Pedrosa takes second Indy MotoGP from wounded field

MotoGP Red Bull Indianapolis GP, August 17-19, 2012

story and photos by Tim Hailey, with information from MotoGP and IMS

Dani Pedrosa getting it right. More photos

Dani Pedrosa became the first MotoGP rider to win the Red Bull Indianapolis GP twice and turned up the heat on World Championship leader Jorge Lorenzo with a dominant victory Sunday, Aug. 19 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Pedrosa beat fellow Spaniard Lorenzo to the line by 10.823 seconds on his Repsol Honda. It was the second victory of the season for Pedrosa, who also won this event in 2010. “I’m extremely happy with this win, and I really want to congratulate the whole team for the great job they’ve done this weekend,” said Pedrosa.

“The bike worked perfectly. It was difficult at the beginning of the race because the pace was very strong from the start. I got past Ben Spies, but I kept calm because I knew I had the pace today to fight for the victory. When I took the lead, I put in some very strong laps to build up a gap and then I made a mistake in Turn 2 going into neutral, and Jorge reduced the gap by one second. But I was able to get back on my pace and ride comfortably to the end, where I think Jorge struggled a little with the soft rear tire.”

“We thought that the soft tire could finish the race well, so we took a risk with it,” said Lorenzo. “At the beginning, it wasn’t so bad, and I could follow Ben and Dani. Then Ben had his engine failure. which was lucky for my position, but I am so sorry for him. Dani was a little step forward today and had a tire advantage in the end. Anyway, second was the best we could do today, which is very good for the championship.”

Andrea Dovizioso finished third on a Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machine. “For us, a podium is always like a victory, and, of course, I’m really happy, but I think we still can do better,” said Dovizioso. “But honestly, I didn’t expect to be so strong at this track. Unfortunately, I could not push as hard as I would have liked to at the beginning of the race, so I lost a bit of time and could not stay with the leading group. And afterward, when Ben broke the engine, I did half of the straight trying to see through the smoke and I was not sure if there was oil on my tires, so I lost some important tenths. Maybe the position could not have been better, but for sure the gap would have been less to Dani and Jorge.

“I’m not completely satisfied because I wasn’t as consistent as I’d hoped, but to be on the podium is a great feeling and a good reward for all our hard work. Now we got to Brno with a lot of confidence and I’m optimistic that the podium is a realistic target again.”

Casey Stoner’s Saturday crash

Reigning World Champion Casey Stoner produced an impressive performance to finish fourth on his Repsol Honda after suffering fractures in his right ankle and lower right leg, and torn ligaments in his right ankle in a huge crash Saturday. “I want to congratulate Casey for his result,” said teammate Pedrosa. “He did a superb race in his condition, and I am sure he will be strong again in Brno.”

“I also want to pay tribute to Casey Stoner today because he delivered a brilliant performance,” said Dovizioso. “Physically, he wasn’t in the best shape, but it was still very hard to beat him.”

Speaking of crashes, despite his own lurid Saturday highside, American Ben Spies rocketed to the lead on the first lap from the fourth starting position on his Yamaha Factory Racing machine. Pedrosa and Spies swapped the lead on the third and fourth laps of the 28-lap race, with Pedrosa keeping the top spot for good on Lap 4. Spies was running a comfortable second when white smoke began to stream from his exhaust pipes just as he crossed the Yard of Bricks start-finish line to start Lap 7. It was the second blown engine of the race, as Danilo Petrucci pulled off of turn 13 with his Came IodaRacing Project bike spraying for bugs.

“Today was unfortunate again,” said Spies. “We had a big crash yesterday, and I honestly didn’t know if I could ride at 100 percent today. I got a lot of sleep and great physio from the clinic guys, who did an amazing job. We got off to a good start and felt great. When Dani passed me, I could see he was using the rear tire more than I was, so the plan was to let him get a maximum three seconds ahead and start reeling him back in at the end. As soon as he passed me, the bike started to slow down. I wasn’t sure what was happening. Then all of a sudden, it blew up, so I tried to get off the line as quickly as possible. I’m disappointed not just for me but for the team. I think we definitely had second place and possibly the win.”

It was a day of highs and lows for the other American riders. Kentuckian Nicky Hayden did not race on his Ducati after suffering a concussion and two broken metacarpal bones in his right hand in yet another huge crash exiting turn 13 on Saturday. “To miss any race is not fun, but to miss my home race is just bull,” said Hayden. “Especially after we had worked this weekend and improved the bike a bit. It’s tough. The main thing is I’m more or less OK. A broken hand and a pretty severe concussion’s not OK, but that was a pretty big one, a little bit scary. I’m happy to be able to at least come in here today and support the race and see things.”

“This one sent my sister into labor,” Hayden tweeted.

