The MotoGP fraternity may have already been to the United States once already this year but nothing comes close to the vast surroundings of the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Referred to by many as the “Motorsport Capital of the World”, the 400,000-seater venue plays host to some of the most prestigious motor races of all.
This weekend, it welcomes another as the world's finest motorcycle racers converge for the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix and three riders in particular will be under intense scrutiny.
After his victory at Assen back in June, Ben Spies returns home with a realistic chance of rewarding his fellow countrymen with a win. The Yamaha rider will be keen to make up for the disappointment of Laguna Seca where a qualifying crash and a poor start restricted him to fourth place. Spies also gave teammate Jorge Lorenzo a run for his money at Brno which will fill him with optimism that he can do so again here.
Spies announced his arrival at the front of the premier class with a fine second last year while Nicky Hayden finished on the podium in each of the previous two Indy GPs. The 2006 World Champion hasn't tasted the champagne for nine races though and will be desperate to break that run this weekend. Hayden will have the GP11.1 Ducati at his disposal this weekend and after Valentino Rossi's impressive ride to sixth at Brno, a podium finish may not be totally out of the question for the Kentucky Kid.
Completing the American trio is Colin Edwards who continues to score consistent points on the Tech 3 Yamaha. With speculation continuing to surround his MotoGP future, the 37 year old may be competing on home soil for the last time at this level and will be as fired up as ever.
The race for the 2011 World Championship will also be drawing plenty of attention and the pendulum swung towards Casey Stoner after another dominant victory at Brno. Practice form seemed to suggest only one winner with Dani Pedrosa topping the timesheets in every dry session, but a front end washout three laps in eliminated the Spaniard.
With Jorge Lorenzo hamstrung by a poor tyre choice which left him scrambling to maintain control of his Yamaha, the path was clear for Stoner to secure his sixth win of the year ahead of the only remaining Repsol Honda of Andrea Dovizioso, with Marco Simoncelli claiming a long overdue first podium.
Lorenzo limped home in fourth, later describing it as one of the “worst races of his career”, and saw his deficit in the title chase increase to 32 points, meaning he will trail the Australian whatever the result of this weekend's 28 lap race.
Although the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has only been a part of the calendar since 2008, “The Brickyard” hasn't been kind to Stoner so far. A distant fourth on his very first visit is his best result after illness forced him to miss the 2009 GP and he slid out of fourth last year.
Victory went to Pedrosa who will be a force to be reckoned with if his pace of Brno is on display again. Lorenzo also has an Indy victory to his name and knows that time is running out if he is going to retain his crown.
After breaking his duck two weeks ago, Marco Simoncelli is likely to be in the running for a podium finish again this weekend while Andrea Dovizioso can never be ruled out having finished in the top five in all but one of the races this year.
The only other rider in the field with an Indy success to his name is none other than Valentino Rossi, winner in 2008. Ducati finally seemed to be making progress with the GP11.1 at Brno with the Italian finishing just five seconds away from a place on the podium. The tight, twisty infield section may allow Ducati to run with the leaders again and Rossi will be eyeing an opportunity to step onto the podium for only the second time this year,
The aforementioned infield section will be familiar to four-wheel fans as it sees the motorbikes join the old Formula One circuit after leaving the oval at turn six. The riders then return to the banking after the exit of turn 16, the old turn one for the eight F1 events that took place here.
British rookie Cal Crutchlow crosses the Atlantic under pressure after having a tough weekend at Brno. The Tech 3 rider has only scored four points in the last five races with his Czech GP lasting only six laps before ending in the gravel.
Alvaro Bautista was another rider who failed to live up to a promising performance in practice as the Rizla Suzuki team endured a torrid couple of days. Seventh and Eighth in the first practice session didn't yield any points with John Hopkins dislocating a finger on Saturday morning, and Bautista sliding off while chasing Rossi for sixth place. The Spaniard will be on his own once again this weekend with Hopkins Brno outing a one-off appearance, for now at least.
The two week break will have been a welcome one for Pramac Racing whose riders are both nursing injuries. Randy de Puniet and Loris Capirossi will be hoping to challenge the top ten, as will fellow Ducati runners Hector Barbera and Karel Abraham. Two more Hondas complete the line-up with Hiroshi Aoyama and Toni Elias desperate for good results as they look to secure their MotoGP futures.
MotoGP isn't the only series enjoying a thrilling title battle with Stefan Bradl and Marc Marquez set to rejoin their head-to-head Moto2 scrap in the States. The German leads by 43 points but has finished behind his rival in each of the last four races but at least he is guaranteed to return to Europe as points leader.
Nicolas Terol is suddenly looking over his shoulder after entering the 125cc season as the overwhelming favourite. The Bankia Aspar rider looked set to extend his lead at Brno before his Aprilia broke down, allowing Sandro Cortese to take his first win. Crucially though, Johann Zarco finished second to cut Terol's lead to just 12 points and has the Spaniard firmly in his sights this weekend.
The 125s will kick off the weekend's entertainment on Friday with the opening practice session starting at 2:15pm UK time. The Checkered Flag will have full coverage of all three classes throughout the weekend.
|2010||Nicolas Terol||Toni Elias||Dani Pedrosa|
|2009||Pol Espargaro||Marco Simoncelli||Jorge Lorenzo|
|2008||Nicolas Terol||Race Cancelled||Valentino Rossi|