Race day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 2nd running of the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix, the twelfth stop on the MotoGP schedule. There was no way the weather could have been worse than last year as the remnants of Hurricane Ike slammed into the Speedway shortening the 125cc and GP races, and canceling the 250cc race, but no one expected the weather to be as absolute gorgeous as it was. Sunrise on Sunday morning found many fans shivering and wrapped up in blankets and jackets as temperatures languished in the low 50s, but by mid-morning the clouds began to break up, and warming sunshine was able to make its way through to the historic venue. The Speedway is celebrating its 100th anniversary year of its very first ever motorports event, a motorcycle race held in 1909. Temperatures quickly climbed into the upper 60s where they stayed for the remainder of the day. Given that this is the tail end of Summer here in the central US, the cool temps were very unexpected and welcome. Usually at this time of the year, we’re dealing with temperatures in the upper nineties coupled with very high humidity.
In morning warmup, Dani Pedrosa was again extremely quick, but it was Alex de Angelis who startled everyone with a 1’40.446″ lap on a cool track. The rest of the grid pretty much performed as they did in FP2 and qualifications. When the lights went out, again there were no surprises. Pedrosa jumped out to an early lead, followed closely by Lorenzo and Rossi while Hayden lost a couple of spots. Pedrosa’s only hope for securing the race win, was build a substantial multi-second lead from which he could simply concentrate on his own ride and not be distracted by those behind him. He didn’t manage that, however, and Indy really isn’t the best track for getting out to that monstrous lead. The very tight and technical sections between T1 and T4 kept Rossi and Lorenzo within sight, even if the lead was substantial on the front stretch. With the Yamaha’s prominent in his mirrors, Pedrosa made a mistake in T16, the last turn before the front stretch, and went down. His front tyre lost grip and he low-sided right as he was turning in. Give credit to Pedrosa, though, for having the foresight to understand that even if he was no longer contending for a race win, he could gain valuable points by rejoining the fray. After getting back on his bike, Pedrosa clawed his way back up from dead last to finish in tenth. It was fantastic to watch him pick off one rider after another.
This left Lorenzo and Rossi to duel for the race lead, and had many hoping for another epic battle between the two teammates. In this situation before, Vale has shown his remarkable ability to get inside the head of his opponents and force them to make a mistake because of the extreme pressure. This is precisely what the Yamaha duo did to Dani. The battle was to end all too quickly, though as Rossi suffered a similar type of accident to Pedrosa’s. As The Doctor began to turn into T2, the front simply lost grip and washed out. Valentino wasn’t as lucky as Dani, and his throttle was damaged causing him to retire from the GP. With no one else around him, Jorge Lorezo cruised on to a very easy, near 10-second gap victory.
Although with both Pedrosa and Rossi going down in the early laps meant very little was happening for the lead, there was a LOT happening mid-pack as Colin Edwards, Alex de Angeles, Andrea Dovizioso, and Nicky Hayden fought hard for the remaining spots on the podium. Alex secured the second podium step about midway through the race leaving only one spot left. All three and their opportunities, but it ended with Hayden on the podium again in his home GP. Hayden barely held off Dovizioso after pushing his bike and tyres to the very limit of their performance. With his tyres shot, Hayden was plying all of his racecraft to keep the young Italian behind him. Had the race gone one more lap, its doubtful that Hayden would have been able to hold on to his spot, but they didn’t, and the crowd at IMS went crazy as Nicky crossed the bricks. It was a magnificent race, and a great finish for Nicky and Alex, both of whom needed a good result to help bolster their bids for a 2010 ride.
The 125cc race was just as exciting with Bradley Smith finishing second just 0.120 seconds behind Pol Espargaro after a hard fought battle. 2008 250cc Champion Marco Simoncelli, who wore an Indianapolis 500 t-shirt to the 2008 season-end MotoGP awards banquet, won the inaugural 250cc GP at Indianapolis. Last year’s GP was canceled because of the extreme weather. He and Hiroshi Aoyama had been battling hard all race long, with Hiroshi riding Marco’s rear wheel for most of the race. In the last few laps, Hiroshi conceded the victory to Marco and elected to secure the second place points and further his 2009 championship ambitions.
If you’ve ever been curious about motorcycle road racing and have wanted to know why people get so excited about it, come to Indianapolis next year. You can see practice for only $10 and qualifications for only $20. A three day, including race day, pass is only $75 and there’s plenty of great viewing mounds and locations to watch the action. Come out and see it! You won’t be disappointed!