He may be the winner of the last two MotoGP races on American soil, but Jorge Lorenzo continued to insist during Thursday’s pre-event press conference that he wasn’t necessarily looking for his eighth win of the season this weekend at Indianapolis, but only to finish and add to his already impressive championship points tally.
Having heard the 23-year-old Mallorcan say the same thing at Brno, before going on to dominate the race and take his seventh win of the season, Ben Spies, Colin Edwards, Nicky Hayden and Hiroshi Aoyama, who were also present at the press conference, could be forgiven for looking sceptical.
Lorenzo won here at Indianapolis last year, complete with Captain America helmet, and, despite his protestations, few would bet against a repeat performance from the Fiat Yamaha rider this time around. Captain America has been retired, replaced by a new Iron Man helmet, but Lorenzo’s aim remains the same this weekend, to extend the 77-point advantage he holds over Dani Pedrosa in the championship standings.
“I come here in very good shape, to a track I love and things have been going very well for us this year,” said Lorenzo. “Obviously I want to win, nobody in the world wants to lose, but I also have to be careful. Nobody knows what will happen in a crash; you could be okay or you could injure yourself. Like I said nobody knows, so I need to be a little careful.”
Sixth in the championship, Nicky Hayden is the highest placed American rider going into the Indianapolis weekend. The track, which is only a few hours from Hayden’s home in Kentucky, has been a happy hunting ground for the Ducati rider in the past. Hayden finished second at Indianapolis in 2008 and was third last year, but arrives for this year’s race with a wrist injury from a qualifying crash two weeks ago in Brno.
Hayden, whose younger brother Roger will make his Moto2 debut this weekend, is still looking for his first podium of the season, but is unsure at the moment just how much of a handicap the wrist injury will prove to be this weekend.
“It’s only ten days since I injured my wrist, but already it feels better than Brno,” explained Hayden. “I’ve done a little dirt bike riding with my Dad the last week or so, with no problems, but braking on a MotoGP bike is a little different to riding up your drive, so we’ll have to see how the wrist feels. Actually, we don’t have time to be messing around with a sore wrist this weekend, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Just nine points behind his compatriot in the championship, Ben Spies could leapfrog Hayden to claim sixth place with a good result at Indianapolis, the track where he finished sixth on his MotoGP debut with Suzuki back in 2008.
Spies claimed his first MotoGP podium at Silverstone back in May, but makes no secret of the fact that a repeat in front of his home crowd this weekend would quite likely be the highlight of his first full season in the premier class.
“You always want your best result to come in front of your home crowd,” stated Spies. “You hope everything goes well in practice, qualifying and the race, but I don’t think you try any harder really. No matter which country we’re in, we’re racing as hard as we can for 45 minutes and it will be the same here at Indianapolis this weekend.”
While his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 teammate was been regularly running at the front, the first half of the season hasn’t been so easy for Colin Edwards. The Texan has struggled to get to grips with the 2010 Yamaha M1 so far this year, leaving him down in a disappointing tenth place in the championship standings. This weekend’s Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix marks Edwards’ 130th start in the premier class.
“Those 130 races have been special, some of the best times of my life,” declared Edwards. “This season has been difficult; after finishing fifth in the championship last season we thought things would be cool this year, but we’ve suffered with this six engine rule. We found something at Laguna, made the bike a bit quicker, and our best results of the season so far came there and at Brno. So, we’re getting there.”
Hiroshi Aoyama makes a welcome return to racing this weekend at Indianapolis, following a nine-week absence while recovering from a fractured vertebra sustained in his warm-up crash at Silverstone. The reigning 250cc World Champion tested the Interwetten Honda RC212V machine for the first time since the crash during the Brno test just two weeks ago and, as a result, has been passed fit to ride at Indianapolis this weekend.
“It’s been a difficult few months,” said Aoyama. “After the crash sometimes my legs were numb, which was pretty scary. It’s hard to be off the bike for so long, but the feeling was quite good at Brno. My back is still not 100% so I will race with a support this weekend. At Brno I had to lay on the floor after ten laps but now, two weeks later, it is much better. I am happy to be racing again this weekend.”
American MotoGP fans were treated to a glimpse of a host of home-grown talent earlier today, as premier class rookie Ben Spies, Moto2 riders Kenny Noyes and Roger Lee Hayden, and former World Champion Kevin Schwantz all appeared at Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis ahead of this weekend’s Grand Prix.
Hayden, who rode as a substitute for Randy de Puniet in the premier class at Laguna Seca five weeks ago, was just as excited at the prospect of his Moto2 wildcard appearance this weekend. “It’s really special to see all the fans here to meet us,” he said, before turning his attentions to his expectations.
“We expect to do really well. Everybody has been working really hard and Kevin has helped me out a lot. We’d really like to get a top ten and we know it’s going to be difficult against the best riders in the world.”
This afternoon, Ben Spies joined Dani Pedrosa, Andrea Dovizioso, Marc Marquez and Scott Redding at the Indiana Pacers NBA court, where former Pacers player, Rik Smits, taught the riders how to shoot hoops.
Having played basketball previously, both Spies and Pedrosa had something of an advantage over their fellow riders, but all five managed to score a few baskets during the course of the visit.
Scoring got a lot harder, however, when Smits – who towered over everyone at 2.24 metres (7’4″) tall – decided to defend the basket. Despite his size, and his skills, Marquez still managed to squeeze past the NBA player and score, much to everyone’s amazement.
“I’ve had a lot of fun and it’s been great being able to meet Rik Smits, who was a great player back in the day.” said Spies. “It’s one of the great perks we get to do before the race and business starts tomorrow.”