Ike shortens Indy GP


The Doctor in wet practice session

Valentino Rossi pretty much cemented his sixth premier-class title with his 69th premier-class win (bettering Giacomo Agostini’s record of 68) at the Red Bull Moto GP in Indianapolis on Sunday, Sept. 14.

Vicious weather was the story of the weekend, as the edges of Hurricane Ike blew wild storms, wind, and heavy rain through the region. The Moto GP race was red-flagged and called complete after 20 of 28 laps and the 250 race was cancelled completely, mostly due to high winds and power outages at the track, although the return of heavy rain in the last few laps certainly made the call even easier.

Andrea Dovizioso on the JiR Scot Honda got the hole-shot, but local boy Nicky Hayden (he lives just three hours down the road in Owensboro, Kentucky) overhauled him quickly on the Repsol Honda and established a decent lead. Hayden said, "Man, you know, I had nothing to lose here and, I mean, just had to go for it. The bike felt pretty good in the wet when it wasn’t heavy water and I felt confident before the race. And, man, out front leading early, it’s been a long time since I led a race."

The lead started dripping away as none other than Valentino Rossi shortly appeared on Hayden’s tail, the Fiat Yamaha rider having disposed of the rest of the field by half-distance. Rossi soon got by and inched away bit by bit and looked in command until the red flags fell.


Hayden and Spies practice at Indy

After the race, Rossi said, "Yes, I think are the worst condition of all my career, because together with the new track and the new surface have also a lot of water on the surface and at the end the bigger problem was the wind. I was in front and … the wind is very inconstant and very strong, so you never know what’s happened in the straight. The bike take all the track … every lap I look and I say, ‘I hope for the red flag, I hope for the red flag.’ And, in fact, eight laps to go I think is a good decision."

Rossi’s team-mate Jorge Lorenzo took the third podium position, the first time the young Spaniard has ever done so in the rain. "I was so, personally I didn’t want to race before the race because I was so safe in my motor home … I was surprised all the race because in the start I got a good start, so I thought, ‘OK, I know how to start, no?’ Is good. And after in the second lap, I pass Dani and I know I can go fast in the rain, and also in the third I passed Dovizioso, and I thought, ‘Good, no?’ After I passed Valentino, it’s amazing in the rain! [but still] in Motegi, I hope not to rain. Rains is better now because I have the one podium!"

U.S. Suzuki ace Ben Spies collected a remarkable fifth-place in qualifying and a sixth-place finish in the race, handily spanking both of the Rizla Suzuki regulars (who have both been re-signed for 2009 in a move the factory may well already be regretting). Spies said after the race that he believed "Suzuki gave me a fourth-place bike," but said his visor misted up so badly at the end he could hardly see where he was going and was happy to take sixth.

It’s no secret that the young Texan is dying to join Moto GP, but Suzuki can’t afford to run a third bike and there’s really no readily-available room anywhere else at the moment. It’ll be interesting to see how it falls out, though, since in his three wild card outings this year he’s impressed even the most jaded paddock observers with his speed and maturity.

Despite the difficult conditions over the weekend, the general feeling in the Moto GP paddock was that the Indianapolis facility had done a terrific job creating a new track out of nothing, and that with a few relatively minor improvements it could be superb.


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