MotoGP's history at Indianapolis got off to a tempestuous start, quite literally. The inaugural Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix in 2008 took place in the shadow of Hurricane Ike, but despite the storm, and the global financial meltdown, the race has had a fairly strong attendance for the past two years, with 91,000 paying customers in '08, dropping to just over 75,000 last year, in the midst of the global recession. 2010, however, is the last year of Indianapolis' three-year contract to stage a MotoGP event, and as yet, no announcements about the future of the race have been made.
That could all change over the next few days. The Indianapolis Star is reporting that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is close to signing an extension with Dorna to continue to stage a MotoGP event in 2011, and maybe beyond. According to the Indy Star, IMS CEO Jeff Belskus believes that there are "a couple of unresolved issues" to overcome, but Belskus is confident that a new deal will be announced before the end of the weekend.
It is an open secret that Dorna is keen to have two MotoGP rounds in the US. But to keep costs in hand, it is important to have those two races run without an intervening return trip to Europe, saving on travel. The most likely scenario - given the vast distances involved in travelling from Laguna Seca to Indianapolis - is that the two races will take place with either one or possibly two weekends between them, to allow the many tons of equipment that organizing a MotoGP requires to be shipped overland from California to Indianapolis - or vice versa.
Scheduling is going to be key to this deal: with NASCAR due to run the Brickyard 400 on July 31st, that prevents Indy and Laguna Seca from being run back-to-back, if Laguna Seca is to retain its traditional spot at the end of July. The Indianapolis MotoGP round could alternatively be scheduled as the replacement for Brno in mid-August, with the Czech Grand Prix moving to a couple of weeks later in the season. But the puzzling together of the 2011 MotoGP schedule has a number of other key elements, starting with the timing of the Qatar opener, including the replacement of the Aragon round - itself a temporary replacement this season for the Hungarian race lost to financial difficulties - going on to consider the timing of the three Asian and Australian flyaway rounds, and including the possibility of adding a MotoGP round in Abu Dhabi. Under normal circumstances, the 2011 provisional schedule would have been released already, but these complications have delayed that announcement for the next few weeks.
Dorna faces a second problem in their desire to have two MotoGP rounds in America. Despite having a number of famous and spectacular racetracks, the US has a distinct lack of FIM homologated tracks suitable for World Championship motorcycle racing. Apart from Indy and Laguna, there's only Miller Motorsports Park that could stage a MotoGP round without any problems, the other circuits all having issues with runoff, safety and location. World Superbikes' presence at Miller make the chances of MotoGP going there slim, as does the fact that Utah is too close to Laguna Seca's core West Coast audience. Dorna really requires a circuit within reach of large audiences on both the East and the West Coasts of the US, which narrows down an already slim field. Laguna Seca and Indianapolis Motor Speedway are probably the best options that Dorna currently has.