use simple subtraction. Lorenzo’s previous lap – Rapp’s last lap.

    5- the issue with the crashes should be focused on the POS tires they are forced to use.
    ME -_-

    6- Perhaps a 2 1/2 mile oval will separate the men from the boys. No blue flags allowed.
    ME. Let me see if I understand your troll logic. Motorcycle roadracers who have to negotiate the complexity of the road corse and their inmesly powerfull and sophisticated bikes are men. Motorsport racers who go round and round to the left in still dangerous and dificult circumstances are boys…… what does that make benchwarmers with wildly unconsidered oppinions?

  • SuperD

    This is a great article.

    Does AMA SBK race in Indy?

    Honestly speaking I don’t think Indianapolis is such a great track and I would much rather see Moto2 & Moto3 compete at Laguna Seca. It would definitely be more spectacular and would outshine the MotoGP class, which has become so boring and uncompetitive that it’s hard to watch, even for a diehard fan like myself.

    I don’t know why but I find the American rounds to be lacking in entertainment. Laguna has only the Queen class present, and Indy is stocked with complaints and a very boring race (aside from Moto3).

    I hope the European rounds offer a much better experience than this past month.

  • anti

    Yep, I know about Laguna, I know about Daytona. have never knowingly known about Indy till MotoGP last couple of years.

    @Spamtasticus, totally agree with you on all your responses to Calisdad especially 1, 3 & 6. Oval bores the crap out of me, have never seen the appeal, worst than watching cricket just an excuse for fans to drink beer in the sun all day long.

  • TexusTim

    Indy should use the track a little with a mix (mostly bikes) and cars then on the week before the race CLEAN THE DAMN TRACK ! cmon yea theres no rubber either but dust and bird crap for a year and they dont use street cleaners and blowers to to clean the track certanly the jet blowers they use to dry the track for nascar would do a good job blowing the crap of the track.
    Indy isnt the best track for Moto GP….for all the other classes, ama and track days it’s fine.
    COTA is going to be awsome ! but for sure there will be mistakes it’s a new track .I hope the Moto GP rounds for the next ten years there will still happen as planed(there still isnt a firm contract) having three rounds in the states and at least one amreican next year will go a long way but we need a new group of young americans in moto GP for it to gain more ground here except for all the “moto heads” no one else much cares about motocycle roadracing in the states.

  • Brunom

    Great article.

    Motor racing in all its forms is not ‘a show’ but a very competitive and dangerous sport.
    The facts regarding of marbling is bad enough in F1, but in MotoGP is outrageous, and possibly deadly.
    Maybe we [ sadly] need more high profile injuries for the money men/organisers to realise that if it carries on there will not be enough class riders left to have a proper race.
    Your piece about the emergency track responses in the cases noted is spot on. When I saw the Marco Simoncelli crash with the ambulance parked about 75metres away, and the treatment given on track, I was outraged and commented on many sites, but not one pinted it or responded – why ? Sepang should be ashamed of how MS’s body was handled and the ‘care’ he did not get. ABSOLUTELY SHAMEFULand it should have been struck off as a racing curcuit – won’t happen as petrol money speaks louder than a death.

  • JoeD

    Racing should be on a dedicated raod course, not a converted oval. It is for this reason I avoid NASCAR style racing. I watch the Formula 1,2,3 types of racing because it has more connection to real world roads. Moto GP and WSB have that flavor which no amount of DMG/AMA meddling can duplicate. Remember how the old AFC teams had grainy, poor resolution TV production compared to the NFC? Somehow the AFC just gave the impression of being second rate and sadly it is the same feeling I get when watching AMA. No polish, spit or shine. Our American racers are a very talented group and deserve better. IMS should be removed from the schedule and replaced with a proper venue.

  • DesmoDoug

    Great article and it brought up some good points. From a riders point of view and from a fans point of view you can’t argue that this is one of the worst tracks on the entire circuit. The race itself for those of us in America (besides the fact that the actual race itself is horrible) is great. For those of us on the east coast, up north or down south this really is a very assessable and downtown Indy at night is something that any motorcycle lover has to experience. If you go there once you know that the grandstands are the worst seats however there are plenty of seats around the track that give you great views of almost half of the track.

