INDIANAPOLIS, IN, SEPT. 14 - Fiat Yamaha's Valentino Rossi won a truly historic inaugural Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix that ended in near hurricane conditions eight laps short of the scheduled 28 laps as heavy rain and high winds hit the Speedway and forced race officials to throw the red flag.
Prior to that, however, the large crowd on hand got to witness a stellar MotoGP that prominanetly featured two Americans and the most popular motorcycle racer in the world. With the race stopped at the 20-lap mark, the win went to Rossi with Repsol Honda’s Nicky Hayden a very popular second, the former World Champion from Owensboro, Kentucky, leading the race for 13 laps before giving way to Rossi.
Rossi’s victory was the 69th of his career, a win that moved him out of a tie with Giacomo Agostini and made him the most prolific racer in the history of the premiere class of GP racing.
"Yes, I think are the worst condition of all my career, because together with the new track and the new surface have also a lot of water on the surface and at the end the bigger problem was the wind," Rossi said. "I was in front and all the bag, the beer can throw in the track, so the wind is not constant is very inconstant and very strong, so you never know what's happened in the straight. The bike take all the track. So I was in front, but I didn't want to put my hand because I was leading the race. But every lap I look and I say, 'I hope for the red flag, I hope for the red flag.' And, in fact, eight laps to go I think is a good decision, because anyway, no meeting is too dangerous like this.
"I think they make a good work for the track on the race, because the rain come down very strong before the race and, so, I don't remember if or when I won four races in a row. It's mean I am in a good shape. We work well with the team and I have to thank a great thanks to everybody, we have a great advantage in the championship and now we wait for Motegi."
The second American in the mix was Rizla Suzuki’s Ben Spies, the young Texan mixing it up with the best in the world before ending up an impressive sixth and right on the back of World Champion Casey Stoner and JiR Scot Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso when the race was called.
Third place went to Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo with Stoner ending up fourth with Dovizioso fifth.
Then came Alice Ducati’s Sylvain Guintoli, the Frenchman some 6.5 seconds behind Spies and a second ahead of Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, the Spaniard racing for the first time on Bridgestone tires.
Rizla Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen ended up ninth, almost four seconds ahead of San Carlo Honda’s Alex de Angelis, the Italian rounding out the top 10.
If it was a great day for Hayden and Spies, it was the polar opposite for the other two Americans John Hopkins and Colin Edwards. Hopkins ended up 14th on his Kawasaki with Edwards one spot behind him on the Tech 3 Yamaha.
The race started on time after the weather cleared in time for the 3 p.m. start, but the track was wet and all the riders were on full wets. Dovizioso went straight to the front of the start with Hayden in tow, though the Kentuckian would take over on the second lap. Spies, meanwhile, ended lap two in seventh place.
Things up front stayed close, though Hayden maintained his lead over Dovizioso – the gap at half a second after five laps. Rossi by this point had moved to third and was pressuring his fellow Italian. By the sixth lap Rossi was up to second and he instantly closed on Hayden, the pair exchanging fastest laps from that point forward as they steadily pulled clear of those behind them.
On the 10th lap, Hayden led Rossi by .3 of a second, but that would grow to .6 of a second a lap later. Then Rossi closed back in and on the 14th lap he struck, diving up the inside of Hayden in turn 10. And then he pulled away, slowly at first but then with more regularity. By the 19th lap, he led by 2.9 seconds as the rain and wind increased with every lap.
By this point, Lorenzo was circulating alone in third, though he was starting to make ground on Hayden as the conditions worsened. Behind them, Stoner had passed Dovizioso, who was also under threat from Spies.
On the 21st lap, the conditions were such that the plug was pulled on the race, with the 250cc GP - which was rescheduled from its original start time and moved to after the MotoGP - getting cancelled due to the weather.
Hayden was a happy man after the race, this result ending a dry spell for the former champion.
"Man, you know, I had nothing to lose here and, I mean, just had to go for it," Hayden said. "The bike felt pretty good in the wet when it wasn't heavy water and I felt confident before the race. And, man, out front leading early, it's been a long time since I led a race. And, man, it felt really good to come out of the last corner and see nobody and I was thinking, 'man this is only supposed to happen in the movies, you know.' To be in my home GP.
"Unfortunately, Valentino came through and had a little bit more speed than me and then I made a little run at him, but toward the end I think when the track dried out we used a lot of rubber off the tire. And then when it rained again, on the edge, not so much tread pattern and was gnarly. But still, I pushed to the maximum and I really left nothing on the table. I was riding as hard as I could, taking a few chances. But I felt good out front and just really want to thank my team and my family and my fans, everybody for sticking behind me. It's not really been a real easy road lately, but that's how it goes and we'll keep fighting. And also thanks to all these fans. They had to brave the... the riders, I mean, not too bad, but they've been out there all day in the rain. we only had to be out there 40 minutes. And you know, for everybody at Indy, from just making this race happen, Red Bull, everybody at Indy, and all the fans for coming out and supporting it."
Lorenzo was also happy in third place - and relieved.
"This is my first podium in the rain conditions all my life, so I'm so happy," the Spaniard said. "Because, also in the Spanish Championship I never get the podium. And for me it's very good result. It's not perfect because maybe one or two laps more I could pass Nicky, that was so, so fast at the beginning. But with the wind and also with his tires has reduced his pace. So thank you for the team, thank you for Yamaha, because it's again another podium with two riders in it. So next time I hope to do better."
Rossi’s lead in the World Championship continues to grow and he now leads Stoner by 87 points, 287-200. Pedrosa is third with 193 points.
1. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)
2. Nicky Hayden (Honda)
3. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)
4. Casey Stoner (Ducati)
5. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda)
6. Ben Spies (Suzuki)
7. Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati)
8. Dani Pedrosa (Honda)
9. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki)
10. Alex de Angelis (Honda)
11. Anthony West (Kawasaki)
12. Toni Elias (Ducati)
13. Randy de Puniet (Honda)
14. John Hopkins (Kawasaki)
15. Colin Edwards (Yamaha)
16. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki)
17. Shinya Nakano (Honda)
18. James Toseland (Yamaha)
19. Marco Melandri (Ducati)