HONDA LOOKS TO DOUBLE UP ON AMERICAN SUCCESS

2009-08-25 12:57
The 100th anniversary of the world famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be celebrated with the second running of the Indianapolis Grand Prix. Honda's grand prix riders are hoping to build on recent successes, including Dani Pedrosa's victory in the MotoGP World Championship's previous visit to America at Laguna Seca and Andrea Dovizioso's maiden win in the recent British Grand Prix.

Located in Speedway, Indiana, the versatile facility, which has hosted MotoGP, Formula One, NASCAR, and Indy Car, returns with a forecast of better weather than last year, when Hurricane Ike struck during the MotoGP race, shortening it by eight laps, from 28 to 20, and inflicting so much damage that the 250cc grand prix had to be canceled. This year the gathering storm comes from within the ranks of the Honda riders, who are intent on both maintaining their momentum and keeping alive a perfect record in the U.S.

Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa broke through with his first MotoGP win of the season less than eight weeks ago at Laguna Seca, close by the Pacific Ocean in Monterey, California. Pedrosa followed the U.S. race with podiums in two of the next three races on the Honda RC212V and hopes to continue the streak as the series travels to the American heartland for the 12th of 17 rounds. The RC212V proved the perfect weapon at Indy last year, with a Honda leading for the first 13 laps, and running a strong second when the race was stopped on lap 20. Riding in what Pedrosa and many others described as the worst conditions they'd ever raced in, Pedrosa finished seventh at Indy.

Pedrosa has extra motivation to challenge for the podium at Indy; if he finishes in the top three he'll overtake the absent Casey Stoner (Ducati Marlboro) for third in the MotoGP World Championship.

Teammate Andrea Dovizioso had a stellar race in the inaugural Indy GP. The young Italian led his first ever grand prix by sweeping into the lead for the first lap of the rain-shortened race. He then spent the remainder locked in a battle with the reigning world champion Stoner and GP wild card Ben Spies, the only rider in the field to have tested extensively at Indy prior to the race. Dovizioso battled to the line to come within a second of fourth place, which would have been his best result at the time. Instead he finished fifth, equaling his best finish and marking his best ever MotoGP finish in the rain. In the ensuing year, Dovizioso has gained invaluable experience and proved himself to be a master of difficult conditions by scoring his maiden MotoGP win at Donington Park.

Like Pedrosa, Dovizioso has added championship motivation. As he continues to master the Honda RC212V, Dovizioso has steadily moved up the points charts. Only five points out fourth place, Dovizioso would find himself moving up the standings with a strong finish.

Randy De Puniet (LCR Honda) comes to the Brickyard still struggling with the left ankle injury he suffered in a motocross accident prior to the Czech GP in Brno. The Frenchman rode through the pain to finish tenth place in Brno, despite the broken ankle. With a weekend off between races, De Puniet continued an aggressive rehabilitation programme that has strengthened the ankle, but he concedes it won't be at full strength this weekend. The Indy layout, with 10 lefts and six rights, will tax the limits of De Puniet's pain threshold as he attempts to maintain seventh in the World Championship.

Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini) returns to the U.S. riding high on the strength of his first podium of the season in Brno. Like Brno, Indianapolis is a computer-designed track with a number of 90 degree corners, which encourages Elias who finished third two weeks ago. He expected a good result in Brno and he expects another good result in America. More to the point, he wants to maintain his consistency as the championship enters its final third.

Butterflies are supposed to bring good luck, but that wasn't the case for Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) in Brno. In a freak incident, a butterfly flew inside his helmet while he was in the thick of the race, breaking his concentration and forcing him off his game. Still, he maintained an enviable record; the San Marinese is one of only three riders to score points in every one of this year's 11 MotoGP races. And he's hopeful of improving on last year's Indy result, when he'd moved into the top ten before the race was stopped.

Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda) will be racing the Honda RC212V for the first time at Indianapolis. Last year during practice at Indy Talmacsi broke his left wrist, which negatively affected the Hungarian's 125cc campaign. Now in full health and with half a season on the powerful Honda, Talmacsi returns to the Midwest riding a string of three points-paying positions in a row.

