MotoGP 2008 – Round 14 – Indianapolis (USA) – MotoGP Race

By Jake Leech

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is located in Speedway, Indiana (an enclave of Indianapolis) in the United States. Recent modifications approved by the FIA and FIM have been made to the former Formula One circuit which bring the new track to a total of 16 turns. The GP riders run counter-clockwise, in the same direction as the oval events at the Speedway, yet will completely bypass the banking of the oval with a new infield section inside Turn 1.

The track is 4.218km long and the qualifying lap record stands at 1:40.776 seconds, which Valentino Rossi set on his way to pole position during Saturday’s qualifying session. Joining Rossi on the front row was his main title rival Casey Stoner and fiery Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo.

Hometown hero Nicky Hayden headed up row two accompanied by fellow American Ben Spies and French Honda pilot Randy De Puniet.

The grey, damp and tedious conditions from Friday’s practice sessions once again met the riders on the grid for Sunday’s race. The track’s staff did their all to dry the track out pre-race, postponing the 250cc race and using street sweepers and jet blowers on the tracks slippery surface. However as the riders headed off on their warm-up lap, the dampness on the track surface was noticeable but most of the standing water appeared to have been eradicated.

Casey Stoner made the best jump away from the line and lead the field through the opening turns. Hayden followed closely in second place with Andrea Dovizioso hot on his tail. Dovizioso was determined to make early progress and in doing so bypassed Hayden before shoving his way past Stoner only a few corners later. After starting from pole position Valentino Rossi was in fourth place.

Hayden followed Dovizioso through on Stoner to move up to second place. Rossi was bested by teammate Lorenzo who demoted the Italian to fifth. Meanwhile at the front Dovizioso and Hayden had begun to break away from Stoner.

Hayden took over at the head of proceedings on lap three, sliding past Dovizioso into turn one. Lorenzo continued his forward progress, forcing passed Casey Stoner for third place with 25 laps remaining; Rossi quickly followed suit to push the Ducati man back to fifth.

Rossi then barged into third place, repaying the favour to his teammate as he set after his countryman Dovizioso in second place. ‘The Doctor’ set the fastest lap of the race a lap later and was now right on the rear of ‘Dovi’.

Rossi then put in a new fastest lap of the race and promptly stuck it up the inside of Dovizioso. The Honda man was having none of that however and immediately retaliated to snatch that second place right back. Later on in the same lap Rossi tried to bypass Dovizioso again and this time made it stick. Next target Hayden but The Kentucky Kid himself had just put in a new fastest lap.

Rossi upped his pace and began to reel in race leader Nicky Hayden. With 21 laps to run Hayden’s lead had been trimmed to half a second and Rossi continued to inch closer as the laps progressed.

Hayden was riding in typically jaw-dropping fashion with the rear wheel of his Honda stepped out sideways across the changeable track surface and conditions of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

As the laps ticked on, Hayden and Rossi traded fastest laps. With 17 to run it was Hayden who had set the most recent benchmark to extend his buffer back out to six-tenths of a second over Rossi.

Lorenzo was now riding alone in third place, some five seconds behind leader Hayden. Dovizioso was a further two and a half seconds behind Lorenzo and was coming under real pressure from Casey Stoner in fifth place.

Rossi was stalking Hayden with 15 laps to run, regularly having a look up the inside and finally made a forceful move over the second half of that same lap, seemingly catching Hayden off guard.

Rossi immediately got his head down and began to edge away from Hayden. It was a typically Rossi-esque tactic and the Italian opened up an eight-tenth of a second lead over the course of just half a lap. It was a demoralising sight for Hayden who saw his chances of a home race win disappearing into the distance.

Further down the field Lorenzo was holding onto third and the final podium place. The battle for fourth place was heating up as Stoner, who was involved in a cracking battle with Dovizioso, now also had to deal with Suzuki guest rider Ben Spies.

With 11 laps to go the rain began to fall quite heavily as the remnants of Hurricane Ike swept over the circuit. As a result the laptimes dropped. Hayden however threw caution to the wind and closed back up to The Doctor as the conditions deteriorated.

