The MotoGP World Championship returns to the USA this weekend for the second time this season, to an area steeped in motorsport tradition and with an abundance of Ducati aficionados. The support for the Italian factory will be multiplied this weekend as their colours are defended by Nicky Hayden, who calls Indianapolis more of a home race than Laguna Seca due to the fact he hails from just three hours down the road.
Hayden celebrated second place here in 2008 when the race was halted eight laps from the end due to extremely adverse weather conditions. After a solid sixth place last time out at Brno, the American is hoping for another top performance in front of his home crowd. For Mika Kallio this will be his first race in the USA, having missed the Laguna Seca GP in July because of injury and the Indianapolis GP last year, when Hurrican Icke forced the cancellation of the 250cc race. Kallio had been confident of a good race from third on the grid but his hopes were dashed when the race was definitively abandoned for security purposes, as advertising hoardings and air-fences were blown across the track.
NICKY HAYDEN, Ducati MotoGP Team (14th in the championship on 57 points)
“Indianapolis is probably the race I look forward to most – it’s just three hours from my house and MotoGP now is becoming very popular. Last year it was a great weekend for me, the crowd was great and Indy did a great job in organizing their first race and made us proud of it. I would love to have another good weekend like that one. So far we have had a tough season and I would like to go there in a more confident mood but it is what it is and for sure we’ll go there and just do the absolute maximum. I like the track itself even though it’s quite flat. The most challenging thing is that it has different kinds of asphalt on different parts of the track so it will be a challenge to find out where there is grip, where not, and to find the best set-up. Hopefully we won’t have another hurricane, the weather should be fine, so we will see how it goes. Last but not least, at Indy I will wear a special helmet, but this time it really is “special “. It will carry the “Make a Wish” logo and other special designs, and after the race we will action it off. All the money will go toward the Foundation which helps kids’ dreams come true. There will be pictures up on my web site to see it at nickyhayden.com. I have worked with this charity for 5 years now and it always feels good to help out such a solid cause, and yes, I have already made my wish for the weekend.”
MIKA KALLIO, (15th in the championship on 34 points)
“Sunday will be my first race at Indy because even though I came here last year the race itself was cancelled because of the weather. Anyway, I can’t say I don’t know the track because we did contest every practice session, including warm-up. It’s not exactly my favourite kind of track but it’s okay, other than the surface. There are three different kinds of asphalt and that makes it really tricky to get a set-up. Anyway, we’ll do our best and I’ll like to be competing within the top five or six.”
LIVIO SUPPO, MotoGP Project Director
“The news from Casey is positive, he is getting stronger and I’m sure he will be back at full strength at Estoril. As far Indy is concerned, I think everything is in place for both Nicky and Mika to have a good weekend. At Brno they were both lapping at a similar pace to the guys who finished on the podium. Nicky will have extra motivation here at his home circuit and for Mika it will be his second race in factory colours and I hope he feels more comfortable. Let’s hope the race isn’t affected by the weather like last year because the fans at Indy deserve to see the show right to the end this year.”
The MotoGP circuit uses only a part of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway track, namely a large section of the start-finish straight and part of the south-eastern corner of the oval. The rest of the track is on the infield, a modified version of the tight and twisty F1 layout but running in the opposite direction. The variation in newer and older asphalt between the different sections makes life hard for the tyres, although with the single tyre rule the key for the teams this year will lie principally in adapting their set-up to deal with the different levels of grip.