Colin Edwards finished 13th on his NGM Mobile Forward Racing Suter-BMW. “I thought I had a good start, but I found it kind of bottle-necked up into Turn 2,” said the very popular Edwards. “There were just incidents here and there through the race, in the end a few guys crashed, and after that I just tried to get into a rhythm, get into a pace. Then I saw someone in front of me and thought I could hang on to him, but then Spies broke the engine and I saw a big smoke. I didn’t know what to do because I couldn’t really see, and then once I passed the smoke, just picked up the pace again. Ivan (Silva) was in front of me. He caught up with me when the smoke came out and I tried to stay with him, but he didn’t make any mistakes.”

Steve Rapp, 40, scored two points by finishing 14th on the Attack Performance APR machine. It was the MotoGP debut for American Motorcyclist Association veteran Rapp and Attack Performance, based in California. “I said after qualifying that I thought I could beat some of the guys in front of me,” said Rapp. “That was our goal, and we accomplished our goal. It was our first MotoGP, and we scored a point.

“The bike was amazingly good all weekend. I can’t think Richard (owner Richard Stamboli) and the guys enough. We improved the bike every second, every session. I was completely happy with the bike, and I got a decent start and ran with some of the guys who have been racing all year. I learned a little bit, picked up a few things and just ran to the end. I wanted to run with the guys the whole race, but I dropped off maybe seven or eight laps into it, and from then on, I was on my own the rest of the race. At that point, it was actually easier for me because I could just concentrate on what I was doing, riding my own pace, trying to be smooth and doing the best I could. It’s just more self-satisfaction than anything. As a racer, everything happens is based on who you are racing and who you beat. If you race and beat nobody, you’re really not that good. You have to ride with guys who are good and beat them.”

Aaron Yates finished a solid-but-off-the-pace 16th on his Michigan-based GPTech BCL, just missing scoring a point. It was the MotoGP debut for AMA veteran Yates and Geoff Maloney’s GPTech, and Yates’ MotoGP debut and his first race since suffering severe leg injuries in a crash in March 2010. “I wish we could have been a little more competitive, but we did what we could with what we had to work with,” said Yates. “Everybody’s happy. We finished the race, and we were 16th—that’s better than where we started.

“I had a good start. I ran up in there, but a lot of guys were getting a little crazy, so I gave them a lot of room and sat back and watched. The start of the race was the first time I’ve ridden a bike with a full load of fuel. Man, it did make a difference. I ran into the corner and couldn’t get the bike to slow down or get it to turn. The bike was already overweight, and adding all that weight (fuel) at the top of the tank really made it tough. I got to going quicker halfway through the race in a steady pace. We had a comfortable race. We made it to the end, and that’s what this was all about. This is pretty big for the team, especially the way this team came together. This is just a group of guys following one fellow’s idea (Maloney) to progress up and do MotoGP.”

Pedrosa’s victory helped him close to within 18 points of Lorenzo with seven races remaining. “We managed to take our second win of the season, and every point is important,” said Dani. The MotoGP grid has less than a week to regroup before the bwin Grand Prix Ceské Republiky this weekend, where all three classes will be contesting the popular Czech track for championship positions.

In the premier class the competition was blown wide open once again after Pedrosa’s stunning victory in Indianapolis. Pedrosa will be looking to dispel memories of his last outing at the track, where he crashed out of the lead half way through the race. Lorenzo, who has not placed lower than second this season, will be hoping to be on the pace, in a bid to extend the gap over his compatriot.

Pedrosa’s injured teammate Stoner will find it tough to repeat his win at Brno from last year. Yet the Australian, never one to give up, will no doubt be quick from the off. Lurking close by will be top satellite performer Dovizioso on board his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 bike, who has been in impressive form this season, taking five podiums so far. His closest challenger and teammate Cal Crutchlow will hope to turn around his fortunes in the Czech Republic, as he looks to make amends for his DNF last time out.

Another satellite battle to keep an eye on will be that of LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl and San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista, who are now only separated in the championship table by two points. Bautista, who got the upper hand in Indianapolis, crashed out of last year’s Brno race, and will be trying his upmost to get a good result this time around. Ducati Team’s Valentino Rossi, who has won at the Czech circuit a total of six times, will aim to put his Desmosedici further up the field after struggling with rear grip issues in the U.S. His teammate Hayden, who suffered fractures in his right hand and a concussion in a big crash, is still a doubt for the race.

Yamaha’s Spies will be thinking that his time for some good fortune should come soon. Last year he finished fifth in Brno, which is no doubt a result the American would settle for right now. Pramac Racing Team’s Héctor Barberá, who suffered a fracture to his no.6 vertebra during practice at the Brickyard, is a big doubt for the race, and will most certainly be replaced by stand-in rider Toni Elías, as he has been the last two races. Someone who has been getting back to full fitness is local rider Karel Abraham with his Cardion AB Racing team. He will no doubt look to put on a good show for his home fans and kick-start his season with a good result.

