2014 Indianapolis MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Fast Brits On Proddy Hondas, An Early Title For Marquez, And An Epic Moto3 Race
Is Indianapolis really a Honda circuit? With four Yamahas on the two front rows of the grid, you would have to say it wasn't any longer. There is a Honda on pole, but as that's Marc Marquez, that doesn't really count: alongside his perfect nine wins from nine races, he now also has eight poles from ten qualifying sessions. Any discussion of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the different manufacturers at a circuit really needs to disregard Marquez at the moment. In 2014, the Spaniard is just too much of an outlier, as his ability to put a couple of tenths or more on the opposition at will demonstrates.
Behind Marquez, the grid looks a lot more interesting. Behind Marquez is exactly how Andrea Dovizioso bagged another front row start, the Italian grabbing a tow off the Repsol Honda rider to set the second fastest time. The tow had allowed Dovizioso to follow Marquez' "crazy lines" as the Ducati rider put it, and the extra boost of the new engine Dovizioso has at his disposal may have contributed. The engine comes with a new fairing with revised cooling, suggesting the changes are more to do with making the engine more reliable at the top end, allowing it to be revved higher for longer. Given the Desmosedici's propensity for going up in a puff of smoke – Dovizioso has already lost three of his twelve engines this year, Andrea Iannone has got through four – reduced friction and reduced temperature would be a boon.
Jorge Lorenzo is the last man on the front row of the grid, but he was not disappointed with that. It was important for the Spaniard to build his confidence at Indy, and qualifying definitely helped. Lorenzo remarked that he was closer to Marquez than at the previous race, and that's not just true of qualifying. Lorenzo's race pace is strong too, though still a way off that of Marquez. In FP4, Marquez was running mid 1'32s consistently, while Lorenzo was hitting low 1'33s.
Results and summary of qualifying for Moto2 at Indianapolis:
Marc Marquez set the fastest time of the weekend in FP4, two-tenths of a second faster than Stefan Bradl's top time in the prior session. Marquez 1'32.391 left him half a second clear of the field with qualifying coming up in 40 minutes.
Pol Espargaro earned a confidence boost headed into qualifying with the second-fastest time, closely followed by Valentino Rossi to round out the top three.
Dominique Aegerter continued his strong form at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Saturday with a 1'37.243 in FP3 that put him at the top of the timesheet. Aegerter, who also led the second free practice, just nipped second-fastest Tito Rabat by a mere two-hundredths of a second. And Mika Kallio, who had been languishing out of the top ten, finally had an Indy practice worthy of optimism with the third-fastest time.
Maverick Vinales (4th) and Sandro Cortese (5th) completed the top five. Aegerter topped the timesheet from early on grabbing the lead spot early in the session and not letting go. With seven minutes remaining, the field began to resemble it's final look with Aegerter, Rabat and Kallio holding first through third. Only Vinales made a move toward the front, rising from sixth to fourth and the end of the free practice.
Stefan Bradl charged to the top of the timesheet Saturday with a 1'32.522 that left him a mere one-hundredth of a second clear of Valentino Rossi (2nd). Jorge Lorenzo set the third-fastest time, another eight-hundredths back.
Andrea Dovizioso, who lingered in the top five for much of the session, held on for fourth fastest and Pol Espargaro put down a quick final lap to drop the fifth-place rider into sixth. That sixth-place rider, championship leader Marc Marquez, wasn't able to improve much on his fast time from Friday. Andrea Iannone, who held second for much of FP3, was pushed into seventh followed by Bradley Smith (8th). Two-time Indy winner Dani Pedrosa settled into ninth with Aleix Espargaro rounding out the top 10.
The top 10 FP3 riders will head straight into Q2 later in the day to set the top 12 grid positions. The rest of the field will head into Q1. The two fastest riders from Q1 also then will head into Q2.
For much of the session -- in ideal conditions without a hint of rain -- Marquez led the field. Within the first 30 minutes, the young World Champion had improved on his blistering Friday pace.
Efren Vazquez took advantage of terrific track conditions to set the fastest Moto3 time of the weekend and grab the top spot in the third free practice Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Vazquez's 1'41.103 put him a tenth of a second clear of a rapidly improving Romano Fenati (2nd). Isaac Vinales took third, another four-hundredths back. In each subsequent practice, Vazquez has steadily improved his place on the timesheet moving from fifth, to fourth to first.
