After a 125cc race which was run mostly in the dry, being red-flagged 6 laps from the end after it started to rain, the rain has begun in earnest. The start of the 250 race has been delayed due to high winds and very heavy rain, and no word yet on how this will affect the rest of the schedule.
Dorna have just announced that the 250 race will now be run at 4:30pm local time, after the MotoGP race. That presumes, of course, that the MotoGP race can take place at a track which is currently being lashed by the remnants of hurricane Ike.
Spanish TV just interviewed a member of Race Direction, and he said that they will be trying to dry the more dangerous parts of the track mechanically, and hope to run the MotoGP race at 3pm local time without problems. The track may well still be wet, but it shouldn't be completely inundated. The weather radar shows that most of the rain is moving to the north of Indianapolis, sparing the track of the worst of the weather.
We will keep you updated as soon as we know more.
To understand American motorcycle racing, you have to understand flat track: large capacity motorcycles running as fast as possible round a mostly oval dirt track without a front brake. The sight and sound is impressive, and seeing crowds of riders firing into a corner with the rear kicked out is one of the most awe-inspiring spectacles on the planet.
It's a spectacle you have to see, and of all the flat track races held in the US, the Indy Mile is the most famous. And fortunately for us, Tim White, one of the most promising motorcycle photographers currently working in the US, attended the Indy Mile, and sent us his photos. Enjoy!
Flat Track Legend Chris Carr during qualifying.
Pink And Fast: Nichole Cheza
Henry Wiles during practice
Chris Carr during the heat
Ken Coolbeth leads the pack.
Chris Carr leads his heat
Chris Carr leads Sam Halbert
Nicky Hayden has unfinished business at the mile: he needs to win one to achieve a grand slam.
Harley-Davidson still make racing motorcycles, and Willie G. came to take a look.
Kawasaki have finally officially announced the news that had been unofficially made public since Brno, that Marco Melandri will be riding for the factory next year. The team issued an official press release today, announcing that Melandri has signed a two-year deal to ride for Kawasaki for the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
Although Melandri will be glad to see the back of the apparently terrifying Ducati Desmosedici GP8, the Kawasaki has hardly been the hot ticket to success this year. Ant West has consistently propped up the timesheets, unless the rain gods happened to help the Australian along, and when not absent due to injury, John Hopkins has been almost entirely anonymous in midfield. Where the Ducati is fast but hard to ride, it seems the Kawasaki is much easier to ride, but completely lacking in grip front and rear.
The first chance that the general public will get to see whether the move has been a good one or not will be immediately after the final race of the season at Valencia at the end of October. Melandri is due to test the Kawasaki for the first time officially then. Paddock rumors run that Melandri has already tested at Kawasaki's private test track at Autopolis, and broke the track record. Whether that is true or not, we will see soon enough just how fast Melandri can be in green.
For most of this year, qualifying has followed a reasonably predictable pattern. A couple of laps after his out lap, Casey Stoner would seize pole position, gradually turning the thumbscrews on the rest of the field. About halfway through the session, Randy de Puniet would be the first rider out on qualifying tires and snatch pole from Stoner. His glory would be short-lived, however, lasting only until Stoner threw on the first set of qualifiers, then the process would repeat itself, the only real question being how big Stoner's margin would be over the rest, and whether Valentino Rossi would manage to qualify on the front row.
The inaugural Indianapolis MotoGP race was anything but predictable, and turned into one of the most fascinating and thrilling sessions of the entire year. This may have been due to the fact that the session was the first truly dry outing of the weekend, with both Friday's sessions having been held in torrential rain, and Saturday's morning free practice session starting off damp, and only really drying out towards the end. And so for most teams, the first 20 minutes of the session were spent searching for some kind of dry weather set up, before they could even think about qualifying.
The session started much as expected, with Casey Stoner the first rider to crack into the 1'43s, but just 10 minutes into the session, the fast laps were flying thick and fast. Ben Spies, Sylvain Guintoli, Nicky Hayden, Jorge Lorenzo, Randy de Puniet and Toni Elias all held provisional pole at one point, as the times edged towards the mid-1'43 mark, and beyond.
