SPEEDWAY, IN, AUG 17 – The drought that’s plagued the Midwest was given a brief respite when torrential rains fell on Thursday night. That was good news for the farmers, not so good news for MotoGP riders. Any rubber that may have been laid down on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course was washed away, leaving the track with little grip when the riders took to the track for Friday morning’s free practice session.
Somewhat surprisingly, the morning times were faster than in last year’s FP1. In 2011, Yamaha’s Ben Spies topped the time sheets with a fast lap of 1:43.260. This morning, under a warm, sunny sky, Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner was fastest at 1:41.920. That despite the reigning world champion sitting out the early part of the session while the track dried completely from the overnight rains.
Stoner has consistently been critical of the track and Friday morning at Indianapolis was no different. Asked about the MotoGP track surface, he said, “Terrible, as usual. It was almost as bad as last year to be honest, I think it’s just that we’ve got a little bit quicker bikes, a little more torque that we were able to get the lap times down a little faster than the first session last year. But in general, yeah, the track surface isn’t good. Wasn’t drying fast as all. And pretty much same comments as last year.”
He believes the track might be “quite a bit more enjoyable if we ran it the other direction. There’s a couple of corners here that are quite good, but with the surface being so bad, so slippery that you can’t really attack the corner. You’re constantly just having to tiptoe around this track and it’s not a lot of fun when you have to tiptoe these bikes around constantly. It’s basically like riding in the wet and it’s not a lot of fun.
“So I think this place definitely has a lot of history and the oval circuit itself, but the circuit that we ride is nothing to do with the history here, so it’s a little disappointing for sure.”
He believes the grip will improve over the course of the MotoGP weekend, which is expected to be dry, warm, and sunny.
“It’ll definitely come in,” he said. “Even during that session it came in a little bit, but it still doesn’t make it a great track with this little bit extra. I mean, I don’t know what type of tarmac it is, but it goes from black tarmac to this white sort of concrete look and as soon as you hit that stuff there’s just nothing there. There’s nothing to push against, there’s no grip and it makes things tricky. So, I think we can go around chasing set-up for the first few sessions and get nowhere, so we’re just going to have to leave it to later in the weekend to make a better plan for the race.”
The slippery track on Friday morning allowed him to make use of the dirt track skills he honed during his formative years in Australia, which put him at an advantage. Stoner won last year’s Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix.
“For me I think more slippery tracks sort of suit me a little better from my dirt track days,” he said. “I get more comfortable with it a little quicker than the others. European tracks have a tendency to have a lot more grip and a lot more corner speed. So these tracks when it’s very loose, the bike’s always moving. I feel a lot more comfortable in that situation than I do when there’s a lot of grip. Because when there’s a lot of grip, you make that small mistake and you’re down. With here you can sort of push it and push it and you get a little bit more feedback from it.”
He also said the 1000cc Repsol Honda RC213V MotoGP machine wasn’t much different at Indianapolis than its 800cc predecessor.
“In a few corners, in a few places, it’s a little easier,” he said about the bike's feel on Friday morning. “We’ve got the gearbox a little longer and we can drive out of the corners further. We’re not having to change gears so much on the 1000 and definitely heading into Turn 1 it’s a little bit quicker. But in general there’s not too much difference. Yeah, basically just a little bit more torque out of the really tight corners make it more difficult to keep the front down.”
MotoGP Indianapolis Friday morning FP1 practice results:
1. Casey Stoner (AUS) Honda 1:41.925
2. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Honda 1:42.106
3. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati 1:42.472
4. Ben Spies (USA) Yamaha 1:42.536
5. Stefan Bradl (GER) Honda 1:43.027
6. Alvaro Bautista (SPA) Honda 1:43.195
7. Cal Crutchlow (GBR) Yamaha 1:43.295
8. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Yamaha 1:43.312
9. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Ducati 1:43.345
10. Hector Barbera (SPA) Ducati 1:43.736
11. Andrea Dovisioso (ITA) Yamaha 1:43.745
12. Yonny Hernandez (COL) FTR/Kawasaki 1:44.328
13. Aleix Espargaro (SPA) ART/Aprilia 1:44.714
14. Karel Abraham (CZE) Ducati 1:44.739
15. Mattia Pasini (ITA) ART/Aprilia 1:44.913
16. Randy De Puniet (FRA) ART/Aprilia 1:46.298
17. Ivan Silva (SPA) FTR/Kawasaki 1:46.332
18. Michele Pirro (ITA) FTR/Honda 1:46.480
19. Colin Edwards (USA) Suter/BMW 1:46.520
20. Steve Rapp (USA) Attack Perf/Kawasaki 1:46.619
21. Danilo Petrucci (ITA) Ioda/Aprilia 1:46.941
22. James Ellison (GBR) ART/Aprilia 1:47.506
23. Aaron Yates (USA) BCL/Suzuki 1:48.054