Miguel Olivera took top Mahindra honors with fourth fastest followed by championship points leader Jack Miller. Moto3 riders, always tightly clustered on the timesheet, made no exception at Indianapolis with the top 19 rider separated by less than a second. Unexpectedly, that group does not include Alex Rins. The Honda rider, who sits fifth in the championship, set the 23rd fastest time.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams, Bridgestone and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after the first day of practice at the circuit:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of practice at Indianapolis:
2014 Indianapolis MotoGP Friday Round Up: An Improved Track, The State Of American Racing, And Yet More Silly Season Shenanigans
For the past four years, my coverage of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has followed something of a ritual. The riders would ride the track. The riders would talk to the media about how awful the track was, the bumps, the different types of asphalt, the drainage covers, the joints between the tarmac, the corners which were too tight. I would write about what the riders had said in my nightly round ups. And I would receive an email complaining about what I'd written from IMS' otherwise excellent media office.
It's hard to blame Indy's media office for such a reaction. They are the best media office of all the circuits on the calendar, by a country mile, better organized and providing useful and timely information on everything happening on the track. It is part of their duty to handle criticism of the circuit, especially that coming from a bunch of Europeans only using half the real Speedway track, and requiring corners. They were only doing their job.
They will have a much easier job this weekend. Rider reaction to the changes made at Indy has been overwhelmingly positive, with barely a whisper of criticism of the track. The single surface on the infield is a vast improvement, the changes to the track layout make it much more suitable for motorcycle racing, and most of the bumps have been removed. The circuit is "more like a normal track," as Marc Marquez put it. Pol Espargaro concurred. Indy is "more of a motorbike track" the Tech 3 man said.
Colin Edwards To Enter Semi-Retirement Early: Will Race Indy, Silverstone And Valencia, And That's It?
Colin Edwards will contest only three more MotoGP rounds in the 2014 season. The Texan is to race at Indianapolis, Silverstone and Valencia, before hanging up his helmet. From Brno, Alex De Angelis will take Edwards' place, and Edwards will race as a third rider for the NGM Mobile Forward Racing team in the UK and at the last race of the year.
Edwards' final year in MotoGP has not gone according to plan. The Texas Tornado had hoped that the arrival of the Yamaha Open class bike at Forward, to replace the Kawasaki-powered CRT machine would spark a revival in his fortunes. When Edwards finally got to ride the Open class Yamaha, however, he found to his dismay that he could not get on with the Yamaha chassis, and was unable to get the bike to turn. He had pinned his hopes on the arrival of a chassis from FTR, but financial problems for the British chassis manufacturer meant he was left to struggle with the Yamaha frame until Mugello. When a new chassis did arrive, fresh from the drawing board of now ex-FTR designer Mark Taylor, it did not see Edwards drastically improve his pace.
Dominique Aegerter has picked up at Indianapolis where he left off before the summer break, ending the first day of practice for the Moto2 class on top of the timesheets. The Swiss rider fought a close battle with Sandro Cortese, snatching back top spot right at the end. Cortese was left with 2nd spot, just a hundredth of a second off the time of Aegerter, while Tito Rabat took the 3rd fastest time, dragging Thom Luthi in his wake. Ant West showed excellent form to set the 5th best time in FP2.
The session was marred by a number of crashes, though nobody was serious injured. Randy Krummenacher caused the session to be red-flagged after falling in the infield section, his bike dragging dirt back onto the track and the racing line. After the mud and grass had been cleared, the session resumed again.
Marc Marquez reasserted his season-long dominance Friday with a fast lap of 1’32.882 — the only rider to dip into the 1’32s in either free practice. Marquez's time at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway put him slightly more that two-tenths clear of Andrea Iannone (2nd) and half a second in front of Jorge Lorenzo (3rd) as riders tried to work out the new lines and extra speed of the redesigned track.
Andrea Dovisioso improved on his FP1 showing with a fourth that put him just ahead of the circuit's only two-time MotoGP winner, Dani Pedrosa (5th). Stefan Bradl -- fastest in one of the four sectors -- came in sixth, ahead of a surprising Yonny Hernandez (7th) who was quick all session. Aleix Espargaro, who was running near the top of the timesheet early, dropped to eighth. And while Rossi improved on his FP1 time, he didn't improve nearly as much as his rivals which left him in ninth, seven-tenths of a second from the leader. The good news for Bradley Smith is that just like in FP1 he finished right behind Rossi. The bad news is that in FP2 it left him hanging on the bottom rung of the top 10.
Isaac Vinales used his final lap of FP2 to his advantage to seize the top spot in Friday's final session at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Vinales' nine-hundredths margin just clipped Alex Marquez (2nd) who had just set his fastest time and briefly held the top spot.
Jack Miller, leader for much of the session, ended his day in third. Efren Vazquez (4th) and John McPhee (5th) rounded out the top five. Both Vinales and Marquez set their fast times with effective use of slipstreaming on the long straight -- a tactic that will prove vital for the flyweight, 50 BHP bikes.
Romano Fenati and Alex Rins -- fourth and fifth in the championship standings -- finished the session eleventh and twelveth respectively.