With 10 laps to run Rossi still headed the top 10. Rossi has three seconds on Hayden who was then followed by Lorenzo, Dovizioso, Stoner, Spies, Guintoli, Vermeulen, Pedrosa and DeAngelis.

A lap later Rossi continued to extend his advantage at the head of the race, riding brilliantly to master the highly treacherous conditions. Hayden in second was rapidly falling into the clutches of Lorenzo.

With seven laps to go Lorenzo was looking likely to pass Hayden. However, just as Hayden was about to drop a step down the podium placings, red flags were displayed all around the circuit. The race was halted in the worsening conditions with rain and extreme wind wreaking havoc with the highly skilled MotoGP pilots.

There was clearly some indecision in the pit-lane as riders were unsure weather they had to return to the grid at some stage to finish the race or if the race result would be called.

Much deliberation was taking place in pit lane between Rossi, Ezpeleta, Stoner and many team managers. Eventually the decision was made to call it a day. The 250cc race had been scheduled to run on completion of the MotoGP bout but was abandoned due to the inclement weather. The earlier 125cc race had been shortened due to rain which gave Nico Terol the first World Championship race victory of his career.

Rossi took the win after a superlative ride in highly testing conditions. Rossi’s victory eclipsed Giacomo Agostini’s total of 68 race wins in the premier category of motorcycle Grand Prix racing to make Valentino the most successful rider in history.

Nicky Hayden took a hard earned second place with Jorge Lorenzo rounding out the podium. Yamaha machinery propelling two riders onto the podium for the fifth time this year and extending Fiat Yamaha’s lead in the team standings to an incredible 146 points over Repsol Honda. Yamaha also lead the Constructor’s Title with a 316 point tally leading Honda (243), Ducati (241), Suzuki (149) and Kawasaki (71).

Stoner, Dovizioso, Spies, Guintoli, Pedrosa, Vermeulen and De Angelis rounded out the top 10.

Amazingly, not one rider fell victim to the conditions and retired or crashed out.

Rossi extended what was already looking an insurmountable championship lead to 87 points over Stoner. The Australian also not a certainty for second place in the title as Dani Pedrosa only trails Stoner by seven points.

MotoGP next reconvenes in Motegi before heading to Phillip Island in the first week of October. The series then heads to Sepang in Malaysia before the finale at Valencia on October 26.

 Quotes
1st – Valentino Rossi – “This is fantastic because it’s been a long time since I won in the rain and even longer since I won four in a row! To win the first race here at Indianapolis is a great emotion and to beat Agostini’s record is also incredible, now I hope my record will stand for 30 years like his! It was an amazing race and, once I was able to pass Stoner, I knew I had the chance to win so I pushed very hard. I had a great race with Nicky; he was really hard to pass so congratulations to him. When the wind and rain came it became very hard, I think I could have kept going for another eight laps okay but there were things flying through the air – beer cans, plastic glasses – so really I think it was the right decision to stop the race! Sincerely I don’t think I’ve ever ridden in conditions like these and I was lucky because I was far in front and therefore didn’t have to take any big risks. It’s been a perfect weekend for us despite the weather because we made the pole position, the fastest lap and we won, so I want to congratulate my team once again for a fantastic job, today and all year. Also thanks to Bridgestone because my tyres were very good today. I’ve really enjoyed racing here in Indy and I am looking forward to coming back next year. Now we have a big advantage and it would be great to win the championship in Motegi, but it’s not over yet so we will keep our concentration and keep working! Finally I want to dedicate this victory to my Grandfather Dario, who sadly died today aged 82.”