Amongst the CRT riders, Avintia Blusens’ Yonny Hernandez and his teammate Iván Silva will be ones to watch, after a surge in performance at the last round. Their biggest rivals will remain the Power Electronics Aspar duo of Randy de Puniet and Aleix Espargaró, who continue to lead the CRT standings. They will be joined on the grid once again be San Carlo’s Michele Pirro, Speed Master’s Mattia Pasini, Came IodaRacing Project’s Petrucci, NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards and Paul Bird Motorsport’s James Ellison.


In the other World Championship races, Marc Marquez of Spain expanded his points lead with a commanding Indy victory on his Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol Suter-Honda in the Moto2 race. The Moto2 field will have its work cut out as it takes to the Brno track next weekend with Márquez looking in ominous form.

After a dominant display at the Indianapolis Grand Prix, Márquez now holds a 39-point lead over closest rival, Pons 40 HP Tuenti’s Pol Espargaró, who will be desperate to claw back points on his compatriot. Márquez and Espargaró, who were second and sixth respectively last year at Brno, may however find their biggest challenge in the form of Speed Master’s Andrea Iannone. The Italian may have struggled last weekend, yet last year proved unstoppable as he carved his way through the pack to an emphatic victory at the Czech track.

Interwetten-Paddock’s Tom Lüthi, who had a disappointing race for his standards last weekend, will be hoping to return to podium-challenging ways to chase Iannone and Espargaró in the championship standings. He will however face stiff competition from Marc VDS Racing Team duo Scott Redding and Mika Kallio, who both looked on good form after their summer break, albeit in the latter stages of the last race. Tech 3 Racing’s Bradley Smith, who will be stepping up to MotoGP™ next year within his team, will hope to do so with a few more points on the board, and would welcome a good run in Brno.

This may be hampered by Blusens Avintia’s Julián Simón, who was once again back on the pace in Indianapolis, scoring his first podium for the first time in over a year. And despite being taken out of the last race, NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Alex de Angelis might also have a say up at the front at a track he enjoys, having only just missed out on the podium there last year. One rider hoping to carry his pace through an entire race will be Technomag-CIP’s Dominique Aegerter, who was leading the early stages of the Indianapolis race. If he can match this pace for a prolonged period of time, he might be a dark horse once the Moto2™ field takes to the track in Brno.

Luis Salom of Spain earned his first Grand Prix victory with a thrilling, last-lap victory in the Moto3 race. Salom climbed from third to the lead by diving his RW Racing GP Kalex-KTM under Sandro Cortese and Maverick Vinales in Turn 10 on the final lap. He held on over the last six turns of the 16-turn, 2.621-mile IMS circuit to beat Cortese by .056 of a second. Jonas Folger finished third after Vinales fell out of the race in the second-to-last turn. He was unhurt.

Cortese may be disappointed to have missed out on the win by a fraction in Indianapolis, but will be buoyed by the fact that a stunning ride last year won him the top step on the podium in the Czech Republic. He currently holds a 29-point lead over nearest championship challenger Viñales, who will undoubtedly be looking to make amends in Brno and to claw back some points on his German rival.

Before the summer break the Moto3 championship may have looked like a two horse race, yet RW Racing GP’s Salom has truly thrown a spanner into the works with his Indy win. With his first ever Grand Prix win under his belt and Viñales only 26 points off, the young Spaniard will be well and truly in the belief that the championship challenge is not over. Team Italia FMI’s Romano Fenati will no doubt be one of the front-runners once more, dicing it out with the likes of Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Alex Rins and AirAsia-SIC-Ajo’s Zulfahmi Khairuddin. Rins’ teammate Miguel Oliveira, who is often seen running at the front, will look to erase his memories from last year, where he crashed out on the final bend of the race.

The Czech round also welcomes two wildcards in the form of Britain’s John McPhee with the Racing Steps Foundation KRP team, as well as Germany’s Luca Gruenwald with the Freudenberg Racing Team. Caretta Technology’s Jack Miller, who broke his left collarbone for the second time this season, and Mahindra Racing’s Danny Webb, who fractured his right writs last weekend, are both a doubt for the race. TT Motion Events Racing’s Niklas Ajo, who was black flagged after an altercation with JHK Laglisse’s Adrian Martín following being taken out by the Spanish rider, has been banned from the Brno round.

Tyler O’Hara won the AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 Series race Sunday at Indy after PJ Jacobsen fell out of the lead on Lap 4 of the 10-lap race. Kyle Wyman finished second. Wyman won the first XR1200 race Saturday when Jacobsen also fell out of the lead on Lap 5, triggering a four-bike pileup that forced AMA officials to red-flag and then end the race with no further competition.

Wyman now has a nine-point advantage in the championship points with just three events left on the schedule.”We did what we needed to do today,” Wyman said. “I’m stoked for everyone with the KLR Group and Spyke’s Harley-Davidson who were here with us this weekend. Their support is the reason we’re able to race and it means a lot for me to deliver them results like what we had this weekend.”