    The issues with the track have to be addressed if they plan on using it again next year. It really is a shame that Nicky had to sit out and also the amount of highsides in the same location.

    Lastly, @ Calisdad… I couldn’t help but to notice on Speed TV’s coverage as well the new pronunciation of Lorentho. WTF???? Thats why I never watch any of the races on Speed, better to just buy the package on

  • Calisdad

    Spam- you missed my point, which is there is entirely too much whining.

  • Westward

    On the Thursday night before the IMS GP round, they should let all of the fans that rode to the venue ride on to the track, or have everyone fill the circuit and do the worlds largest burnouts…

    @ Calisdad

    Points 4 & 6, — Really ???

  • TRL


    Lorentho is the correct pronunciation, just as Ibiza is pronounced Ibitha. Nothing new…actually overdue.

  • @DaveMinella

    I love love love Laguna, and I hate hate hate Indy. But, until the support classes get a shot at the Corkscrew or Texas gets its shit together, I guess we’ll take what we can get. My only regret is that 250s never raced at Laguna. I would have loved to see that.

  • jack

    Moto2 and Moto3 do not have a problem because they race on Dunlops and MotoGP races on Bridgestones. PERIOD…….The MotoGP bikes have been crashing regularly at every track they go to. Bridgestone has yet to produce a tire that the big bikes can race on. Indy can be a boring race, but so has every MotoGP this year. Thats one of the reasons why attendance has been down drastically worldwide. Most of the critisisms from the fans is justified, but going to Austin in August with no available shade is crazy. Indy’s location is perfect even if the track is lacking.

  • Spamtasticus

    Your sarcasm is just too subtle for me then.

  • jack

    Steve Rapp was not holding up Lorenzo. He could barely keep up with him in the infield with his worn out soft tire which was probably why there was no blue flags. He easily passed him on the front straight where he had a real advantage.

  • Westward

    Jack you a Calisdad have questionable vision on the Rapp issue. He most certainly held up Lorenzo, which is what precipitated the kick gesture. The racing lines were limited due to the nature of the track conditions. If Lorenzo had tried to make a daring pass on any of the turns, he would have surely met the asphalt. That is why he had to wait for Rapp to run wide or the straight…

  • Jim Race (my cohort from MotoPod) talked to Rapp after the race and Steve was convinced that there was a CRT bike catching him which is why he was pushing. He never saw any flags and was too busy on the bike he had only ridden a handful of times to check if someone else was there.

    We’ll have the episode up by tomorrow night so you can listen for yourself. Of course one of the coolest, most experienced American riders could be lying because that his real mission in the race was to slow Lorenzo down…

  • sideswipe

    Lorenzo was indeed held up. Look to his lap time before he came up on Rapp and the ones after. Apart from that moment’s frustration Rapp was not held to blame by JLo or anyone else as there were no blue flags. I’m sure he heard Lorenzo behind him but if there are no blue flags he couldn’t know he was being lapped and it’s fair for him to think it’s race on with whoever is behind.

    Unfortunate state of affairs at Indy. Unlike some other rounds attendance is healthy, it’s geographically convenient for a few regions in the US to reach, and the city and facilities really accommodate the GP circus well. All they need now is a good track. Doh! I wonder what it would take for them to bulldoze and revise that track with some cambered turns that opened more naturally for the direction the race is run and a better track surface. Revise the track and it could be one of the better stops in the season.

  • lance

    Now having been to both Indy and Laguna this year, i agree that Indy had lots more offtrack excitement and buzz but the on track views from a spectator perspective were disappointing ;too far away, too much chain link ,and the few really good vantage points to watch were 50 deep in photographers. At Laguna on the corkscrew security loved to come by and clear the paved path every 15 minutes . They only started doing this mind you after people had claimed there spots 2 hours earlier… WTF? While you must be there to see the speed, and hear the sound it is a long way to go and very expensive from a viewing point of view. Like the Olympics maybe it is best to go and watch it live every 4 years but not every one.

  • jack

    Your right of course, with Lorenzo catching Pedrosa with 3 laps to go Steve Rapp was obviously holding back Lorenzo for some alternative reason that I’m sure you will get to the truth. This could have important reprocussions for the race outcome and the season.

