David C. Schilke
Starting from Friday, Casey Stoner showed he had the pace to be untouchable in today’s Indianapolis GP, held on the newly paved MotoGP circuit at the brickyard. The Australian set his Repsol Honda on pole with a new track record on Saturday, which he was able to translate into victory today. Stoner has now earned a hat-trick of races for the second half of the season, starting and ending in America. His first of the trio was claimed at the US GP at Mazda Laguna Seca in Monterey, California before picking up the second at Brno in the Czech Republic. In total this marks his seventh win of the year and the Australian now has a commanding lead in the championship standings.
“I’m very happy to win here at the Brickyard," said Stoner. "We had a really good setup all weekend and felt good with the track. I was struggling with the grip but I suppose in comparison with everyone else we felt pretty good. For the race we knew we had a good setup and the pace. We struggled a bit in the first few laps but once we got going we managed to do the laptimes we thought we could get to. The heat today made the race very hard and it was a lot of hard work out front, trying to stay consistent and trying not to run wide onto that greasy part of the track.”
I’m very happy to win here at the Brickyard. We had a really good setup all weekend and felt good with the track.
Before the race start, it appeared Stoner would find his biggest fight from American Ben Spies, as the Yamaha rider qualified second and was quickest in this morning’s warm up. Yet both Stoner and Spies struggled off the line while their rivals jumped ahead into the lead. Dani Pedrosa took the top spot with Jorge Lorenzo slotting in second, leaving Stoner to fight for third place after Turn 1.
Spies had an even harder time coming out of the first turn and fought hard to keep in touch with the leaders but ended up falling down the order to 7th place upon making contact with Andrea Dovizioso in Turn 4.
Soon however, Stoner was back at his record pace. The Australian rider first picked off Lorenzo in the second lap, and was around Pedrosa by lap 7 for the lead. Stoner would go on to lead his Honda teammate to the checkered flag. “To be able to finish second is unbelievable for me here,” said Pedrosa.
"We are very happy with second place today for several reasons. After yesterday's qualifying session, we had to work hard to reduce the one second gap we had from Casey, it wasn't normal to be so far away from him. To finish second after the crash in Brno is a great feeling," added the Spaniard.
Spies had a lot more work cut out for him but rose to the challenge first picking off Dovizioso and then Marco Simoncelli on his way to catch up with Yamaha teammate Lorenzo. Spies made a clean pass around the reigning champ for third heading into Turn 1 with 11 laps to go. Lorenzo went wide to try and cut under the Tennessean but lost grip on the marbles and had to settle for fourth in today’s race. “The result could be a bit different but it wouldn’t have changed much,” said Spies when asked if a better start would have meant Spies could have challenged Stoner for the win.
“My actual start wasn’t too bad, just a couple of people got into turn one too hot and I got bottled in. I think Dovi came across in front of me in turn four and I was just glad to stay on the bike. I never even saw him. After that happened we just had to pluck away and not get ahead of ourselves. We rode well but just needed to be up there in the first four turns. I rode as fast as I could; it was tough to pass out there as we couldn’t get it done on the straight so we had to figure out some different spots. I was happy to be able to do that and still run good pace at the end,” added the American.
Dovizioso rounded out the top five, the third Repsol Honda rider put in a consistent run while other riders shuffled up and down the order around him. Simoncelli tumbled down the field as his front tire wore away, leaving the door open for Dovizioso to pass followed by Alvaro Bautista and Colin Edwards. Bautista earned his best finish for the Rizla Suzuki team this year with 6th while the Texan Yamaha Tech 3 rider placed another solid top ten finish in seventh. Unfortunately, 12th would be the best for Simoncelli and the San Carlo Honda Gresini team by the end of the race. His Gresini teammate, Hiroshi Aoyama, closed the weekend with ninth.
"Unfortunately today my race only really lasted five laps," lamented Simoncelli, "during which time I had a lot of fun – it's just a shame about the other 23! We have had this problem all weekend and even though we thought we had improved the situation this morning it was only because the track temperatures were lower."
It was a lackluster race for the Ducati riders in the field, as three bikes dropped out before the end of the race. Most notably was Hector Barbera's spill on the final lap when exiting the final turn. Meanwhile, Nicky Hayden had visited the pits and became the last of the runners at the finish. The American rider was visibly upset as he fell down the order; his choice of the softer front tire proved to be wrong.
“It was a really tough day," admitted Hayden. "We thought the soft front tyre could be a good option for the race, but unfortunately it only worked for seven or eight laps. Then I began to steadily lose ground until it even began shaking on the straightaways, and I had to come in. Since you’ve got to finish to get points, I went back out, and it was actually worth getting two points."
The best Ducati rider was Randy de Puniet and the Pramac Ducati team finishing in eighth. Valentino Rossi, who started in 14th on the grid, moved up to tenth for the main Ducati team; a disappointing result for the Italian who was slow all weekend.
“A number of things happened this weekend that contributed to making this a particularly difficult race," explained Rossi, "the crash yesterday in qualifying, which robbed some confidence and was part of the reason we had to start so far back on the grid, and today there was a problem with the gearbox. The bike stuck in neutral six or seven times, and the first two caused me to go straight and lose time. I found myself in last place, but I decided to do what I could to at least get some points."
There are six races left on the calendar and Stoner is 44 points ahead of Lorenzo, making the Australian just six points shy of leading the championship by two full race wins. In a week's time their battle will carry on at Italy's Misano circuit, for the San Marino GP to start the final third of the season. Lorenzo is clearly still in the fight but at each race where Stoner finishes ahead, it adds more pressure on the Spaniard as he wants to earn a back to back title. With Stoner having won the majority of this year's races ran so far, it would seem that chance for Lorenzo is slowly slipping away.