Following O’Hara over the finishline on Sunday, Wyman out-rode Benny Carlson and Bobby Fong in the final lap around the 16-turn, 2.6-mile circuit to take second place.

O’Hara had been in a pitched battle for the lead with Jacobsen, and the two had managed to separate from Wyman, Carlson and Fong. But Jacobsen cut a corner too close and went down, allowing several riders to pass. The chase was on from there and without a drafting partner O’Hara was coming pack to the pack. However, there weren’t enough laps left for him to be caught and he took the win with a few seconds to spare.

“We were bearing down on Tyler,” Wyman said. “But he had enough of a cushion to stay out front. Good for him. He had some bad luck yesterday so I’m glad he had a clean race today. I expect we’ll be seeing more of him as the season winds down.

“It’s a pretty incredible feeling to win at Indy, especially in front of the Moto GP crowd. To win Indy and Daytona in the same year is something you dream about but I don’t know that you ever expect it to really happen. I have a great crew behind me with my dad (Bob Wyman), uncle Bill (Wyman), Paul Diener and Jason Jones. Tim Ivanoff and Elvis (Phillip Johns) also jumped in and helped this weekend and that made a huge difference. It’s awesome to kiss the bricks with all those guys by my side.”

New teammate Michael Barnes followed Saturday’s fourth-place finish with fifth-place result Sunday.

The rankings show Wyman with 1,055 points, followed by Carlson (1,046), O’Hara (1,040), Michael Corbino (1,036) and Barnes (1,034).

Up next is the American Red Cross Devils Showdown presented by Team ProMotion, Sept. 7-9 at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, N.J.

The next MotoGP World Championship race is the Grand Prix of the Czech Republic on Sunday, Aug. 26 at the Brno Circuit.

Spies, Stoner & Hayden all High Side at Indy

Spies flies and Hayden slides as sparks fly in the daytime at Indy. More photos

Dani Pedrosa’s track record-setting pole speed for the fifth running of the Red Bull Indianapolis GP MotoGP was practically an afterthought on a day when three of the sport’s biggest stars high-sided in vicious crashes at the track’s suddenly wicked turn 13. Reigning MotoGP champion Casey Stoner, former AMA/Superbike champion Ben Spies, and former MotoGP champ Nicky Hayden all high sided making the transition out of the turn onto the throttle. And for each of those three crashes that did happen there were another thirty that didn’t, as no one was spared hair raising moments at that spot. Points leader Jorge Lorenzo and mult-time champ Valentino Rossi were amongst the near disasters.

But Spaniard Pedrosa turned the quickest lap ever by a motorcycle at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 1 minute, 38.813 seconds, on his Repsol Honda to win the pole. He broke the record of 1:38.850 set by his teammate Stoner, during qualifying in 2011. Pedrosa became the first rider to win the pole more than once for this event, as he also captured the top spot in 2009. “I think the track will be a little bit different,” Pedrosa said about the race Sunday. “But sure, most important is that more or less the setting is good. And the race here is always tough. It’s warm, and we have tough competitors, and it’s long. But sure confident, and I’ll try to keep focus on the race and do a good race.”

Lorenzo, also from Spain, and Andrea Dovizioso of Italy will join Pedrosa on the front row. 2010 World Champion Lorenzo continued his streak of qualifying on the front row all five years of this event with a lap of 1:38.913 on his Yamaha Factory machine. Dovizioso will start on the front row at IMS for the first time after turning a top lap of 1:39.235 on his Monster Tech 3 Yamaha.

Despite his crash, American Spies qualified fourth at 1:39.279 on his Yamaha Factory machine. He suffered a bruised right shoulder and was cleared to race by medical officials. But fellow American Hayden will not race Sunday after suffering a concussion and a fracture of two bones in his right hand. Hayden would have been eighth on the grid.

Stoner will put his crutches aside and race on his Repsol Honda. He suffered small fractures to his right ankle and qualified sixth.

Americans Steve Rapp and Aaron Yates both qualified for the MotoGP race on wild-card entries fielded by American teams. Rapp earned the 22nd spot on the grid at 1:43.673 on his Attack Performance APR, while Yates will start 23rd at 1:44.312 on his Geoff Maloney prepped GPTech BCL.

Pol Espargaro of Spain won the pole for the 26-lap Moto2 race and Sandro Cortese of Germany won the pole for the 23-lap Moto3 race.

Hector Faubel of Spain was admitted to Methodist Hospital with trauma to his abdomen after crashing in Turn 16 during the early stages of Moto3 qualifying. A CT scan showed no major injuries.

Former Orient Express/Celtic Racing rider PJ Jacobsen, won, then lost, Saturday’s XR1200 Series race

P.J. Jacobsen, from Montgomery, N.Y., was initially declared the winner of the first AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 Series race even though he fell out of the lead on Lap 6. Jacobsen’s spill triggered a four-bike pileup, causing AMA officials to red-flag the race short of its scheduled 10-lap distance. But as it turned out, P.J.’s spill was caused by his own oil and KLR Group rider Kyle Wyman captured his fourth victory of the season. Once again, the AMA struggles to figure out who won a race. “Who’s on first?” The AMA has adopted Abbott and Costello’s famous routine as standard operating procedure.