2nd – Nicky Hayden – “Man, it felt really good to be in the lead and I felt quite comfortable. It’s been a long time. I was thinking ‘this only happens in the movies’: your home race, missing the last two and coming back to win. I was able to stay focused but Valentino came past and he had a little more speed, especially in section three. Then when he touched the line onto the back straightaway I was able to make up a little more ground and I thought maybe I was okay. But when it started raining heavy I was in trouble because when it had dried I’d used up a lot of the left side of the tyre, so it got pretty gnarly with all the water. “Sure, you dream about winning your home race, but honestly I shouldn’t be too greedy with how things have been. I’ll take this second and enjoy it. I’d just like to say a big thanks to my team, all my guys, my friends, my family, everyone who’s stuck with me through tough times. Also, thanks to Indy and everyone for making this race happen. It’s a great feeling to be able to race so close to home, I enjoyed it. “I gave the maximum today, I can’t say I left much on the table and that’s how it’s supposed to be. When they stopped the race it was pretty treacherous. It was the right thing to do. Conditions were really tough, especially with the winds because you’d be on a dry line and all of a sudden it’d blow you onto the wet. When they said we were going to do another eight laps, part of me thought ‘hey, let’s line back up and try again’. But I’m not leading the championship, so I’ve got nothing to worry about. A big thanks to the fans too, we only had to be out in the wet for an hour, they’ve been out there since Thursday.”

3rd – Jorge Lorenzo – “This is the first wet podium in my career, including the European, Spanish and even Mallorcan Championships! To be honest, I really didn’t want to leave my motorhome before the race because I was so warm and comfortable and I really don’t like to race in the rain, but today I think things have changed! I got a good start, which surprised me, and then I was able to pass Dani and then Valentino, which surprised me even more! I am so happy to finally discover that I can be fast in the rain as well. After Valentino passed me back I tried to follow him but he was a bit too fast so I concentrated on keeping my pace consistent, then the rain and especially the wind came and it was quite crazy! I was still fast though I closed the gap to Nicky, who I think had some problems by then, and maybe I could have passed him with some more laps but it was very dangerous and so better to stop the race. We are still not perfect but our bike and Michelin tyres were very good today so I want to thank Yamaha and Michelin again, and my team for their hard work. Well done to Valentino and I hope we can continue like this for the last four races.”

4th – Casey Stoner – “I think it was the right decision to stop the race because the conditions were really dangerous – more for the strong wind than the heavy rain, which made it difficult to keep the bike upright. I’m never going to be satisfied with fourth place but it would have been foolish to push harder in those conditions and I made the right decision not to do so. I got a good start but I quickly lost confidence because the rear tyre was tearing up quickly and by the time they stopped the race I was struggling to hold my lap times.”

5th – Andrea Dovizioso – “I am very pleased with the outcome of today, obtained under conditions that were – quite simply – incredible. We had intense rain and then a strong wind, which then led to the early conclusion of the race. It was very easy to make mistakes and ruin the race, but I started fast, as often happens with me, and I was quick to take the lead. In fact, in the beginning I wanted to stay in front of everyone. I gave the maximum today to earn the most points possible. The tyres worked well, but today the choice was difficult and we opted for a solution that gave us sufficient confidence. We must further improve with our tyres, and Michelin are working hard to be more efficient. I believe that in different climatic conditions, we could have also fought for the podium.”

6th – Ben Spies – “It was a good race today for me because my goal was to better my result at Laguna and I did that. I know that I had a fourth place bike today though because the crew had got it working great, but after 10 laps I couldn’t see anything through my visor and that was why I never made an attack because I had to follow the other guys around me to see where I was going – I think if I had lost them I would have got caught by everybody! I rode as hard as I could and ended the race with a good sixth place. I wish we could have done a bit better, but every time I’m getting on a GP bike I’m getting better results so who knows what’s to come!”

9th – Chris Vermeulen – “It was very difficult out there today and starting from 15th didn’t help. There was a lot of spray and a quicker line soon formed so it was very tricky when you moved off that to try and pass. I got through into the top-10 and felt like I had a bit more, but when I tried to push there was no more lap-time to come. I was then kind of stagnant with the guys from fourth place on and just couldn’t catch them. At the end the conditions got really bad and the wind was so strong things were blowing all over the place and it was getting a bit dangerous, so it was a good idea to stop the race even though it was a pity we didn’t go the full distance. So here’s to coming back here next year and doing a lot better!”

