Preview American Grand Prix, Indianapolis, Indiana2012-08-14 19:19
The second half of the 2012 MotoGP World Championship kicks off this weekend at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) with Repsol Honda riders Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner in the thick of the title hunt and aiming to be the first to cross the iconic �Yard of Bricks.�
Pedrosa finished the first half of the season second in the championship with a podium finish in the U.S. Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, a race won by team-mate Stoner. It was the sixth time in ten races that the team-mates shared a MotoGP podium in 2012.
Pedrosa has been remarkably consistent this season, with podium finishes in every race, but one, which has made him a championship threat since the opening round in Qatar. His record at the Brickyard is impressive, with a victory in 2010 and a second place finish to Stoner last year.
Having won the German Grand Prix late in the first half of the season, Pedrosa is now chasing his milestone 40th grand prix victory.
Stoner won the 2011 Indy GP by nearly five seconds, one of the ten wins that propelled him to the 2011 MotoGP World Championship. The two-time MotoGP World Champion swept the American races last year, winning in both Monterey and Indianapolis, and has the chance to do it again for the final time.
Stoner reached a number of milestones with his record third victory in Monterey. He was the first rider to win more than twice at Laguna Seca and with his 37th MotoGP win, the reigning world champion tied the legendary Mike �the Bike� Hailwood for fourth all-time and now has eight more races to make the position his own. Having announced his retirement at the end of this season, it is not possible for him to reach the next rider on the list, fellow Australian Mick Doohan, Honda�s five-time 500cc World Champion who won 54 500cc races. Stoner also took sole control of eighth all-time in the total wins standings with his 44th grand prix victory in all classes, one ahead of Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo. Honda�s six-time world champion Jim Redman is just ahead at 45.
The Repsol Honda riders spent their summer breaks on different continents. Stoner traveled around the U.S. with his wife and young daughter, while Pedrosa returned home to Spain for a bit of rest before resuming the training regimen that has kept him fit this season.
German Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda MotoGP RC213V) returns to Indianapolis, but now in the senior class. The 2011 Moto2 World Champion finished on the 125cc podium in his first trip to the Brickyard in 2008, the race�s first year. Since then, he has had a number of strong finishes, including sixth last year. Last time out Bradl was seventh at the U.S.GP, the only track he had never raced on, having finished a career MotoGP best fourth in the previous Italian Grand Prix.
Bradl will certainly win the 2012 Rookie of the Year award-he has more than five times the number of points of the second placed rider heading to Indy-but he has also tied with a much more experienced factory rider for sixth overall in the championship.
Alvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC213V) has been looking to recapture the progress that began in Qatar and continued through the British Grand Prix, where he finished a career best fourth in the MotoGP class. The races that followed were not as successful, but the team spent the summer break working to provide the Spaniard with the front end feel essential to success in MotoGP.
On his first trip to Indianapolis aboard a 250 in 2009, Bautista finished third. Entering the MotoGP class in 2010, Bautista was eighth, improving to sixth in 2011.
San Carlo Honda Gresini CRT rider Michele Pirro ended the first half of the season with an unfortunate run of bad luck, which he hopes to reverse in the second half. Prior to three non-finishes in a row, Pirro had steadily improved, with a career MotoGP best of ninth in the Dutch TT.
The summer break came at the right time for the Italian and his crew, both of whom have worked diligently to guarantee that the MotoGP rookie can resume his upward trajectory.
The U.S. Grand Prix hosted only the MotoGP riders, giving the lower classes an extended summer break. Now, after nearly five weeks off, they get back to work.
The first half ended with Marc Marquez (Team CaixaCatalunya Repsol � Suter) firmly in control of the Moto2 World Championship. The Spaniard had a stellar first half, winning four of the nine races to build a 34 point lead over rivals Pol Espargaro (Pons 40 HP Tuenti � Kalex) and Andrea Iannone (Speed Master � Speed Up) who are tied at 129 to Marquez�s 163.
Marquez did not have a completely work-free summer break; he and Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock � Suter) tested the latest version of the Suter chassis at the Portimao circuit in Portugal.
Iannone and Espargaro each have two wins, with Iannone beating the Spaniard by only .090s in his home grand prix at Mugello in the final race of the first half. Marquez was fifth. Of the three, only Iannone has completed every race, though a pair of downfield finishes have kept him from challenging Marquez for the points lead.