“This was one crazy race,” Wyman said. “I’ve experienced every emotion a person could have in the last few hours. Usually, when goofy stuff happens it never seems to fall my way, but today it did and I couldn’t be happier. The timing is perfect.”

Running in conjunction with the Red Bull Moto GP, the AMA Pro Vance & Hines riders closed the day’s action with it’s first of two races slated for the weekend. As has been the case all year, the 10-lap tilt got off to a competitive start and soon settled into a back-and-forth battle for the lead between polesitter Patrick Jacobsen and Tyler O’Hara, with Wyman following in third place.

But at the end of Lap 4, things began to change. First, O’Hara crashed in Turn 16, allowing Wyman to move up to second place. Half a circuit later, all hell broke loose with Jacobsen going down hard in Turn 10. Moments later, Wyman also went down in the same spot, followed by several more riders. “There was oil on the track,” Wyman said. “P.J. had a few seconds on me and I saw him crash but just as I processed what had happened I went down. It happened that fast. I got up and raised my arms to signal the guys behind us but everyone was coming and it was just total chaos.”

The race was quickly red-flagged and most of the riders went back to pit row, some on damaged machines. Only Jacobsen and Wyman were left out as their bikes required major repair and needed to be towed. As teams scrambled to repair and prep for a possible restart, Wyman had to come to grips with the possibility of not being able to continue.”It was like our chance at the championship was slipping through our fingers,” Wyman said. “We couldn’t go to the back-up bike because we were past the second lap so if we either had to ride our primary bike or not race. The problem was our primary bike was on a tow truck somewhere.”

After several tense minutes, race officials realized the oil spill would require a massive clean-up and the race was officially called. At the time, Jacobsen was determined the winner, with Wyman given the second-place trophy and Ben Carlson third-place honors. “I was good with that because P.J. isn’t in the championship points so we had the points lead,” Wyman said. “We even had a little cushion, so we were pretty relieved.”

Things only got better for Wyman as it was later determined that Jacobsen had caused the oildown, resulting with him being moved to the bottom of the final standings. Wyman was then awarded the win, with Carlson moved up to second and Michael Corbino (with star mechanic Wild Gentle Ben on the wrenches) to third. “It’s a goofy deal but we’ll take it,” Wyman said. “To start off the Showdown like this…I couldn’t have asked for more. I’m so happy for Gaston Kearby and the KLR Group, plus everyone at Spyke’s Harley-Davidson who was here today. This is just unreal.”

This race marks the first time all season that Wyman didn’t share the podium with O’Hara and Michael Barnes, who is now Wyman’s teammate. Every other race had the three in some order of first, second and third. Barnes ended up fourth and O’Hara 12th. “I thought I’d seen it all but today might beat ’em all,” said Barnes, who also was collected in the big pile-up. “I was happy with the race. I got a great start but maybe braked a little early into Turn 1. There was some bumping and banging going on but I settled into sixth and just kind of went to work from there.

“A few laps in Corbino had a big moment and I got past him and Carlson so I was up behind Kyle. I really started struggling with front grip. We made some geometry spring changes in the back so now we need to make a geometry change to the front to properly compensate for that. If we get that done properly we’ll be good. I feel confident on the bike and with the way I’m riding. I’m ready for tomorrow.”

A veteran of two decades of racing, Barnes applauded the decision to call the race early. “We’re here racing at Indy as guests of the Moto GP folks and we need to be gracious because the exposure this gets us and our sponsors is unparalleled,” he said. “The best thing to do was call the race and let them get to work on cleaning the track and prepping it for tomorrow’s GP race. There were too many people caught up in that wreck who would have gotten the short end of the stick if they had tried to restart it. They definitely made the right call. This is the fairest decision for everyone involved.”

Indy MotoGP photo gallery

Pedrosa pedals to top in Day 1 at Indy

story and photos by Tim Hailey, with help from MotoGP and IMS

Dani Pedrosa gets a little crossed up on the berm in Friday’s morning session

Dani Pedrosa led the opening day of MotoGP practice for the Red Bull Indianapolis GP, turning a top lap of 1 minute, 39.783 seconds on his Repsol Honda on Friday, Aug. 17 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “This afternoon the track was a little better than in the morning, and we were able to improve our lap times quite a lot and also try the hard tires, which worked much better than the soft specification we tried this morning,” 2010 Red Bull Indianapolis GP winner Pedrosa said. “As we saw today, the times will keep dropping during the weekend with more rubber on the asphalt, so we have to continue working hard on the bike.”

MotoGP qualifying is scheduled for 1:55-2:55 p.m. Saturday on the 16-turn, 2.621-mile MotoGP road course at IMS. Spaniard Pedrosa will try to earn his second pole for this event, as he also started from the top spot in 2009.

