On Friday, the 17-rider MotoGP grid got its first experience on the refurbished Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the first two free practice sessions for the Red Bull Indy Grand prix.
When the Free Practice 1 got underway, it was all Yamaha Factory Racing’s Ben Spies. The Texan MotoGP pilot remained on top, finishing ahead of Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner and Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s Colin Edwards.
But in Free Practice 2, the current MotoGp points leader Stoner took edged out Spies for the top time. Third fastest during FP2 was Stoner’s teammate, Dani Pedrosa.
As for nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi, he finished sixth in FP1, and 11th in FP2.
Following are what the riders were saying following Friday practice for Indy MotoGP:
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team GP11.1 MotoGP): “The track is better. The grip arrived. I have some problems because I don’t feel the front. It’s the front. I have big trouble from the braking of the turn. The weight distribution is better. We are quite behind. For tomorrow, we have something very different to try. I am very happy about the work on the track. This morning, I was more worried.
“The problem was, unfortunately, nobody used the track. So the track was very dirty in the morning. But, this afternoon you can have quite a normal grip. That’s a sign that the asphalt is OK. The problem is just the dirt. So tomorrow and Sunday it will be better. I think they did a good job on the bumps. If you get offline, you are in the sh*t. It’s like rain. The tires are coming back because the asphalt is perfect; it’s very new.
“Unfortunately, this afternoon, we made a mistake in the setting. But Nicky (Hayden) is not so bad. It looks like our two bikes are making a step, and tomorrow we are trying a more normal setting. I don’t have grip on the front. For tomorrow, we will modify.”
(How hard has it been for you and Nicky to keep your cool during this tough year?): “We have to. Unfortunately, we understood quite early that the work is difficult and longer. Our mission – our target – is to try and bring back the Ducati to the same level of the Yamaha and Honda. We need time because it is long work, something quite bigger. We have to try to improve. The two bikes of me and Nicky, the new model is faster than the old one, but now we need to make other steps. At this moment, we’ve adjusted to ‘we cannot attack – we must defend.'”
Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team GP11.1 MotoGP) says: “It definitely took a few laps to feel out the new surface and get some rubber down this morning, but toward the end of the afternoon session, you could really start carrying some speed in a few corners.
“I have to remember that I probably need a little bit of time to understand the bike, and the team needs more time to understand which direction to work. Still, we’re too far off the pace for my home track, and I certainly had hoped to be faster today. We’ll just stay positive and keep working toward Sunday. The new bike definitely does some things better, but we’ve got to get some weight to transfer to the front so that I can get it to turn.”
Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: “We never could get grip. Some of the bumps are gone. I’m not too sure yet of making any changes. We’ll have to wait until the surface comes in. It’s like riding in wet weather; you’re not getting the bite. We’ll see what it does Saturday.
(About nearly hitting a squirrel): “I saw something out of the corner of my eye. I thought it was a piece off someone else’s bike. And when I went around the corner, that (squirrel) was there. It took me awhile to get going again.”
Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing M1 MotoGP) says:”This morning was, I wouldn’t say dangerous, but it was very unpredictable. But it was to be expected with the new pavement not having any rubber on it. I figured it was going to be like it was the first year when we came in. The whole track was this morning was very inconsistent. This afternoon it was much better, and I expected it to be with the rubber (laid down). We just got to keep our fingers crossed that we don’t see rain. If we don’t see rain, the track’s going to be good Sunday. It’s going to continue to get better. It was a hundred times better this afternoon.”
(On tire performance on the new surface): “The track’s doing funny things to the tires just because it’s a new surface. But that’s just the way it is, and we expected it.”
(On the circuit, in general): “I have to give Indy props for making a racetrack inside an oval as good as it is. It’s not a normal track for us. It’s just a different style of racetrack for us. But we’ve been quick in all the years we’ve been here.”
(On what it means to race at Indy): “It’s huge for the series, for sure. It’s another big honor for me to race here and be an American in MotoGP. I hope they extend the contract, and next year we’d have three American GPs.”
Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing M1 MotoGP) says: “The track has improved, luckily. This morning was terrible. Now it seems quite similar to last year. But if you make a mistake in some corners and go wide in the dirty line, then you can crash. But if you keep the normal line, it’s quite similar to last year. I’m happy for that.”
(Has the new surface eliminated a lot of the problems with the bumps from last year?): “A little bit. We keep having some bumps in some corners. But for sure, this year this has improved.”
(On tire wear): “The rear hard tire is useless. It is not possible to use it here at this track. But we don’t know yet what is the best choice.”
