Motorcycle racing is incredibly popular in the United States, with a measure of the category’s success being that the country hosts two races – In the Mid-West one at the scene of the world famous Indianapolis 500 race; the other in Laguna Seca in California.
The two venues could not be more different, and not only geographically. Where Laguna is all about undulations and the (in)famous Corkscrew turn, the Indianapolis circuit combines steeply banked turns and squiggly infield sections.
The layout of the 4,216-kilometre circuit includes 10 left- and six right-hand corners, with the length of the main straight being 872 metres. Ahead of this race the section running from Turns 5 to 16 was resurfaced, with 2005 world champion Nicky Hayden finding it to be a big improvement when he visited the circuit earlier this month while on vacation in his homeland.
The American, racing for PUMA’s partner team Ducati, rode one of the iconic Italian manufacturer’s production bikes during a promotional visit to the circuit.
“We’re going to Indy, and we’ll see what the new track surface does,” he said ahead of the race. “I’ve ridden it, and the bumps are definitely gone, although I’d say it will take some time on Friday to clean it up and get some rubber down.
“I’m looking forward to this event,” Nicky, who was born a few hours away in Kentucky, added. “I always enjoy racing at home in front of friends and family, but I need to go there and focus on my job.”
Team-mate Valentino Rossi, does not, though, list the track amongst his favourites although he does enjoy racing in the US. The enthusiasm of the fans makes for a great atmosphere, particularly around the banked section of the track, while overall progress made at the last race in Brno means the legendary nine-time champion goes to Indianapolis with renewed confidence.
“Indy is a difficult circuit, and although it’s not exactly one of my favorites, we’ll see how we perform there with the Ducati. We made a little progress with the GP11.1’s setup during the Brno GP, and we’ll see if we can confirm them at this next race. Anyway, racing in America is always nice for me, as I enjoy both the atmosphere and the fans, who are always very passionate,” the 32-year-old said.
Sunday’s 28-lap race, the 12th of 18 rounds in the 2011 MotoGP World Championship, is crucial to the title hunt, for Honda’s points’ leader Casey Stoner (218 points) consolidated his lead over Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha, on 186) by winning in Brno, while the reigning champion finished fourth and off the podium. Valentino is fourth on 118 points, with Nicky seventh on 103.
After this race the series moves to Misano in Italy for the San Marino Grand Prix.