When Hurricane Ike blew through during the MotoGP race, it damaged track safety barriers, tore up a giant display tent, and tore advertising signage from its moorings. Because the track couldn't be restored to proper safety specifications, race officials had little choice but to cancel the 250cc race. Despite not having raced, Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda), the 250cc World Championship leader, proved a master of the track. The Japanese rider ran second in both second qualifying and morning warm-up, while qualifying fifth on the grid, less than .7s behind the pole-sitter. With a 12-point lead, Aoyama is hoping to add to his points total as the series begins a six-race stretch that takes it to four continents before returning to Valencia for the season finale.

Raffaele De Rosa (Scot Honda) has an edge on the competition by having competed in the 125cc race at Indy last year. The Italian, who has scored points in every race this year, including a sixth in the previous round at Brno, likes the track rain or shine, though he'd prefer the latter.

Hector Faubel (Valencia CF-Honda SAG) immediately took to the Indianapolis circuit, even if he didn't get to race because of the hurricane. Faubel qualified on the second row and was hopeful of a close race, only to be disappointed when the race was washed out. With the concentrated end of the year schedule, Faubel hopes that the continuing development of the Honda RS250RW can elevate him up the finishing order.

Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT-SAG) is excited about returning to the famed Speedway and certain that this year will bring better weather than last. Wilairot is coming off the Brno race, where he was involved in the fight for eighth, eventually finishing 11th. The Thai rider knows that if he wants to improve his championship position he'll have to improve his results, and he's resolute about starting the push at Indy.

Both Team CIP Honda riders will be traveling to the U.S. and to Indianapolis for the first time, with both having to learn yet another new track. Shoya Tomizawa had an encouraging start to the season, with his three best finishes before hitting a dry spell just after. But he's returned to form by scoring points in the past three races. Valentin Debise is looking forward to his first visit to the historic facility. Having studied the layout, Debise is confident he can score points at a track he doesn't believe is too technical.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway is, quite simply, the most famous venue on the MotoGP calendar and the first to incorporate Speedway into its name. Though it was made famous as a four-wheel track, the first ever motorized competition at The Brickyard was a motorcycle race early in 1909. It was two years later that the first Indianapolis 500 was run. The facility has 257,000 permanent seats, and seating for 400,000, which makes it the most accommodating sporting venue in the world.

The 4.216km, 16 turn counter-clockwise road course is tucked mostly inside the 2 ½ mile (4.02km) rectangular-shaped oval, part of which the motorcycles use. Most prominently, the final corner leads onto the 5/8 mile (1000 meter) front straight and across the last remaining vestige of the track as built in 1909, the one meter wide start/finish "Yard of Bricks." It is traditional for the winner and the winning team to kiss the bricks.

The road course is a slightly revised, and reversed, version of the Formula One course that was used from 2000 through 2007. The 10 left hand and six right hand corners are mostly taken in the lower gears, with only two corners, both left-handers, taken at speed. With many of the corners taken in rapid succession, the track puts a premium on a motorcycle that can change direction nimbly, accelerate hard, and be stable on the brakes. Trepidation on the part of the riders prior to last year's event, mostly about the three distinct tarmac surfaces, quickly changed to acceptance once the track was opened for practice. Though the MotoGP race was run in a hurricane, it was one of only two races-the dry race at Valencia was the other-in which every rider finished.

HONDA MotoGP RIDER QUOTES
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) says: "I'm really looking forward to riding in America again because the last time we were in the States - at Laguna Seca in July - we won the race. A result like that would be great for me and the team and that's what we'll be aiming for, though we know we'll have to work hard for it because our rivals have proved they are very strong in the last few races. I don't think the gap they had at the last race in Brno was a true reflection of our pace compared to theirs though, so I expect we're going to be closer to them at Indy. The circuit itself is largely made up of second and third gear corners so it's not one of my favourites to ride, but the venue itself it very impressive. I really hope the weather is going to be better than last year because the conditions in the race were pretty terrible and the organizers were forced to stop it early because it was so dangerous. The team is motivated for Indy - we made some progress in the test after Brno, so we're looking for another strong weekend."

Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) says: "This is the second time that we race at Indianapolis and I have to say that last year I immediately found a good feeling with this new track. It's a typical American venue with great facilities and huge grandstands so the experience of riding there is special. I like this racetrack and it will be important for me and the team to have a good result here. I was fourth in the last race at Brno but that was actually a little disappointing because I was so close to the podium again, so I'm look forward to getting back on track and putting that right. It won't be easy, especially during the first practice session because it's a different type of circuit and it's not so easy to dial into the layout at the beginning. However, I expect us to be closer to the front at this race because the track is quite slow and I think that we will have fewer problems than in Brno where the track amplified our issues. So I'm really looking forward to a good result at Indy."

