Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix, Preview: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
There has been no shortage of MotoGP™ spectacle since the first half of the season ended at Laguna Seca, with the excitement coming in the form of off-track announcements. It is now time for Part 2 of this thrilling contest to resume on the circuit itself, beginning with the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix.
Scouring the world motorsport scene, one will struggle to find many locations steeped in as much history as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. MotoGP™ has been visiting the iconic venue since 2008 and this year it once again plays host to the first Grand Prix on the later side of the traditional mid-season break. Nine races down, nine to go, a rookie heading the standings and a huge 225 points still left on offer.
Bearing in mind the sheer amount of surprises and U-turns the championship battle has already witnessed between the Qatar and United States events, just imagine what could lie in store between this weekend and the Valencia finale on 10th November. It promises to be a mind-boggling mix of raw speed, staying fit and the all-important psychological battle. Can Marc Marquez handle the pressure of Repsol Honda Team partner Dani Pedrosa and reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo, both now in better shape following their bruising few weeks on the run-up to the summer interval?
Valentino Rossi is not out of the question, either. The nine-time title winner may have struggled following his rostrum finish of Qatar, but was to make up ground in testing and has now ridden his Yamaha Factory Racing machine to top three results in as many races. 37 points cover the top five; when considering that figure is only 16% of what is still available, the intimacy of this battle is very much put into context.
Away from the race track, Crutchlow’s signing of a two-year contract with Ducati Team has been met with mixed reactions from fans across the social networking world. Whatever your feeling, the fact is that the Englishman will be replacing 2006 champion Nicky Hayden as he reunites with former teammate Andrea Dovizioso, while Bradley Smith will be joined at Monster Yamaha Tech 3 by Pol Espargaro. At the same time, Espargaro’s Moto2™ title rival Scott Redding has also confirmed that he will be joining the premier class in 2014, although he is yet to name his team.
Indy will also be time to welcome back a couple of familiar faces. After the immense disappointment of Laguna Seca, when a crash early in the weekend ruled his bike out of action, wildcard rider Blake Young will be back raring to go with Attack Performance Racing. However the wait has been far longer for Ben Spies, who – with a hopefully clean bill of health – is finally making his comeback with Ignite Pramac Racing, having missed every race so far this season bar the opening couple.
We have already been surprised beyond belief in 2013 and, should the recent half-decade’s worth of history at ‘The Brickyard’ be anything to go by – with four different MotoGP™ winners across five seasons – one can expect more drama…
Since the last race, title contenders Scott Redding and Pol Espargaro have both confirmed they will be stepping up to the premier class in 2014. One huge question remains: which one will be heading to MotoGP™ as Moto2™ World Champion?
Although the following rounds may have suggested otherwise, it was the season-opener in Qatar which gave us all of the necessary clues, with Espargaro and Redding going head-to-head at floodlit Losail before the Spaniard came out on top. Four months and eight races later, it is the Englishman (Marc VDS Racing Team) who carries a 23-point lead over his rival (Tuenti HP 40) as things begin to intensify…
When it comes to pole positions, Espargaro holds the edge with three to Redding’s two. In terms of race victories, ditto. The Catalan pilot also holds the advantage for fastest race laps, with a couple to his name as opposed to Redding’s sole effort. So why it is Redding who holds the advantage, points-wise? It is thanks chiefly to his impressive consistency, with five podium finishes from eight races and an average finishing position of third as opposed to Espargaro’s eighth, demonstrating just how costly it has been to completely miss out on points in two of the 2013 races to date.
Off the black stuff, Espargaro was first to be publically paired up with a MotoGP™ outfit for next season, taking the much sought-after Monster Yamaha Tech 3 seat alongside Bradley Smith as Cal Crutchlow heads to Ducati Team. Redding’s own confirmation of a premier class ride also came, but it remains to be seen as to exactly whose machinery he will be riding. Nevertheless, the announcements do confirm that the duo will again share the circuit in 2014, most likely as champion and runner-up of the previous season’s intermediate class. Bragging rights spring to mind…
Elsewhere, things are hotting up further down the riders’ table, with only seven points between third and fifth positions currently occupied by Tito Rabat (Tuenti HP 40), Dominique Aegerter (Technomag carXpert) and Mika Kallio (Marc VDS Racing Team), all of whom have suffered more than their fair share of bad luck so far this campaign. Slightly further down are 2013 race winners in the form of Aspar Team Moto2 teammates Nico Terol and Jordi Torres, each locked on 85 points for an effective joint seventh position in the championship standings.
Quite how any of these battles will look by the start of September is another matter, with three races – Indianapolis, Brno and Silverstone – packed into as many weeks to ensure a bursting agenda which could make or break a championship. Joining in the first leg of this triple-header will be American wildcard rider James Rispoli with GP Tech, whereas Thailand’s Thitipong Worokorn has been drafted into Honda Gresini Moto2 under the watchful eye of Ratthapark Wilairot – now coaching his fellow countryman after making the personal decision to retire from Grand Prix racing.
30 points separate the top trio of riders in Moto3™ as the action resumes at Indianapolis this weekend. Maverick Viñales and Alex Rins may be second and third in the championship, but it is leader Luis Salom who is looking to enjoy another memorable Sunday as he returns to the scene of his first ever win.
The smallest class in the World Championship also features the smallest margin between its top pair of riders as the five-week summer break finally draws to a close. Although Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Alex Marquez travelled to Laguna Seca to see brother Marc emphatically race to another MotoGP™ victory, the majority of the Moto3™ field watched the event on television following their previous race at the Sachsenring a week earlier. After a long wait, all are more than eager to get back out on-track.
Indy marks mixed fortunes for Luis Salom. In 2011 had was reduced to the role of spectator because of a hand injury sustained in a crash at the previous round. However, he more than made up for it last year, as the Majorcan dramatically claimed his first ever World Championship race victory courtesy of a stunning double overtaking manoeuvre – having not crossed the finish line in the lead on any other lap of an eventful race. The Red Bull KTM Ajo rider aims for a similar result, whereas closest opponent Viñales (Team Calvo) at least hopes to see the finish this time…
Third overall at present, Texas and Sachsenring victor Alex Rins (Estrella Galicia 0,0) is capable of improving his position in the history stakes. Should he claim his third win of the campaign this weekend, the Barcelona rider will become the fifth-youngest winner in the history of the Moto3™ class (formerly the 125 tier) to win races back-to-back; after Viñales, Marco Melandri, Marc Marquez and Loris Capirossi.
Further down the field, France’s Jules Danilo is back in action as he covers for the injured Danny Webb at Ambrogio Racing; the Briton hopes to be back for Brno next weekend, as the rest of the field continues preparations for its first of two critical triple-headers in the second half of the season.