My view from the penthouse in turn one
CoTA is nice, Laguna is cool but many a US MotoGP fan (including myself) has, since it’s inception, considered MotoGP Indy as the best overall, bang for the buck event on the calendar. With the 2015 event being the last for the foreseeable future (or ever), I thought it would be nice to look back at my first visit to MotoGP Indy:
I was fortunate to be able to attend the MotoGP Indy weekend from 2008 to 2012 and once more in 2015. My main focus here is on the inaugural event in 2008.
I was very excited upon learning that Indy was on the MotoGP schedule for 2008 which would be my first opportunity to witness a GP in person which was followed by even more elation when the Indy Mile was announced for the Saturday Night before the GP. It would be another first for me to experience seeing a flat track race ran on the mile. To say I could hardly wait for that weekend to arrive is a vast understatement !!
Arriving at the track Friday morning, just as the MotoGP bikes had gone out for FP1, I rushed into the track to watch the remainder of the session from the south grandstands. I was immediately overwhelmed by firstly, the sheer enormity of the place and the feeling of being on sacred ground as far as motor sports is concerned and secondly, the sights and sounds of the bikes / riders on track. I began to familiarize myself with the engine notes of the different makes of machines which was so much more pronounced in person than when watching races on TV. A light rain was falling so it was a wet session. Not long after I had sat down, Casey Stoner had a big crash right in front of me as the rear of his Ducati stepped out on the exit of turn one and highsided him down onto the tarmac. This might have been the moment that Stoner’s dislike of the Indy track began in earnest.
Later that evening, the wife and I went to dinner at Union Jacks, just up the street from the Speedway. Upon sitting down at the bar I soon realized that I was sitting next to none other than Julian Ryder and Toby Moody. A discussion ensued about the events of the day and thoughts of what the remainder of the weekend had in store. This capped-off a memorable first day experience at the Indy GP.
Saturday, after being treated to dry (rare for that weekend) practice and qualifying at the Speedway, we made our way over to the fairgrounds for that evenings Indy Mile. First up was a visit to the pits where I got to see the bikes and riders up close and have a picture made with flat track legend Chris Carr. As we returned to our seats in the grandstand, the evenings racing action began and I quickly realized that as brave as I thought the road racers were, these guys took it to another level !! It was also very cool to see so many members of the GP paddock there to watch the event. That night I became a huge fan of flat track motorcycle racing.
Sunday brought more rain as we took our seats in the penthouse grandstands above turn one. The remnants of Hurricane Ike were forecast to blow through the area sometime during the day. The 125cc race was fairly entertaining but who could have known that the young Spaniard riding the #93 Repsol KTM, who finished 6th that day, would make such an impact on the sport in the coming years.
Much to everybody’s disappointment, the 250cc race was cancelled as the weather began to deteriorate and the schedule was delayed. I was looking forward to that race as much as any to see the young Italian, Marco Simoncelli racing in anger but that would have to wait until the next year.
As the MotoGP race was set to begin it seemed as though the weather was improving somewhat. The highlight of the race for me (and most of the crowd) was when Nicky Hayden passed Andrea Dovizioso for the lead on lap two and led until Valentino Rossi overtook him on lap thirteen. By that time, the rain and wind were really picking-up and I was amazed that the riders were able to continue on in such conditions. Finally, the race was red flagged on lap twenty, eight laps shy of full distance, leaving Rossi the winner with Hayden & Lorenzo rounding out the podium. The other highlight for me was seeing Ben Spies, in a wild card appearance, bring his Suzuki home in sixth place.
By then, the weather had gotten so bad that we decided to hunker down where we were instead of attempting to get down to the area under the grandstands approximately six stories below us. At one point, a metal chair came flying off of the rooftop observation deck near us as we watched the giant Yamaha tent in the infield collapse. After things calmed down enough to where we felt somewhat safe in climbing down from our perch, we made it to the car and started the long drive south back towards Atlanta. As we traveled down I-65 between Indy and Louisville, we were amazed at the amount of damage caused by the storm and felt lucky to find a gas station to fuel-up at as there were power outages all along that corridor of the interstate.
It was a most enjoyable and memorable weekend that left me looking forward with great enthusiasm to the following years event !!