But with 20 minutes of the session gone, the really fast times started to shake out. Naturally, the first of the fastest was Casey Stoner, the Australian shaving nearly 3/10ths off Elias' time with a lap of 1'43.105, but he wasn't to be the only quick man. Just a couple of minutes later, Valentino Rossi took 8/100ths off Stoner's provisional pole, improving to 1'43.021.
Rossi wasn't finished there: his provisional pole was just the first in a sequence of fast laps, eventually taking pole down to 1'42.945. But Rossi wasn't the only rider capable of running fast on race tires. Nicky Hayden was running low 1'43s, smoking his rear tire in crowd-pleasing fashion through some of the long left handers, while Toni Elias was also getting quicker. So quick, in fact, that the Spaniard took his Alice Ducati to provisional pole with an impressive 1'42.741, 2/10ths quicker than Rossi's previous time.
But Elias' time on race tires was sure to go once the qualifiers appeared, and shortly after the halfway mark, Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen was the first to give it a shot. Surprisingly, the Australian could only improve to 3rd, falling well short of Elias' pole time, but by now, a whole mess of riders were in for soft qualifying rubber. Ben Spies, Alex de Angelis and Colin Edwards were all out on qualifiers, but only Edwards put his tires to the best use, taking provisional pole with a 1'42.412. De Angelis could only manage 4th, while Ben Spies was suffering from his lack of experience with qualifiers, improving only to 7th.
Not everyone was out on qualifiers, and Casey Stoner has always managed to be plenty fast on race rubber. With 23 minutes of the session left, Stoner took 1/10th off Elias' fastest time on race tires, and a full 3/10ths off Rossi.
But by now, the qualifying tires were flying thick and fast. First Nicky Hayden took back provisional pole, before the Frenchman Randy de Puniet got close to the 1'41 mark, with a lap of 1'42.027. With a quarter of the session left, de Puniet took another shot, and this time hit his mark firmly between the eyes, with a lap of 1'41.570.
Valentino Rossi also took a shot, and though he got into the 1'41s, he could not get close enough to take pole from the LCR Honda rider. A minute later, his Fiat Yamaha team mate did just that, setting the fastest time with a 1'41.488.
As the session entered the final 10 minutes, the already hectic pace exploded. Everyone and anyone was going quickly, but 4 names kept popping up at the front. Nicky Hayden took pole first, with a 1'41.271, before Valentino Rossi took it back with a 1'41.031, while Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner followed very closely behind.
The dying minutes saw the riders taking their final shot on soft rubber, with Valentino Rossi the first to cross the line for the final time, in a blistering time of 1'40.776. At first he looked like being threatened by Nicky Hayden, but the American lost out in the third section, as his smoking rear tire got the better of him. In the end, only Casey Stoner was capable of following Rossi into the 1'40s, coming up a tenth short to take pole, while Jorge Lorenzo consolidated his strong performance at Misano by taking 3rd, 4/10ths behind Rossi, and just ahead of Nicky Hayden.
Ben Spies finished the session in 5th, fastest of the Suzukis by far, and an impressive showing by the young American, considering his limited time on qualifying tires. Spies sits ahead of Randy de Puniet, showing once again that he is capable of putting in incredibly fast laps when needed, though whether he can hold that pace during the race remains to be seen.
Andrea Dovizioso heads up the third row of the grid, ahead of his (probable) team mate for next year, Dani Pedrosa, now on the pneumatic valve engined Honda RC212V and Bridgestone tires, while Toni Elias was unlucky to finish only 9th. Elias was incredibly quick on race tires, but suffered a crash in the last 20 minutes of the session, and lost valuable time trying to qualify. James Toseland rounds out the top 10, just ahead of his team mate Colin Edwards.
