MOTOGP: Round 11 – Indianapolis, United States – Aug 29

Blue skies and 95F temperatures greeted this year’s MotoGP event at Indianapolis, as two home heroes – Tech 3’s Ben Spies and Ducacti’s Nicky Hayden – lined up on the front row of the grid, both of them energised by the signing of contracts for 2011: Spies replacing Valentino Rossi and Hayden remaining at Ducacti to become Rossi’s new team mate. But all eyes were on the man between them on the front row – Jorge Lorenzo, with a seemingly unassailable grip on the 2010 championship, his eyes set on extending his lead still further at the second American round of MotoGP of the year.

At the start, Spies got the perfect getaway while Lorenzo (in a distinctive Iron Man helmet for the weekend) got swamped by the crowd and fell to fifth; surprisingly, Dani Pedrosa didn’t get his usual rocket getaway to the front (although he all-but barged the sluggish Lorenzo out of the way) and instead it was his Repsol Honda team mate Andrea Dovizioso who got the better start and settled into second behind Spies and ahead of Hayden, Pedrosa and Lorenzo, with Rossi settling into sixth and Casey Stoner stumbling to ninth place.

Pedrosa suddenly found his form three laps in and started putting in fastest laps, racing past Nicky Hayden who was struggling with an errant kneeslider that had been ripped away after catching it on a kerb, limiting his ability to lean into the left-handers; Nicky fell back to sixth on lap 5 after getting overtaken by his team mate Casey Stoner who was slowly finding his pace as the race bedded in, only to lose the front end and crash out on lap 8 – the front-end wash-out being a worrying trademark of many of the bikes at Indianapolis this weekend. Stoner complained that he’d been forced to turn in harder than he wanted because of the number of “demon late brakers” that he was having to contend with, and he looked frustrated and depressed as he sat in the pits watching the remainder of the race.

Spies continued to lead, but Pedrosa was past Dovizioso and eating chunks of of the Tech 3 rider’s lead, the Spaniard taking the lead across the start/finish line at the start of lap 8 and immediately setting the fastest lap of the race. Furthr back, Dovizioso was locked in battle trying to keep Lorenzo behind him, both of them having their moments on lap 9 showing just how hard they were pushing and Valentino Rossi shadowing them waiting to pick up an advantage form any accidents that might ensue.

Lorenzo finally outpowered Dovizioso down the start/finish straight at the beginning of lap 12, but by this point Pedrosa had a 3.3s led over Spies who was another 3s ahead of Jorge: it seemed that third place on the podium would be the very best that the championship leader could do today, but that would do very nicely in terms of the title campaign. And before he could rely on that he would have to continue to stay ahead of Dovizioso and Rossi who were closing up on his rear. By lap 20, Lorenzo had pulled out a bit of a comfort gap, leaving Doviozoso to drift wide and fall prey to a smart move from Rossi for fourth place, but Rossi had nothing more left to take the battle to Lorenzo.

With everyone pretty spaced out, and Pedrosa comfortably in charge at the front, the remainder of the race played out without further incident, and talk show host (and avid motor sport fan) Jay Leno greeted the winner home with the chequered flag. Pedrosa had done all he could to keep the MotoGP championship alive and exciting, but with Lorenzo coming home in third, Jorge’s lead was hardly dented.

The first retirement of the afternoon was Marco Melandri on lap 3, his 200th Grand Prix ending in premature retirement. Colin Edwards had a miserable race, dropping to last place before pulling into the pits with problem with the selected hard compound tyres simply not handling in the hotter weather of race day, while Mika Kallio hit a bump on the track going into turn 10 and crashed on lap 19.

It was a race that seemed to test all the riders to their very limit, as Rossi’s exhausted demeanour back in the pits proved beyond doubt as he practically slumped into the arms of his support team. Dani Pedrosa also professed himself very tired and in need of a lie down, while Jorge Lorenzo was similarly afflicted, disappearing from the end-of-race media circus after complaining of a dizzy spell.

Probably nothing serious, especially as the next round of the MotoGP campaign comes in just seven days at Misano – home turf for Rossi, so he’ll be hoping that his return to full fitness and true form will start there.

Race result

Pos  Rider             Team                  Time/Gap
 1.  Dani Pedrosa      Honda               47:31.615s
 2.  Ben Spies         Tech 3 Yamaha        +  3.575s
 3.  Jorge Lorenzo     Yamaha               +  6.812s
 4.  Valentino Rossi   Yamaha               + 12.633s
 5.  Andrea Dovizioso  Honda                + 21.885s
 6.  Nicky Hayden      Ducati               + 35.138s
 7.  Marco Simoncelli  Gresini Honda        + 36.740s
 8.  Alvaro Bautista   Suzuki               + 36.825s
 9.  Aleix Espargaro   Pramac Ducati        + 44.905s
10.  Hector Barbera    Aspar Ducati         + 51.368s
11.  Loris Capirossi   Suzuki               + 55.386s
12.  Hiroshi Aoyama    Interwetten Honda    + 57.903s
13.  Randy de Puniet   LCR Honda          + 1:04.139s

Retirements:

     Mika Kallio       Pramac Ducati      18 laps
     Colin Edwards     Tech 3 Yamaha      16 laps
     Casey Stoner      Ducati             7 laps
     Marco Melandri    Gresini Honda      1 lap

MotoGP championship standings

Riders                       Teams
Pos Rider             Pts    Pos Team              Pts
1   Jorge Lorenzo     251    1   Yamaha            260
2   Dani Pedrosa      183    2   Honda             220
3   Andrea Dovizioso  126    3   Ducati            159
4   Casey Stoner      119    4   Suzuki            56
5   Valentino Rossi   114
6   Ben Spies         110
7   Nicky Hayden      109
8   Randy De Puniet   78
9   Marco Simoncelli  63
10  Marco Melandri    61
11  Colin Edwards     57
12  Hector Barbera    54
13  Loris Capirossi   41
14  Aleix Espargaro   39
15  Alvaro Bautista   33
16  Mika Kallio       31
17  Hiroshi Aoyama    22
18  Alex De Angelis   11
19  Roger Lee Hayden  5
20  Kousuke Akiyoshi  4
21  Wataru Yoshikawa  1
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