When the chequered flag fell at Laguna Seca on the final Sunday of July, MotoGP was supposed to enter a three-week summer hibernation. How things change. The activity of the rumour mill has been as exciting as some of the on-track action this year and a blockbuster rider change for 2013 has kept the sport firmly in the headlines.
The whereabouts of Valentino Rossi next year have been a hot topic throughout the paddock for many months with Ducati’s lack of progress becoming a source of frustration for the Italian. On August 10th, confirmation came of a return to Yamaha with the news eating up column inches, sparking memories of the thrilling rivalry between Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo during their three-year partnership.
One of the biggest pieces of the 2013 jigsaw is now in place but don’t expect the speculation to stop there. Attention will now shift to the vacant seat at Ducati with Nicky Hayden awaiting the announcement of a new teammate. Andrea Dovizioso appears to be the hot favourite for the ride as his search for a factory ride continues while Cal Crutchlow looks likely to stay put on a satellite machine, his tweet in the last few hours saying “you can all stop asking about me riding the red bike…, it’s not available to ride! So I won’t be riding it…” seems to suggest that avenue has closed for him. One of them will certainly be on the move with Moto2 graduate Bradley Smith waiting in the wings.
Britain’s other frontrunner in the intermediate class is also edging nearer to a MotoGP berth. Scott Redding spent the week immediately following Laguna Seca testing a Ducati GP12 at Mugello alongside Andrea Iannone with both in contention for a satellite ride in 2013. Both will be back in action this weekend after the support classes to MotoGP missed the first leg of the stateside double header. With a busy weekend ahead, the headlines are about to be made by on-track action once again.
The majority have been made by Jorge Lorenzo so far with five victories helping him open up a 23 point lead over the consistent Dani Pedrosa. After a fast start, Casey Stoner’s charge appeared to have faltered but a supreme victory at Laguna resuscitated his bid to retire as champion. A look at the first half of the championship demonstrates how dominant the ‘big three’ have been with the two Tech 3 Yamahas fighting a private battle for fourth, way off the pace.
Indianapolis is hosting just its fifth Grand Prix this weekend so there is no clear form guide. Four previous races have produced four different winners with the success shared between Yamaha and Honda, two victories apiece. The Motorsport Capital of the World is a popular venue as far as history and tradition are concerned but the riders don’t appear too impressed by the circuit they’ve been given to race on. The bulk of the track is made up of the old Formula One layout used from 2000 to 2007 but run in reverse, something which Valentino Rossi has commented on with the unusual lines making it difficult to find a rhythm. A big problem last year came in the form of a newly laid track surface which wore the tyres without offering much grip in return. All will hope that issue has been ironed out.
It would be brave to pick a winner from outside the top three but Ben Spies would probably be the most likely to break the stranglehold. The American had the home race from hell at Laguna Seca but his record at Indy is superb, with his only pole position coming here, and he outraced Lorenzo here twelve months ago. With a switch to World Superbikes already announced, this will be Ben’s last opportunity to taste victory at the Brickyard and he’s sure to give it his best shot.
A podium finish is certainly achievable for the Memphis rider but there will be plenty of competition from Tech 3, with Cal Crutchlow still searching for the breakthrough. A dry podium continues to elude Ducati too but Nicky Hayden will fancy his chances on home soil while his outgoing teammate will want to give his current employers something to cheer in his final eight races with them.
This weekend will hopefully see the return of Hector Barbera with the Spaniard promising he will attempt to ride despite his recovery from a broken leg still on-going. Toni Elias will be on stand-by but he won’t have a Moto2 ride to go back to if Hector passes fit, having being given the boot by Aspar since he last raced for them. His seat has gone to Jordi Torres but don’t expect this particular Spaniard to be chasing victory.
Repsol Honda’s newest recruit Marc Marquez will be the strong favourite although his grip on the championship isn’t quite as strong after a subdued performance at Mugello. Marquez was fifth while his three title rivals mopped up the podium positions, reducing his lead to 34 points. Pol Espargaro had the best race of his debut season last year, finishing second to Marquez, so will lead the chase of the championship leader but Andrea Iannone and Thomas Luthi both know the importance of a win this weekend and will be firmly in contention. The performances of Bradley Smith and Scott Redding at Mugello gave hope that they will fight at the front as well while Gino Rea will be desperate to improve on his first half-season in Moto2 to ease the pressure on his Gresini ride.
The back-and-forth Moto3 title race resumes with Sandro Cortese nine points ahead of Maverick Vinales. The latter took his victory tally to five following a heart-stopping finish at Mugello and a repeat in the U.S. would surprise no-one. The championship fight maybe a two horse race but that won’t stop the likes of Romano Fenati and Luis Salom mixing at the front again while Danny Kent will be dreaming of a first GP win.
The Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix begins at 2:15pm UK Time on Friday afternoon with the opening Moto3 practice session. As ever, The Checkered Flag will have extensive coverage throughout the weekend.
Indianapolis Former Winners
|2011||Casey Stoner||Marc Marquez||Nicolas Terol|
|2010||Dani Pedrosa||Toni Elias||Nicolas Terol|
|2009||Jorge Lorenzo||Marco Simoncelli||Pol Espargaro|
|2008||Valentino Rossi||Race Cancelled||Nicolas Terol|
|*No Moto3 races have been held at Indianapolis|