SPEEDWAY, IN, AUG 26 – Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner didn’t think much of the new infield paving at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but it didn’t stop him from setting the fastest time on the first day of practice for Sunday’s Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix, and also from surviving an encounter with a beaver.Stoner was the most strident in his criticism of the new surface, which starts in turn five and continues until the track joins the front straightaway on the exit of turn six. The surface was universally panned in the morning, when the MotoGP riders were on a mostly virgin surface, but some expected it to be better in the afternoon after a full round of practice in all three classes. There was no doubt that the tarmac was better, but it still wasn’t good enough for Stoner, or others, to be fair.Asked what the surface was like, Stoner answered with one word, “Terrible.” He continued.
“Sorry, I can’t be dishonest with that, but I don’t think I’ve ever really ridden on a worse surface other than maybe Qatar when there was a lot of dust on it. But at least that dust was kinda consistent. Around here where they’ve layered and they’ve joined the two together, there seems to be like these grease slicks on it. And if you’re riding around the track it seems consistent and then all of a sudden it’ll just sort of slip away from you. And there just doesn’t seem to be any real reason why.”You know honestly, the bumps were a little bit better than last year. There’s still some corners that aren’t fantastic for the bumps and some that are worse than they were in the last years, but in general we haven’t really touched the bike. There’s no point in changing anything; we’re just going to have to wait and see how the track comes around tomorrow and see if we can make some improvement.”Stoner’s afternoon time was nearly three seconds faster than he’d gone in the morning-everyone went considerably faster-but with so little grip tire life was suffering, “and we’ll have to see how the track ends up tomorrow, but there’s still those slippery patches. There’s definitely some areas of the track that we’ve improved so much because they’ve reduced the bumps, but there’s other areas because of the grip and because they’re actually increased bumps that we’re not able to get down to the lap times we should be. We’ll see how the track ends up tomorrow. Hopefully with more bikes going around we can improve it.”Other riders found the hard Bridgestone rear didn’t work. Stoner never tried it, having had some success with the softer option. He did, however, try the hard front and “destroyed” it in four laps, “So that’s something that’s not really given us a lot of confidence. Hopefully if the track gets better, gives a little bit more grip, we’ll be able to make those harder tires last longer. At this point, because of thee hard compound we’re not generating the grip and it’s just pushing across the surface and it’s already slippery and it’s just tearing the tire to pieces.”Another worry is the narrowness of the racing line. On the parts of the track that don’t have rubber, there’s very little traction. It will make passing difficult and, Stoner said, could lead to accidents.”I was already thinking of this in the garage,” he said. “If it’s a close race and there’s people overtaking, I wouldn’t be surprised to see people crash; especially in the Moto2 race, they have a lot of riders going wide, but if you get off line, I mean, there’s just nothing there, so if you’re going to make an overtake you’ve got to push the limits a little more than the other person and when you’re on a dirty part of the track, it’s not going to be so easy, so we could see some accidents from that. So we’ll have to see how the track cleans up tomorrow.”As for his run-in with the beaver, both survived unscathed.”As I was coming around the corner I saw something out of the corner of my eye; I thought it was just a piece coming off somebody’s bike,” he said. “As I got around the corner I realized it was, yeah, it was something. I didn’t have a real good look at it. Thought it might have been a big gopher or something. Yeah, luckily just got out of the way of that and we both ended up lucky in that incident.”