11th – Anthony West – “I’m actually really disappointed because I was sure we could have achieved a much better result in the wet today. The track was cleared of standing water before the beginning of the race, and because I was so far back I had to really push hard to make up positions in the opening few laps. We got up to 10th place and I really felt we were capable of catching the riders ahead, but as the weather deteriorated so did the grip level left in my tyre, as I’d worked it so hard in the beginning, and we couldn’t push any harder towards the end. From dead last on the grid eleventh isn’t so bad, and given the weather we were up against, at least we were able to fight for what nearly was a top ten place.”

14th – John Hopkins – “Warm-up this morning was dry and then the weather deteriorated not long before the race. We got a really good start, and we ran a fairly hard compound rear tyre as we thought a dry line might appear before the end of the race. This took a while to get up to temperature, so I rode quite steadily in the opening laps and unfortunately lost a few places. We got into a good rhythm and our lap times were good, but then the weather rapidly got worse. The rain we could deal with, but the wind was unbelievable, which made it hard to get the bike to change direction. There was a lot of debris all over the track and then the race was red-flagged. Overall 14th is certainly not where we wanted to finish, but in the dry we definitely made some improvements during qualifying and I hope we can put these to good use next time out in Japan.”

16th – Loris Capirossi – “The whole weekend has been hard for me as I never found the best solution on the bike. During this morning’s warm-up the bike felt a bit better in the dry and we hoped the conditions would stay like that for the race – unfortunately the conditions were not only worse they were the worst I have ever ridden in! In the first corner someone pushed me wide and I was last and although I tried to fight back it was so difficult out there that I couldn’t really make any difference. I want to forget about this weekend, the race has now gone and I want to concentrate on the next event and make a good result for Suzuki and the team in Japan!”

Race ResultsChampionship Standings
1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Fiat Yamaha Team 37’20.095
2. Nicky Hayden (USA) Repsol Honda + 5.972
3. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Fiat Yamaha Team + 7.858
4. Casey Stoner (AUS) Ducati Marlboro + 28.162
5. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) JiR Team Scot MotoGP + 28.824
6. Ben Spies (USA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP + 29.645
7. Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) Alice Team + 36.223
8. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda + 37.258
9. Chris Vermeulen (AUS) Rizla Suzuki + 38.442
10. Alex De Angelis (RSM) San Carlo Honda Gresini + 42.437
11. Anthony West (AUS) Kawasaki Racing + 47.179
12. Toni Elias (SPA) Alice Team + 55.962
13. Randy De Puniet (FRA) LCR Honda MotoGP + 57.366
14. John Hopkins (USA) Kawasaki Racing + 58.535
15. Colin Edwards (USA) Tech 3 Yamaha + 1’00.613
16. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP + 1’05.620
17. Shinya Nakano (JPN) San Carlo Honda Gresini + 1’05.854
18. James Toseland (GBR) Tech 3 Yamaha + 1’07.968
19. Marco Melandri (ITA) Ducati Marlboro + 1’21.023
1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Fiat Yamaha Team 287
2. Casey Stoner (AUS) Ducati Marlboro 200
3. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda 193
4. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Fiat Yamaha Team 156
5. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) JiR Team Scot MotoGP 129
6. Chris Vermeulen (AUS) Rizla Suzuki 117
7. Colin Edwards (USA) Tech 3 Yamaha 109
8. Nicky Hayden (USA) Repsol Honda 104
9. Shinya Nakano (JPN) San Carlo Honda Gresini 87
10. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 86
11. Toni Elias (SPA) Alice Team 86
12. James Toseland (GBR) Tech 3 Yamaha 85
13. Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) Alice Team 56
14. Alex De Angelis (RSM) San Carlo Honda Gresini 55
15. Marco Melandri (ITA) Ducati Marlboro 48
16. Randy De Puniet (FRA) LCR Honda MotoGP 43
17. Anthony West (AUS) Kawasaki Racing 41
18. John Hopkins (USA) Kawasaki Racing 41
19. Ben Spies (USA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 20
20. Jamie Hacking (USA) Kawasaki Racing Team 5
21. Tadyuki Okada (JPN) Repsol Honda Team 2