The vast majority of MotoGP riders will be much happier tonight, once they learn the news that Indianapolis Motor Speedway is to repave the infield section, from Turn 5 through to Turn 16. The entire back section - from where the track leaves the oval for the second time at Turn 5, all the way through to the point it rejoins the oval at Turn 16 - is to be resurfaced, addressing concerns by a number of riders over the track surface.
Chief among the concerns was the transition between the oval and the road course, the difference in surface grip making it a challenging section. The different surfaces around the various parts of the infield were also cause for criticism, with the various asphalt sections offering varying levels of grip. These concerns are at the heart of IMS' resurfacing project, which the Indianapolis facility has addressed by using the same asphalt as is used on the rest of the road course, creating a near uniform surface around the track.
The reason given for the track resurfacing was the damage the surface suffered during the harsh weather last winter. But the work also hints at Indy's intentions concerning the future of the Indianapolis Red Bull MotoGP round. IMS' contract with Dorna expires this year, the contract having been extended for a single year (2011) in the runup to the 2010 race. There had been strong and credible rumors that 2011 would be the last year of racing for MotoGP at Indy, but those rumors have been replaced in the past couple of months by hints that IMS is close to signing a new, long-term contract with Dorna to host a MotoGP round for the foreseeable future. Indy sits within a day's drive of some of the key markets for MotoGP, being close to the Chicago, Detroit and East Coast areas.
MotoGP remaining at Indy would match with Dorna's ambition to promote the series strongly in North America. With the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas to be added in 2013, three US MotoGP rounds would serve all of North America, plus a large part of the Central American market. Indy is close enough for fans based on the East Coast, the Midwest and Eastern Canada; Laguna Seca serves the key Bay Area market, as well as Southern California and the Oregon and Washington regions; and Austin is a great location for fans in the South, as well as fans from Mexico and other parts of Central America.
A newly resurfaced track is a solid sign of Indianapolis Motor Speedway's commitment to MotoGP, and as long as Red Bull are willing to pick up the sponsorship tab for the race, IMS appears to be willing to host the event. It would be a very safe bet for a new contract to be signed around the weekend of the Red Bull Indy GP, and probably one for at least another five years. No doubt we will learn more once the end of August approaches.
Below is the press release issued by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway press office:
INFIELD SECTION OF IMS ROAD COURSE TO BE REPAVED THIS SUMMER
World's best riders to race on new surface Aug. 26-28 during Red Bull Indianapolis GP
INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, April 21, 2011 - The infield section of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course will be repaved this summer in anticipation of the Red Bull Indianapolis GP MotoGP race Aug. 26-28.
The project, which will repave 1.5 miles of the circuit from Turn 5 through Turn 16, will start Thursday, June 9. Turn 5 is where the course leaves the short chute between Turns 1 and 2 of the oval. Turn 16 is where the circuit leaves the infield near the start of the front straightaway at the exit of Turn 4 of the oval.
It's the first time this section of the course has been resurfaced since it was built in 2000. Turns 1 through 4 of the 2.621-mile circuit - located inside Turn 1 of the oval - were created in 2008 for the inaugural Red Bull Indianapolis GP and will not be repaved during this project.
The new asphalt will be consistent with the other sections of the course.
"This project is an example of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway providing competitors the finest racing facilities in the world," said Mel Harder, IMS senior vice president, operations. "We had a very long, hard winter this year, which exacerbated the bumps and cracks in this aging section of the track.
"We also decided to undertake this project this year due to feedback from riders during the Red Bull Indianapolis GP last year. The new surface will produce even closer, more exciting racing for the world's best riders and our loyal fans this August."
The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of June.
"I'm happy to hear the infield section is being repaved at Indy," said 2006 MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden, who rides for the Ducati Team. "It's already a great track, and I'm sure this will make a smoother, more consistent racetrack for everybody.
"It also shows how the people at IMS pay attention to every detail - that's probably why they've been around over a hundred years. I've always loved it there, as it's my home track. I can't wait to get back to Indy and race in August."
2011 Red Bull Indianapolis GP tickets: 2011 Red Bull Indianapolis GP tickets are on sale now.
To buy tickets, visit www.imstix.com, call the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700 or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area or visit the ticket office at the IMS Administration Building at the corner of Georgetown Road and 16th Street. Ticket office and phone hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday-Friday.
The 2011 Red Bull Indianapolis GP is scheduled for Aug. 26-28 at IMS.
Race Day general admission tickets cost $40, with Friday general admission $10 and Saturday general admission $20. A three-day general admission ticket is $60. A Friday-Saturday general admission ticket is $25.
Children ages 12 and under will be admitted free any of the three days of the event when accompanied by an adult with a general admission ticket.
Race Day reserved seat prices will start at $70.