Valentino Rossi's pole snaps Casey Stoner's string of 7 poles in a row, but the picture remains the same. Both Stoner and Rossi are the fastest of the bunch, with a sizable gap back to the following group. Stoner is 3/10ths ahead of 3rd place man Jorge Lorenzo, while less than 8/10ths covers 3rd to 12th.
More importantly, qualifying is a poor reflection of times on race tires. On harder rubber, it was Casey Stoner who was fastest, ahead of Toni Elias, Valentino Rossi and Alex de Angelis. Both de Angelis and Elias are too far down on the grid to be a feature, so it's likely to be down to Stoner and Rossi once again. Both Jorge Lorenzo and Nicky Hayden were quick on race rubber, but though they are close on the grid, they are just too far off the pace of the two men chasing the title to be likely to snatch victory.
But the race may well turn out to be completely different to all expectations anyway. Though today's session was dry, rain is forecast for tomorrow, and what's worse, the tail of hurricane Ike could cause a torrential downpour during the afternoon. The race could be moved forward to be run in the morning, or it could even be canceled, if the conditions become too diluvian. Only tomorrow will tell, but it has all the makings of a fascinating spectacle nonetheless.
Full results of the Indianapolis MotoGP qualifying practice here.
With the broadcast schedule of the Indianapolis MotoGP race already confusing US fans, as the race is due to be shown on NBC rather than Speed, now it's the turn of the rest of the world. Hurricane Ike, which has already devastated the charming Texan port town of Galveston, as well as causing huge damage in Houston, looks set to turn its vicious hand to the infinitely more trivial task of upsetting the schedule of the inaugural Indianapolis MotoGP round.
The remains of Ike are due to pass over the Indianapolis area tomorrow afternoon, right in the middle of the race schedule. And after the experience of riding in semi-flooded conditions on Friday, the MotoGP safety commission have decided that riding in similarly underwater conditions would make racing far too dangerous. If the rain was as bad as Friday, the riders could simply refuse to race.
So far, no decisions have been made, with a spokesperson for IMS saying that so far, any talk of changes would be "just speculation", but one possible option, if the forecasts are for torrential rain in the afternoon, is to move the race to the morning. The safety commission is due to examine the forecast this evening, and a decision could be taken by then.
If the weather did force the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to change or even abandon the schedule, it would be both tragic and ironic in equal measure. The IMS is probably the best-run and incredibly efficient organization to have a MotoGP round, and to be floored by the one thing that they couldn't control - the weather - would be very cruel indeed.
Though the coverage of MotoGP on network television will be incredibly useful for raising the profile of our favorite sport among casual viewers in the USA, it has confused the DVRs of many regular MotoGP fans. In vain do they search the Speed TV schedules for broadcast times for the season's second US GP.
The reason for their confusion is the fact that Speed is not showing the MotoGP race from Indy. Instead, the race will be shown by NBC, as the last instalment of a four race package the network secured prior to the start of the season. The race will be shown live, at 3PM EDT. Check your local NBC affiliate for more details, or keep an eye on the incredibly useful TV Racer website.
The good news - if such it can be called - is that all will be back to normal after Indy, and Speed TV will show the rest of the season's MotoGP races, usually on the same day, but mostly not live.
Remember to tip off any friends you have who may have missed out on the news that NBC will be carrying the Indy race. The return of motorcycle racing to The Brickyard after 99 years is not something they will want to miss.
The fall from favor of Luis d'Antin has done the team he previously ran nothing but good. Since the Spanish former GP star was forced out of the team, the team's fortune has improved vastly.
This is especially true for Toni Elias. The Spaniard has had two podiums in a row, at Brno and Misano, and has gone from being the man most likely to leave MotoGP to one of the premier class' hottest tickets.
For the past few weeks, Elias has been most closely linked with the extra Kawasaki that Jorge Martinez is likely to be running next year. Martinez, who runs the extremely successful Aspar teams in the 125 and 250 classes, is keen to step up to the MotoGP class, and having secured a bike to run, as well as likely sponsorship from a Spanish backer, now needs a Spanish rider to keep the sponsors happy. Toni Elias would have fit that bill perfectly.