Marquez, who has been on the Indy pole each of the past two years, beat Espargaro in last year�s race, with Iannone finishing tenth. Espargaro�s 2011 second place finish was his first Moto2 podium, though he was familiar with the rostrum. He was on every step of the 125cc podium, with a win in 2009, a second in 2008, and a third in 2010.
Blusens Avintia FTR Honda rider Maverick Vinales starts the second half of the season as one of only two riders with a reasonable chance of winning the inaugural Moto3 World Championship. The other is German Sandro Cortese. Vinales enters the second half trailing Cortese by nine points following his fifth win of the season - and third from pole - in Mugello, just prior to the summer break. The win in Italy was important for Vinales, who failed to score points in the previous race in Germany.
Romano Fenati (Team Italia FMI FTR Honda) just missed out on victory in his home race in Mugello; his gap to Vinales was .020s. The likeable young Italian took the finish in stride and as a welcome relief after a pair of downfield performances in the races just before. Fenati had started the season with great promise, finishing second in Qatar, a race that he had led, and winning his second Moto3 race in Jerez. Then followed a pair of non-finishes and more results that did not match his precocious talent.
This will be Fenati�s first trip to the U.S. and the Speedway, though he is aware of the history of IMS and is looking forward to hitting the bricks.
Alexis Masbou (Caretta Technology Honda) does have experience at Indy, though little in the way of success. The French rider has competed at IMS three times, scoring his best finish last year.
But this season Masbou has shown dramatic improvement. Other than a pair of non-finishes, he had been in the top nine in every race and scored a career best second place finish in the German Grand Prix before faltering in Mugello prior to the break by finishing 12ths.
This will be the fifth running of the Indianapolis Grand Prix at the Speedway which is located not in Indianapolis, but in the town of Speedway, Indiana. IMS is known around the world as the site of the Indianapolis 500 and, more recently, the Brickyard 400 for stock cars. Those events are held on the 2.5-mile, four-corner oval, of which very little is used in the MotoGP configuration; only the 872m straightaway which crosses the finish line �Yard of Bricks� is run on the oval.
Formula One had an eight-year run that ended in 2007, the legacy of which is the road course. The Formula One road course was 4.192Km and ran clockwise, the MotoGP road course is 4.216Km and runs anti-clockwise. The track is made up of three segments. The lap begins and ends on the front straight, the only part of the 2.5-mile oval that is utilised. Turns 2 through 4 and 7 and 8 were built specifically for MotoGP. The rest of the circuit uses from the former F1 track, though with the safety margins re-engineered for the change of direction.
From the outset, the track was plagued by a variety of surfaces, which meant traction changed several times a lap. Prior to last year�s race the final repaving project was completed, though not with the intended results. The intense summer heat did not allow the macadam to cure properly and efforts by the track to improve grip were not successful. A year on, the surface should be much more consistent.
Shoehorning a road course inside an oval will always invite compromise and Indy is no different, especially with the space available for the course. The result is a mostly stop-and-start course where it is often difficult to get into the rhythm of the very flat track. There is a scarcity of high speed corners, which riders most enjoy, and only one straightaway of reasonable length. Much of the rest of the track is characterised by hard braking in narrow spaces, making passing difficult.
The signature piece of the track is the finish line �Yard of Bricks,� the last of the 3,200,000 paving bricks that were originally laid in the fall of 1909. Honda riders have upheld the winner�s tradition of kissing the bricks the past two years and would like to continue the tradition this year.
As soon as the last rider crosses the finish lines, the teams furiously begin packing up to fly off to the Czech Grand Prix in Brno the following weekend.
