Stoner the man to catch as Indianapolis gears up
Nicky Hayden, Dani Pedrosa, Championship leader Casey Stoner, Ben Spies and Marco Simoncelli were the MotoGP quintet in attendance at the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix press conference on Thursday afternoon.
The famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosts the 12th round of the 2011 MotoGP World Championship this weekend, the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix, and on Thursday afternoon the pre-event press conference brought together a quintet of premier class stars to preview the action.
Casey Stoner’s control at the top of the standings grew to 32 points after his victory at Brno in the previous round, his second consecutive win and a sixth of the season so far, and the Repsol Honda rider admitted that he arrives at Indianapolis with the aim of getting into his rhythm a lot quicker than the past two rounds.
“We’ve had a couple of tough race weekends leading up to the race but then we’ve managed to pull things together for race day and get ourselves up front,” said Stoner of his last two wins, which came in impressive style. “We definitely arrive here with more confidence. If we can get set up a little bit faster here it’s going to be a lot more relaxing.”
Stoner added: “It’s a very challenging track, it’s not a normal brake, enter and exit the corner circuit, there are some tricky little sections to it and there are some faster sections that take more guts than some corners. I’ll be looking forward to taking on this track with the Honda.”
The Australian’s team-mate Dani Pedrosa, who crashed out of the Brno race whilst leading from pole position, won here last year and will be hoping to replicate the positive weekend he had in the Czech Republic up until his fall.
In the past I’ve been quite good here, I’ve had a pole and a win, and last year’s race was amazing for me.
“In the past I’ve been quite good here, I’ve had a pole and a win, and last year’s race was amazing for me. I hope this year we can have a good weekend again and a good race,” said Pedrosa, who continues to feel more comfortable with every race. “Every week I feel a little better, the stability of the shoulder is getting better and my feeling is good now – it’s not as it was before I broke the collarbone but I can feel well on the bike this weekend.”
“Last race was a disappointing result but the weekend overall wasn’t too bad. I was very happy with the performance, and I hope to repeat it here and then in the race,” he concluded.
For Yamaha Factory Racing’s Ben Spies the circuit holds special memories of last year, where he took his first and so far only MotoGP pole position, led the race and finished in second place.
“It’s a huge race, being Indy, and it’s another home race for me. There will be a lot of support from the home crowd and family and friends,” said the Texan, who hopes to benefit from an updated engine tested after the Brno GP. “We have a couple of new pieces this weekend, hopefully to make the bike a bit better. The track surface is different so whilst we don’t have to re-learn the track we have some differences from last year.”
Spies also hopes his physical condition permits him to push harder, having been affected by a pinched nerve in his neck in the last race which caused numbness in his left arm.
“It’s one of those frustrating things, not knowing going into the weekend,” he said. “We’ve done everything we can in the last week that we’ve had off. Coming into a weekend knowing you’re not 100% is frustrating but it’s not going to stop us from trying like we did at Brno and giving 100%.”
Fellow American Nicky Hayden is another rider with high hopes having previously stepped onto the podium twice at Indianapolis, and the Ducati Team rider tried out the newly resurfaced track section – from Turn 5 through to Turn 16 – earlier this month.
“The new surface is definitely a lot smoother than it was previously, and it’s not as patchy,” he said. “Now from Turn 5 all the way to the finish will be the same asphalt so we’ll get out there tomorrow and see how quick it comes in once we put some rubber down. You never really know with a new surface what it will do to the tyres, whether it’ll wear them a lot or not, but the asphalt is really smooth – almost like glass – so I don’t expect any tyre wear issues.”
Hayden will also ride the Desmosedici GP11.1 for the full weekend having had a chance to fully try it out at Brno. “I tested the bike at Brno for a full day and had a pretty solid day,” he commented. “I was a lot more consistent and quicker than I was on Sunday so I thank Ducati for getting the bike to me: it’s definitely something in the direction of the future. It has a few advantages to it so hopefully I can do it justice and get some good results, this weekend would be a good time to start!”
San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Marco Simoncelli scored his first premier class podium last time out and hopes the result will prove the first of many rostrums.
“I tried all season to get a podium and finally I did it. Now I hope to continue like this,” said the Italian. “Throughout the season I’ve shown very good pace in practice, now I hope to show it in the race. For me my potential is higher than eighth position in the Championship and for sure I’ll try to do my best until the end of the season and improve my position.”