Arguably the most important subject discussed during Thursday’s pre-Red Bull Indianapolis GP press conference at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the costly recent resurfacing of a significant portion—Turns 5 through 16—of the 2.621-mile infield roadcourse.
Last year, current MotoGP points-leader Casey Stoner, among others, was openly critical of the bump-riddled track. This year, he is cautiously optimistic. “It’s going to be interesting to see what [this new surface is] like, how much grip we have and how the weather works out this weekend.
“It’s a very hard track, very challenging. It’s not sort of normal braking and turn and exiting corners. There are tricky little sections to it and also some faster sections that take a little bit more guts than some corners.”
Dani Pedrosa, Stoner’s Repsol Honda teammate, was also hopeful. “In the past, it was very tricky because of the change of the asphalt. Also, the bumps. But now it’s a completely new surface, so we have to check the grip on the new section. And that’s going to be tricky for the tires and the performance of the bike. But as soon as we can do some laps and get some rubber on the ground, maybe the track conditions [will] start to be a little better.”
“The track surface is definitely different,” added factory Yamaha rider Ben Spies. “[We’re not] going to be relearning the track, but there’s going to be some differences from last year. Everybody’s got to cope with that in a different way.”
Nicky Hayden has already put in some time on the new pavement, albeit on a Ducati 1198, not his GP11.1 works racer. “Riding a streetbike doesn’t really help,” he admitted. “So, it was more for show. I rode around and did some wheelies.
“The new surface is really, really smooth—almost like glass—and it’s not near as patchy. From Turn 4 all the way to the finish, it’s the same pavement. So, I will be anxious to get out there tomorrow, get some rubber down and see how quick it comes in. I don’t expect any tire-wear issues.
“Turn 5 was getting really bumpy. The curbs are fixed; they were ‘staggered’ the wrong way and the drainage wasn’t good. It’s a big step. I think [the Speedway] made a statement by repaving the whole track and saying, ‘Hey, we want this race.’ They went way above and beyond, did a lot a work.”
Even with the new pavement, San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Marco Simoncelli said the race will be tough. “It was easy to [make a] mistake because there were a lot of bumps. I walked one lap, and it seems pretty good, a lot smoother. My first impression is that they did a good job. But, sure, [this] is a difficult racetrack and you have to concentrate because the race is very long—28 laps. So, it will not be easy.”