Speedway — Two-thirds of the front row for MotoGP’s Indianapolis Grand Prix tasted pavement.
Jorge Lorenzo savored victory … becoming the first Indianapolis Motor Speedway champion to victoriously cross the bricks on one wheel.
The Spaniard passed Fiat Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi on Lap 8 and had it made when Rossi — the six-time MotoGP champion and current points leader — crashed two laps later. Lorenzo had no serious competition the rest of the way on his way to victory by 9.435 seconds over San Marino’s Alex de Angelis in the second edition of world championship motorcycle racing at the track.
Lorenzo had an insurmountable lead as he made the final turn to complete the final lap, so he did a wheelie for the entire length of the Speedway’s front straightaway. It was the start of a wild celebration for a man who’s viewed as the understudy to Rossi, his iconic teammate.
“With every lap I see, ‘OK, maybe I will try.’ So I try and I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to do 100 meters only or 200 meters,’ but I did almost one kilometer,” said Lorenzo on his wheelie. “The sensation to be on the wheelie was nice.”
It was Lorenzo’s third victory of the season, but his first since the French Grand Prix in May. He chopped Rossi’s championship lead, which had been 50 points, in half.
Lorenzo started second, but got off slower than pole-sitter Dani Pedrosa and Rossi, who started third. Lorenzo began to reel them even before misfortune struck both riders.
Pedrosa wrecked on Lap 3, handing the lead to Rossi. But Rossi could not shake Lorenzo, who was no more than 0.231 seconds behind Rossi for the next five laps.
Lorenzo passed Rossi going into Turn 1 on Lap 8. Rossi tried in vain to stay with his teammate, but met disaster in the effort.
On Lap 10, Rossi fell as he tried to set up his approach into a hard right-hand Turn 2. Rossi fell on his right side and slid into the grass. He re-mounted and rode on, but eventually retired from the back of the field two laps later.
“I ran wide on to a dirty part of the track and lost the front. I tried to carry on, but there was a problem with my throttle and it wasn’t possible,” Rossi said.
Once Rossi fell, Lorenzo was never threatened. He led by as much as 13 seconds, never having a gap of less than nine seconds. While the last two-thirds of the race lacked drama up front, Lorenzo’s victory celebration tried to make up for it.
His near mile-length wheelie — risky, given that a rider in the 250cc class crashed doing a celebratory wheelie at the last MotoGP weekend — was just the start.
On completion of his cool-down lap, he paid homage to three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves by scaling the catch fence in front of the grandstands. Then, on his victory lap, a course marshal gave him a Captain America shield, which he proudly displayed to the crowd.
“I wanted to celebrate the victory with the fans like Spiderman [Castroneves],” Lorenzo said. “I had great fun on the slow-down lap with the fans and I am so happy to win at this amazing track.”
The Indianapolis GP reversed Lorenzo and Rossi’s fortunes from the previous race. In the Czech Grand Prix at the Brno circuit on Aug. 16, Lorenzo had fallen while trying to pass Rossi for the lead.
Rossi, the self-styled “Doctor,” had taken the lead thanks to Pedrosa’s Lap 3 accident. Pedrosa lost control of his Repsol Honda in Turn 15, the penultimate turn before the track re-enters the Speedway’s oval. He continued racing, but finished a disappointing 10th.
Owensboro, Ky., native Nicky Hayden ensured that the Stars & Stripes flew on the podium with a hard-fought third-place finish. Hayden, a former world champion, fought off Andrea Dovizioso for the entire race, and never got a gap of more than a second for the final 15 laps. It was Hayden’s first podium of the season.
“It’s not a win, but it feels really good being up there and spraying the bubbly,” said Hayden, who rides for Ducati.
Fellow American Colin Edwards also did well, finishing fifth on a Yamaha.
Unlike 2008’s inaugural event, when the remnants of Hurricane Ike ruined the weekend, weather was good and allowed the supporting 125cc and 250cc races to go on as planned.
Spain’s Pol Esparago won the 125cc event on a Derbi by 0.120 seconds over British rider Bradley Smith as the top five riders were seperated by less than two seconds. Italy’s Marco Simoncelli won the 250cc event on a Gilera by 1.943 over Japan’s Hiroshi Aoyama.
Attendance was 75,130 for Sunday’s race and 146,680 for the three-day session overall, according to MotoGP.
Speedway — Two-thirds of the front row for MotoGP’s Indianapolis Grand Prix tasted pavement.
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