The downside to any Kawasaki deal, however well funded, was always going to be the Kawasaki. From the most improved bike on the grid last year, this year's green bike has been a complete disappointment, with Ant West continually propping up the timesheets - unless there's a downpour - and John Hopkins stuck firmly in mid-pack.
And so according to sources in the Spanish press, Toni Elias has decided to take the safe option: Instead of gambling on a Kawasaki, Elias is said to have signed a contract with Gresini Honda for next year, and will make a return to the team with which he took his first and so far only race win.
The reason for Elias' return to Gresini is simple: The team have promised him a factory-spec Honda for next season, and in light of Shinya Nakano's dramatic improvement in results at Brno, after receiving a factory RC212V to test while functioning as a test mule for Dani Pedrosa's dramatic switch to Bridgestones, that is a very attractive prospect indeed.
The only minor problem is HRC's recent record of reneging on deals which involve factory support. And it is a record which Elias will know almost from first hand. During his previous stint at Gresini, Marco Melandri was promised a factory-spec RC212V in 2007. However, once Honda found out just how far Ducati had moved the goal posts during the switch to the 800cc formula, all previous deals were off, while HRC concentrated on fixing the factory bikes. Or more accurately, the factory bike that Dani Pedrosa was riding.
Official confirmation of the deal is yet to be forthcoming, but a return to Gresini would make a great deal of sense for Elias. Even if the factory support falls through, it is inconceivable that Honda would get the bike wrong three years in a row. The Honda lane is sure to open again at some point, and history shows that it is more likely to be sooner than later. And once it does, then a satellite Honda will be a great place to be.
Speaking of bad weather... MotoGPMatters.com official photographer, Scott Jones, has taken a close look at the proposed Hermann Tilk-ified redesign for Donington.
The New Donington Park:
Going in to Indianapolis, we already knew that big changes were ahead for Dani Pedrosa. The shock tire switch announced by Pedrosa and the Repsol Honda team, which saw Pedrosa dumping Michelin to use Bridgestones, meant that Pedrosa would race at Indianapolis on just one day of testing and a couple of days of practice on the Japanese rubber. It was a risk, but also an investment in the future.
With today's announcement, Pedrosa looks like he has decided to forget all about this season, and put all his cards on 2009. For today, the Repsol Honda team announced that Dani Pedrosa would not only be using Bridgestone tires at the Brickyard in Indianapolis, he would also be running the pneumatic valve engine which his team mate Nicky Hayden has been using since the British Grand Prix back in June.
Pedrosa had previously rejected using the air valve motor, as he was uncomfortable with the engine's more fierce power delivery, preferring the smoother steel valve spring engine. But after setting a lap of 1'34.652 during the post-race test at Misano, the Spaniard has decided to make the switch to the more powerful air valve bike.
With both the pneumatic valve engine and the Bridgestones underneath him, Pedrosa has already embarked on his preparations for the 2009 season. Both Repsol and Pedrosa are tired of waiting for the first Spanish champion since Alex Criville. Ten years, it seems, is enough.
We all need to take time off, from time to time, and that's no different for the staff here at MotoGPMatters.com. And by staff, I mean me.
So I am heading off for a hard-earned break for a couple of weeks. The bad news is that due to intermittent Internet access, I will be unable to update the site as often as usual. The good news is that I will be heading to Spain, spiritual home of MotoGP, and so should have a lot more information at my disposal when I do report.
This also means that I will not be writing a race preview. But don't despair, as a replacement is in place: Rusty Bucket will be providing you with an outstanding introduction to Indy, and a preview of the race.
What's more, we have a special feature planned for the eve of the race. Check back here on Sunday for something very special from Indy.
After we return from vacation, we will more than make good for our absence. There will be big news to announce, and MotoGPMatters will only get better from then on.
Thanks for staying with us, and our apologies for the disruption to our service.