  • I love Motogp and this is the only feasible race for someone on the east coast to attend. I’ve attended every GP race at indy and have to say this year for some reason it didn’t send the same buzzing sensation as the previous years. Maybe due to the lack of Hayden wrecking and Colin on his POS bike. Then ben our only hope blows a motor. Then there is the fact that a podium race this year is only 4 or 5 deep, and usually the outcome is decided in 2 or 3 laps. I hope Dorna figures out this whole protype vs. crt thing. As i left the track I had this feeling that this may be the last time Motogp ever sees Indy (contract or not). Yes attendence is there but that is where the east coast is foced to go if you want to see a live race. And for Rapp, I seemed to think that he thought it was Ellison behind him and didn’t realize it was lorenzo. I guess I didn’t see him look back.

  • @DaveMinella – The 250’s did indeed run at Laguna, and the 125’s as well. Too bad you missed it. I didn’t. :)


  • “Jim Race (my cohort from MotoPod) talked to Rapp after the race and Steve was convinced that there was a CRT bike catching him which is why he was pushing.”

    Absolutely! In the absence of blue flags, of course Rapp is going to assume he’s racing for position. And in the absence of blue flags, he is not responsible for looking behind him. Race Direction Fail. I can understand Lorenzo’s frustration in the moment, but I’m quite sure that in the end there were no hard feelings either way. Yeah, he was held up, but it didn’t affect Lorenzo’s race in the end.

  • Calisdad

    Lorenzo was quoted as being ‘powerless in the last half of the race” due to tire wear. I would think that was where the bulk of his frustration came from.

    FIM and DORNA met over the weekend and made a few rule changes. Tire changes were rejected. I would also think having a medium compound to choose from would have lessened Jorge’s frustration.

    Rapp came to Laguna and missed qualifing under the 107% rule. He was just trying to do his best for his sponsors and fans.

  • buellracerx

    NESBA and STT at Indy, anyone? Let us track day junkies wear in the surface!

  • Gonzo


    The heavy Cop presence is just because Indiana cops are D*cks! The Editor of Motorcyclist had a cop pull his weapon on him last year when he made a poorly marked illegal left, unaware it was illegal. And a cop pulled a gun on him for this!??!?! That tells you right there what kind of mindset the doughnut-suckers there have.

  • smiler

    Spamtasticus, could not agree more wityh your comments.

    I would love to see MotoGP on an oval it would be as thrilling as Nascar on a n oval, like watching paint dry.

    If three top riders highside on the same part of the track then there is something very wrong that has also consipred to screw Stoner’s chances, put Hayden out for the subsequent race. Not good enough.

    With regard to cricket. Brilliant game. Try watching a 20 over or one day game first. Just much too sublt ena complex for most and lets face it Baseball is the most bring game of all time.

    Does the US not have any other great tracks other than Laguna or Indy? Suggestions.

  • Nick Saban

    Great article Jules. Having been to Indy once for MotoGP, I was impressed by the city’s welcome and how well the event was managed. So, when IMS had so many issues this year, it is a real bummer. That said, the IMS road course will always be a roval and third in importance to IMS behind Indy cars and NECK-CAR.

    If Austin can pull off F1 fairly well, MotoGP will go great. The crowds will be lesser in size and easier to manage. At the very least, COTA is a dedicated road race track designed to meet FIA (and FIM) standards.

    No matter what, the US should be able to put on a world class event at any venue.

  • trapper

    We competed at Indy last year in the xr1200 race and we were allowed to walk the track prior to racing. the track surface has tiny sharp grooves. The dunlop spec tire available for us offered no feel and seemingly little grip. this tire was used at one other track which we didn’t attend. We blamed the tire but later at a track day at jennings the tires were amazing? At our hotel this year a moto 2 team was staying and said the track grip was unchanged from last year and said wasn’t a factor to them. Yet the race was mostly a single file event.
    I didn”t see a blue flag for Steve Rapp either and I was at the other end of the track. Puzzling that if they(CRTS) are so slow it took Lorenzo almost a entire lap to get past. Scared to go off line?
    Indy is a 12 hour drive for us ,Austin will be 30hrs, Laguna seca 42 hrs. Hopefully they can get Indy fixed and there will be 3 U.S. rounds ,the people in the east need an event that is a realistic option for traveling to