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.
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.
Full results of the qualifying practice session of the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix from Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.
Toni Elias showed why he is such a hot favorite as the man to sign by topping this morning's free practice session, which started damp but dried out eventually. The Spaniard finished ahead of Valentino Rossi and the two Repsol Honda team mates, Nicky Hayden heading up Dani Pedrosa. Pedrosa is getting up to speed very quickly on the Bridgestones in the dry, but is still struggling in the wet, something which overcame Rossi earlier in the year.
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 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.
The rain continued during the afternoon's session, and the usual suspects rose to the top of the pile. Ant West and Chris Vermeulen were quickest, with West the clear leader by over 3/4 of a second. With rain predicted for the entire weekend, Indianapolis could turn out to be West's swan song. If he's this far ahead already, just think what could happen on Sunday.
It's raining in Indy, so it must be Ant West's day in the sun. West, Alex de Angelis and Casey Stoner are the only riders to be close, the rest are a little way behind. At the rear of the field, Dani Pedrosa is finding that switching tire makes in the middle of the season is a long way from being a quick fix to his perceived problems.
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:
America's Cathedral of Speed:
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.
With all of the rumors floating around during MotoGP's traditional silly season, it's nice to get some official news of actual contracts. And the first announcement is the least surprising. In an official press release from Rizla Suzuki, the team has confirmed that both Loris Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen are to stay with Suzuki for 2009.
Ever since Sete Gibernau turned up at the Catalunya Grand Prix at Barcelona, and spent a lot of time in both the Kawasaki and Ducati garages, rumors have grown increasingly stronger that the Spanish former GP star would be back in MotoGP next year. After testing the Ducati at Mugello, and the problems which Marco Melandri had been having, it was even suggested that Gibernau could have made a reentry into MotoGP after the Summer break.
The Misano race may have seen plenty of action on track, it is as nothing compared to the flurry of activity which seems to have gone on behind the scenes. In the shadow of the absolute bombshell announcement that Dani Pedrosa was switching Bridgestones effective immediately, a good deal of business went on as riders and teams sorted out more details of who as to go where.
The latest news to come out of Italy will cheer the hearts of a lot of MotoGP fans: Toni Elias will be back in MotoGP next year. He won't be on a Ducati, however. According to GPOne.com, the Spaniard will be riding for Jorge Martinez' Aspar team aboard a Kawasaki. The Alice Ducati team had told Elias he was free to find another ride, but after two successive podiums, that is a decision they are starting to regret. No details of the deal with Martinez have been announced, which means it is far from finalized, but Elias looks like a strong bet to be on a third Kawasaki.
Another deal which is said to be signed, but not yet officially announced, is the renewal of Alex de Angelis' contract with Gresini Honda. Fausto Gresini has had a tough time signing riders recently, as every time he looked to be close to signing one, they upped and signed with another team. First it was Marco Melandri who went on to join Kawasaki. Then, Toni Elias, whose impressive recent form had made him another strong candidate for the Gresini seat, went the way of Melandri, and headed over to Team Green.