SPEEDWAY, IN, AUG 17 - Yamaha's Ben Spies finished Friday's free practice fourth fastest at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, on a track that was no better than last year's, but on a motorcycle that was.
Like every rider asked his opinion, Spies had nothing good to say about the IMS surface, other than that he expected it to improve over the course of the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix weekend. His lap of 1:42.536 was faster than he'd gone in last year's FP1 and only .611 of a second off the pace set on a sunny Friday morning by Repsol Honda's World Champion Casey Stoner. Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa was second and Ducati Marlboro's Nicky Hayden third.
"It's pretty crap. Just no traction," Spies said." The new pavement's really... I would have to say, vague. It's got grip, but the bike just moves a whole lot. Kinda feels like you're on old rain tires on a dry track.
"But that's the way it's always been here. The last two years the first day it's always like that and it gets better and better. It was getting better during the session. But it's still, in two of the sectors it was really, really bad, but it's the same for everybody, so we're just kinda working on some things that didn't really relate to that, but will relate throughout the weekend and that's about it."
The track should have been more welcoming. A Grand-Am race that used the road course on the weekend of the Brickyard 400 laid down rubber, as did the Vance & Hines XR1200 test last week. But torrential downpours that hit the area on Thursday afternoon and evening washed the track clean, sending the MotoGP riders out on a mostly green surface.
That said, Spies was happy with his early pace.
"For how we were pushing and how the track really ended up, yeah, it's fine for the first session and it'd be fine for the first day if we ended up there," Spies said. ."But I think we can improve. And the times for everybody are going to get faster for sure; there's no doubt about it. But, yeah, I think the bike already, besides the way the track felt, the bike felt good where the track was working good and we'll just try to make it better when the track comes in."
Teammate Jorge Lorenzo, who was critical of the surface last year, said "as the last year we come here and the track is very bad, it's very dirty. Then I hope later it's coming much better than the same as last year. But for the moment it's so dirty and so much difference about the tarmac. There is the black tarmac that is quite good in the first sector and then the white tarmac is very dirty and really, really slippery."
Lorenzo said the grip differed from last year, when the first section was dirt and the old Formula One track grippy.
"Yeah, has changed a little bit," he said. "They put new asphalt, it seems, because it is less bumpy, but the grip is maybe the worst grip in the championship."