The second ever World Championship visit to Indianapolis Motor Speedway takes place this weekend following 2008’s historic inaugural Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix, with last year’s race-winner Valentino Rossi looking for another victory to augment his standings lead at the twelfth round of the season. It is another special occasion for MotoGP as the event coincides with Indy’s 100th anniversary, the circuit having been constructed in 1909.
In the first ever premier class MotoGP World Championship contest at the famous ‘Brickyard’ last year Rossi took maximum points as he was awarded the win, leading by six seconds when the scheduled 28 lap race was curtailed on the 20th lap, with Nicky Hayden and Jorge Lorenzo placing second and third respectively.
Rossi and his MotoGP rivals will hope for good weather this time out – following last year’s event when the remnants of Hurricane Ike hit raceday at the iconic American venue – with the Italian star hoping to increase his current 50 point championship advantage, on the back of yet another success story in the Czech Republic at the last round.
Rossi’s Fiat Yamaha team-mate Lorenzo finished just in front of him on the timesheet in the second and final post-race test of the year on the Monday after the Czech race and the Spaniard will aim to bounce back from his two DNFs at Brno and Donington Park, as he attempts to claw his way back into the title battle with six Grands Prix remaining. Lorenzo is to compete at Indianapolis with his 2010 ride already sorted, following the news that he is to continue with Yamaha for another year.
In the continued absence of the recuperating Casey Stoner, who remains in Australia and is expected back on track at Estoril early in October, the bookies’ favourite to feature on the podium with Rossi and Lorenzo is Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa – who was second in the Brno race and sits fourth in the general classification, 77 points adrift of Rossi.
For Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Colin Edwards the second U.S. visit of the year gives him the chance to consolidate his top five championship position as he attempts to improve on a disappointing 15th place finish in last year’s Indy race. Edwards’ fellow American Hayden – 14th in the championship at present – would love to repeat his 2008 Indianapolis result and get on the podium for the first time with Ducati.
Also aiming for the same goal is Pedrosa’s team-mate and Hayden’s replacement at Honda, Andrea Dovizioso, who just missed out on the rostrum again at Brno and was fifth in the inaugural MotoGP Indianapolis contest last September. Dovizioso lies sixth in the standings, just ahead of Honda satellite counterpart Randy de Puniet who has ridden consistently in 2009 and is due to make a decision soon on where he will ride next year.
Eighth placed Marco Melandri will compete at Indianapolis safe in the knowledge that a ride with San Carlo Honda Gresini has been confirmed for next year, whilst his fellow top ten representatives Loris Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen, of the Rizla Suzuki team, are also likely to confirm their future plans in due course, with both hoping for strong Indy performances.
The weekend will see Finnish rider Mika Kallio continue in the factory Ducati team as Stoner’s temporary replacement, whilst young Spaniard Aleix Espargaró gets an exciting chance to ride for the Pramac Racing team on the satellite Ducati Desmosedici GP9 vacated by Kallio.
For 250cc standings leader Hiroshi Aoyama and the majority of his World Championship rivals this Sunday’s race will be their first ever at The Brickyard, after last year’s cancellation of the intermediate category’s racing due to the intervention of the aforementioned Hurricane Ike.
With six rounds remaining Aoyama’s closest threat for the championship lead comes from Álvaro Bautista, who has just announced that he will move into MotoGP with Suzuki in 2010. Japanese rider Aoyama could be making the move up to the premier class too, but first comes the business of this year’s World title, with Indianapolis next up.
Scot Racing’s Aoyama, who was fourth at Brno in the last round, holds a 12 point lead over Spaniard Bautista, with the Mapfre Apsar rider having closed the gap slightly with his third place finish in the Czech Republic.
World Champion Marco Simoncelli re-emerged in the title race at Brno with his third victory of the year, as he seeks to defend his crown before joining San Carlo Honda Gresini in MotoGP next year. Simoncelli would have started last year’s 250cc Indy race in pole position had it not been cancelled and he will aim for another high level performance as he seeks to chase down a 32 point deficit against Aoyama.
Héctor Barberá trails Simoncelli by a further 17 points in fourth place in the standings and he qualified in second place last year at Indianapolis, before a serious back injury ended his season prematurely at the subsequent round in Japan. The Spaniard has bravely returned to action this year and earned himself a MotoGP ride with the new Ducati-Aspar team for 2010.
In fifth place in the championship, Italian rider Mattia Pasini has just had a first ever taste of MotoGP himself, riding for Pramac Racing in the Monday test in the Czech Republic – having crossed the line just 0.684s behind compatriot Simoncelli in second position in the 250cc Brno race.
The category’s current top ten also comprises Raffaele de Rosa, Alex Debon, Héctor Faubel, Roberto Locatelli and Thomas Luthi.
Julián Simón will also make his Indianapolis race debut on Sunday in the 125cc class, having been part of the 2008 250cc field which was unable to race due to the weather conditions.
Nonetheless, the clear title favourite will go into the weekend in a confident mood, having secured his eighth podium of the season last time out in second place in the Czech Republic – which gave him a 54.5 point standings lead with six races remaining. Simón had qualified in tenth place last year at Indy on a 250cc machine, but the Spaniard has proved to be far more effective on 125cc machinery this season.
Nico Terol sits second in the championship behind his countryman and he too will be brimming with self-belief as he heads across the Atlantic Ocean to Indiana. Terol was last year’s 125cc winner in the historic first ever Indianapolis race (a contest also shortened due to the weather) and was victorious in the Czech Republic just over one week ago.
Below Terol in the standings are Simón’s Aspar team-mates Bradley Smith and Sergio Gadea, with Smith eight points behind Terol and Gadea just half a point adrift of the Englishman.
Ongetta Team ISPA’s Andrea Iannone – who is fifth in the championship – saw his rollercoaster season continue with third place in Brno, whilst Pol Espargaró (Derbi Racing Team) was fifth in the Czech Republic and will look to repeat or better his 2008 result of second place at Indianapolis. Completing the present 125cc top ten are Sandro Cortese, Marc Márquez, Jonas Folger and Stefan Bradl.
The 2009 Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix takes place from Friday 28th to Sunday 30th August, with free practice commencing on Friday afternoon.