HONDA MotoGP RIDER QUOTES
Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa says:
�I had a very good summer break. In these two weeks I was able to relax a little, enjoy time with friends and get back into my training. At this time of year, Indianapolis is normally very hot, so fitness is always key. I enjoy riding at this track and I've had good results in the past. I am really looking forward to this race and will fight to win and maintain the consistency we have showed in the first part of the championship.�
Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner says:
�After the great win in Laguna, we've had a nice break in the U.S. It's always good to take some time off here and spend some time with some friends. I'm not the biggest fan of Indy, mainly because we don't go on the historical track, but the infield and in the wrong direction. The track is very flat and plain, also very tight. There are a couple of corners that can be fun, but the majority are difficult, tight and there isn't any natural flow to the track. It's nice to visit a track with such great history, but it's a shame we don't really experience any of that. We've had some good results there and won last year, but we'll have to wait until we get there to see how the RC213V will work around there this year.�
LCR Honda MotoGP rider Stefan Bradl says:
�We are doing good, I mean, better than expected. And I�m happy so far with everything. We are not so far any more from the second group (in the championship). Sure (at Laguna Seca) it was a little bit different than normal and this is the plan for the future, try to stay with them and fight for positions behind the top three guys.�
San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Alvaro Bautista says:
�Laguna Seca did not produce the result we were hoping for because I struggled for confidence with the soft front tyre there. On the Saturday, we found a decent rhythm on that tyre, but on Sunday the track conditions were slightly different and it upset the front end so much that I couldn't brake as hard as I wanted into the corners. We didn't have the confidence to run at a competitive pace and even though I managed to finish the race with some decent points it was not a true reflection of our potential. After that disappointment I took a few days to relax by the seaside, but I have kept up to my training programme and I am ready to race again in America. I have also had a good opportunity to catch up with family and friends, so now I am ready to get back to work and get competitive again like we were before Mugello. I have always had good results at Indianapolis and the track should suit the characteristics of our bike. We will try and test the tyres properly during practice to make sure that we don't have a repeat of the last race. I am feeling confident and highly motivated. Indianapolis is a unique circuit because it is anti-clockwise and completely flat, with some slow sections and a very long straight where you need good top speed. Last year I remember having some problems with the front tyre because of the recent resurfacing, but hopefully that's not an issue this time.�
San Carlo Honda Gresini FTR Honda rider Michele Pirro says:
�Laguna Seca was our third non-finish in a row, this time because of a collision with another rider in the first corner. It's a shame, because I really liked the circuit and was enjoying riding there. July wasn't a lucky month for me, but together with the team I want to stay positive and focus on overcoming our problems in the best possible way. We have been getting more competitive and our pace is getting closer to the top CRTs, so we want to continue that for the remainder of the season. Over the break I have had a bit of a holiday on the beach, but I've been training hard too. I have tried to get the right balance of hard work and rest ahead of our next trip to America. I raced at Indianapolis last year and our objective there is to get back to the level we showed at Assen. I am confident we can achieve it.�
Moto2 RIDER QUOTES
Team CaixaCatalunya Repsol Suter rider Marc Marquez says:
�The racing is back and we are starting with two races in as many weekends. We return to Indianapolis, one of the most historic circuits in the world. The summer holidays have been a very good chance to rest and also to do a test at Portimao. The results of that test might prove useful in the second half of the season. I like Indy as a circuit and we�ll be looking for a top result. Our goal is to adapt as soon as possible, in order to find our setting for Sunday.�
Pons 40 HP Tuenti Kalex rider Pol Espargaro says:
�We are not so far off from Marc (Marquez). In Mugello we took nine points off him and that�s so important for us. Just lap by lap we have to think to not make any mistakes and to try to recover the difference as soon as possible. And, I know; it will be difficult for sure. Moto2 is a difficult category to predict. Maybe the key is to continue with the work we are doing. We are attacking all the practices, we are more or less the first in all the practices, and that is so nice for us. We have to continue working because it�s so long and the championship can change a lot and we have to be at 100% always.�
Speed Master Speed Up rider Andrea Iannone says:
�Surely, in this championship it�s very important that I was as competitive as possible in the the past few races. I�m very happy for this. My team is working better and giving me a more competitive bike to be fast in the remaining races.�
Moto3 Rider Quotes:
Blusens Avintia FTR Honda rider Maverick Vinales says:
�Indianapolis is a track that brings back fond memories. Last year I placed second after a tough fight with Sandro Cortese. I think that this track suits us both and that the competition will be intense once again. There is a slow section of the track that we need to use to make our times count. The fast section �including the very long straight� is where we will look for slipstreams.�
Team Italia FMI FTR Honda rider Romano Fenati says:
�We ended the first half of the season with a beautiful race. I was very close to winning my home race, which is the reward of the work of the whole team. I have enjoyed the summer break, but I can�t wait to get to Indy. The track has a fascinating history and I can�t wait to try it.�
Source: Honda Pro Image
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