American Ben Spies was second quickest overall Friday at 1:40.078 on his Yamaha Factory Racing machine. World Championship points leader and 2009 Red Bull Indianapolis GP winner Jorge Lorenzo was third at 1:40.502 on his Yamaha Factory Racing bike.

Casey Stoner. More photos

Defending Red Bull Indianapolis GP winner Casey Stoner was fifth at 1:40.623 after leading the morning session at 1:41.925.

Nicky Hayden salutes the fans after the first practice session

American Nicky Hayden ended up ninth at 1:41.397 on his Ducati, while fellow U.S. rider Colin Edwards was 18th at 1:43.813 on his NGM Mobile Forward Racing Suter-BMW. “Some of these corners are really connected, and it’s important to get the bike to turn, because if you mess up the first one, the problem gets exaggerated,” Hayden said. “We need to understand why we’re having this turning issue and hopefully do a good step tomorrow.”

American wild-card riders Aaron Yates and Steve Rapp ended up 22nd and 23rd, respectively. Yates’ best lap was 1:46.021 on the GPTech BCL, while Rapp’s top time was 1:46.619 on the Attack Performance APR. Rapp didn’t participate in the faster afternoon practice due to a suspected engine problem.

Toni Elias replaced fellow Spaniard Hector Barbera Friday afternoon and will remain on the Pramac Racing Team Ducati after Barbera crashed in the first practice and suffered three fractured dorsal vertebra. Barbera was admitted to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.

Pol Espargaro, from Spain, led Moto2 practice at 1:43.575 on his Pons 40 HP Tuenti Kalex-Honda. Sandro Cortese, from Germany, paced Moto3 practice at 1:49.307 on his Red Bull KTM Ajo KTM.

PJ Jacobsen won the pole for the first AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 Series race with a lap of 1:54.984 on his MOB Racing Harley-Davidson XR1200. Jacobsen, from Montgomery, N.Y., was 1.412 seconds quicker than the second-best rider, Kyle Wyman. The first AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 Series race is scheduled for 4:20 p.m., with riders competing for 10 laps.

Rossi & Stoner bring feud to Indy

“Must be a little bit embarrassing,” Stoner said about Rossi

Then teammates Casey Stoner and Andrea Dovizioso celebrate last year’s Red Bull Indy MotoGP

Following Valentino Rossi’s announcement that the 9X world champion was leaving his home country Ducati squad to head back to Yamaha, reigning champ Casey Stoner unleashed a barrage of criticism Rossi’s way. Stoner won a world championship at Ducati, but Rossi has struggled there. So the pre-event press conference for the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix had everyone smacking their lips for a genuine smackdown.

Valentino Rossi struggled big time last year at Indy

“After Laguna I had a break and I had more time to think deeper about my future,” said Rossi, whose best result this year is a second at Le Mans. Rossi won at Indianapolis in 2008, just before the “hurricane” shortened that inaugural event. “It’s a great pity for me and Ducati and all our fans, but especially for the guys that worked with me on this project. We try to be competitive—an Italian rider with and Italian bike, but unfortunately it hasn’t happened. These two seasons have been very difficult and we have struggled a lot unfortunately. We were not able to improve our speed and our performance and to fight for the good positions. So for this I decided it was enough and so I tried to think which was the most competitive bike for the next two years that might be the last of my career. It’s a great pity and I’m very sad also because in Ducati I found some great people and we had a lot of great times together. We tried the maximum.”

Stoner initially seemed to back away from an MCN interview that ran this week. “I want to clarify that. That was a lot of context taken out. It was the whole last year and a half. I never did the interview and never said anything like that last week. I still stand by what I said, but it’s been over the last year and a half that it (the interview) was put together.”

Championship leader Jorge Lorenzo at last year’s Indy race

World Championship leader Jorge Lorenzo, riding the factory Yamaha, will be reunited with former teammate Rossi. Lorenzo often outshone Rossi at Yamaha before, the beginning of Rossi’s fall from the podium. A real wall, not a metaphor, separated the two in the garage during their previous partnership. “I think it’s interesting to see how we can handle Valentino and me in the same team and on the same bike,” said Lorenzo. “I’ll be interested to see what’s going on, and for me it’s a great pleasure to be teammates with him again. I always say the wall is a stupid thing. It doesn’t make sense for anything. No wall is OK for me and I think for Vale this time.”

With regards to re-igniting his partnership with former foe Lorenzo, the Italian Rossi commented: “Yeah, will be interesting. We will be very close with Jorge if he agrees. For me, no problem. Now the situation has changed a lot compared to the past, compared to 2008 when Jorge arrive to Yamaha. Now he’s the No. 1 in the team, and our relationship is good. I have respect for him, and he has respect for me. So I think we can stay together. I am sure that together we can form a great team for Yamaha, to try to achieve good result in the next seasons. The next two seasons for me will be hard, especially try to stay with Jorge, also to beat Jorge, because now he’s very, very fast. But I need a bike for enjoy. At this moment of my career I have to enjoy, I have to try to fight and to arrive happy at the racetrack.