Randy De Puniet (LCR Honda) says: "Brno was a very positive race for me and the team. We gained a deserved 10th place despite the pain of my left ankle. Now we hold the seventh place in the standing and we aim to keep it till the end of the season. Off course it won't be easy, as I am still recovering from the injury and Indy race track has many left corners. I won't be at 100%, although the rehabilitation programme I am still following but the ankle is improving day by day."

Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) says: "I felt we were unlucky not to come away from Brno with a better result because we were on the pace, I was well positioned in the race and got a butterfly inside my helmet — which was incredibly unfortunate. Anyway, that is behind us now and we are looking to take the positives to Indy, which is a circuit with some fast and technical corners that I think can suit us. Last year we were definitely expecting a better result in wet conditions, but unfortunately it took me a few laps to get my pace together. It is a shame the weather got so bad so quickly and the race was interrupted because I think I could have improved my position since I was catching the riders ahead of me. Anyway, I agreed with the decision taken by Race Direction because it was difficult and dangerous to ride out there. Hopefully this weekend we get better weather and better luck!"

Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini) says: "I said before the last race that Brno and Indianapolis would be good circuits for us and I have been proven right so far, so hopefully I'm right again! The podium in the Czech Republic was a fantastic achievement for us, but it has been frustrating for me that we haven't been able to show our potential before now. We want to break that top four up on a more regular basis and we know we are capable of it so that is the target from now to the end of the season. We have shown our speed, now we have to add consistency to the mix but if we can make a good start on Friday there is no reason why we can't close the gap even more. I love racing in America and Indianapolis is such a legendary motorsport venue. However, all that will mean nothing to me if we don't get a result."

Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda): "To be honest, I do not have great memories of last season's race at Indy. I broke my left wrist while practicing, and that had consequences on the rest of the season. Anyway, it is history; at the moment, I'm preparing to try as hard as I can. The track will not be a problem - we just have to find a better grip at the rear and a better control out of the corners."

HONDA 250cc RIDER QUOTES
Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda) says: "I did not race at Indianapolis last season because of the hurricane. We only practiced, so, I can't wait to get the start."

Raffaele De Rosa (Scot Honda) says: "It's a track different from any other with three different kinds of tarmac. I like it; rain or sun it is the same. I raced there in the past season, in 125, while the 250 guys didn't, because of the hurricane. This could be an advantage for me. And after Brno I'm upbeat."

Hector Faubel (Valencia CF-Honda SAG): says: "Last year we could not race at Indianapolis, which was a pity because I started from the second row. It's a circuit I like a lot actually and this year we intend to equal or better our grid position and as always finish in the top five. I do not think a repeat of a situation like last year is possible, crossing half the world to do just practice sessions and have a typhoon ruin the race. I hope to have a great weekend, to work in the development of the bike and finish better than last week in the Czech Republic, where we ended tenth."

Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT-SAG) says: "I have a somewhat funny memory of the U.S. Grand Prix last year as there was a river over the circuit and we could not have the race obviously which was very disappointing. I hope this year there is no impediment to stop the event in such a special place. In Brno we scored some points but hopefully we will do better this weekend because I feel very good on the bike and that gives me confidence to do better. My goal now is to add up the maximum amount of points possible and try to move up in the overall world championship."

Shoya Tomizawa (Team CIP Honda) says: "This is my first time to both the U.S. and to Indianapolis, which I've heard of for many years. It is yet another new track for me to learn; the only grand prix track I raced on before this season was Motegi, my home track. I'm really looking forward to seeing "The Brickyard" and I hope the weather is better than last year. Because last year's race did not run, maybe I am closer on experience with the other riders, and I think I can score points."

Valentin Debise (Team CIP Honda) says: "We don't race at Laguna Seca, so this is my first visit to America and everything will be new. The track has such a great history; it's unlike any other track we race on because it has had Indy cars, Formula One, NASCAR, and MotoGP. It will be all new for me, but I like learning new tracks and the layout doesn't look very technical. I can't wait!"

Source: Honda Pro Image

Click here to visit our forums to discuss this story

Headlines