Randy de Puniet (Pramac Racing Ducati GP11 MotoGP) says: “The conditions of the track weren’t so good this morning. The track was very dirty and slippery. This afternoon was better, but our grip was not so good, and the problem was we destroyed the tire so quick. This is a big problem for everybody. The new asphalt is better for the bumps, but the tire and the grip is not so good. We will try to set the front tire tomorrow and hope the grip improves.”
Loris Capirossi (Pramac Racing Ducati GP11 MotoGP) says: “I am quite satisfied with how we built the bike in the second session. Certainly we can still improve a lot for the upcoming practices. The grip of the tires is not the best but unlike other riders this should not be so bad. This is a positive thing that could come back to our advantage during Sunday’s race.”
Colin Edwards (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha M1 MotoGP) says: “This morning it felt like I was back at the Texas Tornado Boot Camp but just riding a more expensive bike because it was pretty slippery out there. To be honest, I actually really enjoyed it, even though the grip was a bit sketchy. We all knew that grip was going to be a little bit of an issue this morning, but it was 100 percent dirt track.
“As soon as you got your knee on the ground, the front would go and the rear would come round, but I still had a lot of fun with the bike moving around so much. This afternoon, with a lot more rubber down, it was a lot better, and hats off to the folks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“They’ve done an amazing job because the bumps that have been really bad have mostly gone, and with a bit more rubber down, the surface is going to offer a lot more grip. We won’t feel the benefit of the new tarmac this year, but the changes are for the future, and next year it is going to be a million times better. Being third this morning and sixth this afternoon has given me a lot of confidence for the rest of the weekend. I’m not fighting the bike this weekend, and it feels awesome.”
Cal Crutchlow (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha M1 MotoGP): “This morning was pretty difficult because the track was very slippery, and I was having to contend with not a lot of grip while also trying to push to learn the track. Sometimes I’d run off line, and it was so dirty that I was losing a lot of time.
“The track was in much better condition this afternoon, but it felt like I didn’t have the front grip I needed to push for a faster time. We had a lot of wear on the tire and not much grip, and I’m not sure why. The issue this year has been losing the front on the brakes, but today I was losing the front mid-corner and off the throttle.
“I’m sure we can make some big steps with the setup, and I’m confident I can climb a few places up the order and fight for a top 10 in qualifying tomorrow. The good thing is that every single lap we make improvements and I go faster, so if we can get more front-end feeling then I’m looking forward to having a strong race.”
Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V MotoGP) says: “The track is more flat than last year. We had some some bumps entering the corners, but this year they are completely flat. After the first practice, there was not much rubber on the track. It was too green, but I think the track conditions will improve with practice after practice. For sure, the track is in much better condition than last year. The course is getting a little quicker, but we had some problem with the front tire. After four or five laps, it is almost destroyed on the left side.”
Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V MotoGP) says: “The new track surface created very unusual conditions. We tried to modify the set-up after this morning’s session and found a slight improvement. It is clearly still not as good as it could be so we will try and improve it tomorrow and above all find more grip.”
Andrea Dovizioso (Respol Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: “One of the reasons is that the track is really dirty. Second, nobody has raced on this new asphalt. Tomorrow, we will improve a lot. We don’t have enough time to work (Friday), to lose a session (first) like this was bad. You have just driving, to get a feeling.
“You can’t change the tires. It’s like driving in the wet: Keep the same tire and take every laps, more risk, more risk, until you are at the limit. You have to be very smooth and be free of brake to change direction. I’m confident conditions will improve a lot for the race, so that this session was not important. My career here is not so good. Our goal is to do a podium.”
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: “The track improved a little in the second practice session, at least on the racing line, but outside the line the surface is still very dirty and slippery. However, we made some better lap times; it’s just about getting a good setup with the tyres and trying to take care of them.
“Let’s hope that the conditions keep improving throughout the weekend and we can keep working step by step on the set up considering that the tyres will be the key point in this race.
“In general, I’m happier than this morning, we were able to improve by four seconds in just one session, but we have to keep focused and make another step forward tomorrow.”
Alvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki GSVR MotoGP): “It is getting better that we have more rubber on the ground, so now it is starting to be a fine ride on the Indy track. We were improving step by step. I improved my lap time by three seconds. The bike will be better tomorrow. We have to adjust it a little, and I think (Saturday) will be a little quicker.”
Toni Elias (LCR Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: “This morning we had a difficult situation with a slippery track. This afternoon it improved a lot. We were much better. We got to work with setups we like. The track is coming a bit better. We make improvement Saturday; we have a good race.”