“I have always great relationship with Yamaha, also, after I change bike because what’s happened between me and Yamaha was something special. But I trust them 100 percent in Yamaha for next season. So I know that Yamaha will give to me the right bike, the right material. You know, being with Jorge at this moment when he ride very strong and fantastic way, the M1 is difficult. But, you know, I have to try the bike at the end of the season, try to understand the growing up and try to understand if I can be fast like in the past. But, you know, we have to wait the result of the track, like always.”

Rossi also confirmed that he will be taking his crew with him, and that he may even stay beyond 2014 should his move pan out well: “So I think my crew will come with me. More or less the same guys that came with me from Yamaha to Ducati. But is still not decided 100 per cent. And about my future, it will depend a lot on the result of the next two seasons. Because I want to remain more than two seasons in MotoGP but that depends how strong I am and if I’m fast with the M1.”

American Nicky Hayden commented on losing Rossi as a teammate for the second time in his career: “We’ve had a good relationship. I’m not going to be in tears over it. As great as it would have been to see Vale at the front with the Ducati, it just hasn’t happened. As good as it would have been for the sport him winning on a Ducati, him being at the front on anything I think we’ll all benefit from.

“I’m looking forward to the future partnership with Audi. I know it’ll be tough to make any changes in the short term. But it’s an exciting time, and hopefully it’s going to play out for us in terms of financially and technical term with lots of resources, which is something we can hopefully build on. Yeah, if it’s [Rossi’s replacement] Dovi [Andrea Dovizioso], I think he’s probably the best choice out there. He’s got good experience. I’m happy. Spent years at Honda, then now Yamaha, and now come there. I think his experience can be beneficial to our engineers. Of course, I think one of the good things, Dovi doesn’t make a lot of mistakes when he rides. He’s pretty precise, and that’s important. Because if you make a lot of mistakes on the Japanese bike, when you get on the Ducati, that’s just double!”

“I think that to have the opportunity in the future that the situation, things change a lot in Ducati, especially because Audi arrive and give a lot of money but especially a lot of experience, a lot of technical help,” said Rossi. “So a great, good luck to Dovizioso with the Ducati. If he will drive the Ducati, and especially to Ducati good luck to achieve better results than these two seasons.”

“People have been saying for years one rider’s style is similar to another rider’s style and suit the Ducati,” said Stoner, who in reality can’t stop digging at Rossi. “But I think it’s nothing to do with style. It’s pride, personally. However you think a bike should be ridden, you basically have to ride it how it wants to be ridden. You know, you can go to other manufacturers and say that’s how I did it here and it worked, and why isn’t it working there? But I think it’s just about pride, and you need to give that up and ride it the way it needs to be.”

And did the recent break change the 26 year old Stoner’s retirement plans? “No. You know, I think the summer break actually cemented it even more that I want to be away from racing. To be honest, this season has been very tough to find motivation to continue going, to continue pushing all the time. There’s been a few races that I’ve been a little bit downbeat and I’m struggling to find that hunger that I want to really win. So I’m always having to try and chase it and find it somewhere. It’s not always easy. So we’ll continue doing what we’ve been doing and, you know, try and sort some of the issues out and see if we can keep fighting for the championship at the end of the year.

“I think what every rider should be looking for is a little bit of respect. Some of the riders always criticizing each other and things like this and if respect is returned, then there’s not a problem. But I think what we did with Ducati (win the championship) was great, but it wasn’t just me. It was my team, my teammates, everybody that’s helped and actually put a lot of input in toward that bike. So it’s disappointing to see the results they’re getting at the moment, but I hope to see them bounce back soon.

“I think, you know, after two years like this it must be difficult, must be a little bit embarrassing,” Stoner said about Rossi. “He needs to understand if he’s competitive again. So going with a bike that he knows he was last fast with and maybe the only opportunity for a different manufacturer on a factory bike. So I think, you know, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens next year.”

In addition to “embarrassing,” Stoner described Rossi’s Ducati career as “a humbling experience” in the British interview.

“I don’t know what’s been humbling?” said Rossi. “Oh, I cannot say no. I mean, you can use which word you prefer. I mean it was very, very difficult, is very difficult. It’s not true that we don’t try, we try the maximum. But we were never able to be—I was never able to be fast with the Ducati, and this is a great, great pity, a very bad thing, especially for me and for my team.

“I just say that for Ducati the problem—well, the positive problem—was that Stoner was very fast with that bike and was also problem for us. But, you know, the reality is that I was never fast with that bike from the first test to now. And unfortunately together with Ducati we were not able to improve the bike and to fix the problem that the bike have.

