Tornado Talks Rain

Henny Ray Abrams | September 12, 2008
INDIANAPOLIS, IN, SEPT 12: Tech 3 Yamaha’s Colin Edwards was “pretty impressed” after his maiden voyage on a very wet Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. But the Texan knows he has plenty of work ahead after posting the 15th fastest time, 2.697 secs. off pace.

Edwards grew up racing on road courses stuffed inside of ovals; Texas World Speedway, Daytona International Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, and Phoenix International Raceway. None of which seemed like a proper road course. The 2.621-mile, 16-turn uses part of the front straight, and much of the previous Formula One course, but in the opposite direction and with a few changes.

“Most road courses here, you got the oval and then you got some Mickey Mouse-thing, y’know, turn in the middle,” Edwards began, “and I think the fact that this place is so big it doesn’t feel like an oval-type track. I mean, there’s a couple little transitions, but then you’re out of it and you’re in the infield and it feels like a normal race track. I mean, quite impressive the way they’ve really done it, if you ask me. And safety-wise, I didn’t see anything out there that struck a chord that I feel I need to voice my opinion. It feels OK.”

What doesn’t feel OK is the surface. There are two distinct sections, the first part, purpose-built for MotoGP, and the rest of the track, some of which was built for the Formula One race and some of which is the oval.

“The grip, there’s like a Donington side and there’s a Portugal (Estoril) side, so you’ve got to play with that and just be aware,” he said. The transition is obvious. “You can see it. It’s shiny, it’s just shiny. It looks like Donington without all the stones. More like pool table flat. And then without the stones you get some little depressions where water’ll stand for a minute. As long as you figure out where those are, it’s OK.”

The wet weather performance of Michelin has been abysmal at the past few races, but Edwards believes the tires for Indy are better. The question is whether the French tire company has a tire for both surfaces.

“Yeah, that’s going to be something we’re all going to have to do,” he said. “Obviously, we’re going to get plenty of rain time in to get the best tire. I think what Jorge (Lorenzo) ran, we’re going to run in the afternoon. Looked like it was pretty good. To me, the first section, just kinda, couple laps to get warmed up. You know, whatever you can’t really get heat in on the front section, in the second part you can generate lots of heat, so it should be OK.”

Edwards added that Michelin had an understanding of what was needed. “It looks OK so far. We’re not up the top of the sheets, but it’s the first session. We’re just getting going.”

As for whether the safety issues that other riders have mentioned will crop up once the track dries, Edwards didn’t see it.

“I wasn’t looking at much of that stuff, to be honest,” he said of the margins in turn one, turn five, and the end of the infield straightaway. “I was looking at where I was going. I don’t really foresee anything. When it dries, if it ever dries, then we’ll tackle that one. But I didn’t notice anything.”

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.