“We still have eight races. And now is an important moment because first, this track for me, is always—I was able to win in 2008, but it is a difficult track for me. Last year was very bad. So we have to keep the concentration of me with my team and try to make the maximum. And after is an important period because Brno is a good track, and after Brno we will have some important tests in Misano, and we have to try to improve the bike to improve our pace for the rest of the races because, anyway, eight races is a long way.”

Kentuckian Hayden spoke about the prospect of racing in front of his home crowd: “This one I really consider my home race now, being just across the state line in Kentucky. Indy’s a great track, especially now it’s re-paved it’s gotten a lot better, so looking forward to hopefully having a good weekend.”

Lorenzo has five wins this season and won Indianapolis in 2009. “Yes, in 2009 I won, but in the last two years it was one of my worst races,” said Lorenzo, who nonetheless had podium finishes in those “worst” races.

Stefan Bradl, the current Moto2 champion and in his first season in the MotoGP, is tied for sixth in the World Championship with Hayden. Bradl’s been on the podium here in the 125cc race and, of course, ridden here Moto2, also. “Yes, I know the track, but I’m a little bit worried,” said Bradl. “I’m looking forward for tomorrow. I think they changed asphalt in last season, which was not a disaster but really bad. And this season I still don’t know how is the situation, but hopefully it will be better compared to last year. It’s an OK track for me. It’s not really—I can enjoy riding here, but it’s not one of my favorite ones, but it’s OK.”

Bradl agreed that making the leap onto the podium is a very difficult challenge. “Yes. I mean, they are doing especially in the race every single lap they are quite close to the limit and so precise. This is the biggest difference to what I know from Moto2. Sure the competition is high, but these guys pushing theirselve’s so fast and so hard. Yeah, this is what I still need to improve, but I think I’m on a good way to do that.”

Lorenzo has a 23-point lead over second in points Dani Pedrosa and a 32-point lead over third place Stoner. A good position to be in, though Stoner’s win at Laguna Seca showed it’s still going to be a tough fight. “Yes, of course, it’s going to be tough. We all know that Casey and Dani are very strong this year. We are also strong; compared to last year, much stronger. We have been very consistent, always in the first two positions. This is our main strong point; that’s why we are leading the championship.”

“It’s been very difficult to get on top of him [Jorge Lorenzo],” agreed Stoner. “I think Jorge knows how to handle the pressure. He’s won a lot of World Championships, and he’s been riding pretty much flawlessly this season. We thought his season in 2010 was impressive and, in my opinion, this season is even more so.

“And we have our own issues and problems with the bike that we really need to resolve. Laguna was good for us because it went round to the left, and we have a lot less issues when we go round a left-hand circuit. We’ll have to see how we can do here again. It’s going the right direction for us. But unfortunately when the track does go to the left we ignore a lot of the problems that are created when they go back to the right.  We’ve got a long way to go. We lost a lot of points in a very short amount of time through no fault other than my own.”

Lorenzo spent the last few days at Colin Edwards’ Boot Camp in Texas. Does he expect that to help him in the race? “ I hope, but I don’t think so. I don’t think so. Those bikes are just for fun, just for to keep the concentration to be very focused and to make some approximation of racing, but it’s very far from the feeling you can get in the big bike. Anyway, we have a lot of fun. I’ve been running a lot and getting fitter than before. So, for sure, these weeks have been positive for us because normally all the riders are making their vacations.”

Vacations are over and Indy—scrubbed clean of rubber by Thursday storms—will present a green, difficult challenge for the MotoGP drama circus.

American Ben Spies has had some funky drama of his own this year. Spies, from Longview, Texas, has been plagued by freak occurrences this season, such as a broken rear swingarm, a broken frame, a broken helmet visor and food poisoning. It truly has been a year to forget so far.

But Indianapolis is a perfect place for Spies to turn around his season. He won the pole for the Red Bull Indianapolis GP as a MotoGP rookie in 2010 and finished second in 2010 and third in 2011. The second-place result in 2010 was his first career MotoGP podium finish. “It’s going to be great to get out in front of all the U.S. fans again,” Spies said. “I love racing in America; the reception is always awesome. Indy is a track we go well at, and is pretty special to me for my first GP podium. I’m hoping we can make it three years in a row on the podium here.”

No one could touch Nico Terol in last year’s 125 race

Moto2 rider Nico Terol could become just the eighth competitor – and first motorcycle racer – to win at least four races at the venerable Indianapolis Motor Speedway since it opened in 1909 if he is victorious Sunday, Aug. 19 in the Red Bull Indianapolis GP. Terol won the 125cc race in 2008, 2010 and 2011 on the 16-turn, 2.621-mile road course. Terol would join some pillars of American motorsport on the list of four-time winners at Indy: Indianapolis 500 Indy-car legends A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears, and Brickyard 400 NASCAR dominators Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. Wolf Henzler won four Porsche Supercup support races during Formula One’s run at Indy last decade, and Formula One legend Michael Schumacher won the United States Grand Prix race at Indy five times.

RIP Marco Simoncelli, seen here racing at Indy last year