"What's the track like, Casey?" — "Terrible, like always." Criticise the reigning MotoGP World Champion for his bluntness all you like, but he was spot on with his assessment before the start of the race weekend. Never the biggest fan of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway — or at least the purpose-built MotoGP infield track - Stoner has not been alone in taking shots at the condition of the venue for round eleven of the World Championship.
For some, it was an unprovoked whinge from the Australian, a bee in his bonnet and another grudge taken too far. After the carnage of Saturday qualifying, most people had come round to his way of thinking.
In the premier class, we had Nicky Hayden forced to miss the race with a hand injury and a concussion, plus Stoner and — to a lesser extent - Spies riding battered and bruised after big highsides. Add Héctor Barberá to that list, too, thanks to his huge crash on Friday. 'Bambi on ice' would be a charitable description for the slipperiness of the asphalt at 'The Brickyard,' and everyone paid the price for it.
The pay-off was a snoozefest of a race, over as a competitive contest once the fastest rider of the weekend got through into the lead on lap four. The lack of action only puts the track condition further into centre stage in the aftermath of the Indianapolis Grand Prix.
The inclusion of the event on the 2012 calendar was one of the surprises of last season. All signs had pointed to Indy's disappearance from MotoGP: No renewal coming into the race weekend, riders like Dani Pedrosa opining that the track was "not up to World Championship standard," the confirmation of the Texas GP at Austin's provisional inclusion for 2013 and a disastrous re-laying of the asphalt which only drew more ire from those risking injury on a surface similar to a wet track.
When the series got there this past weekend, not much had changed. The solution? Well, there isn't really one. The chaos was inconvenient but not sufficient for cancellation of the event, something that only occurs in the most extreme of circumstances —think of how the inaugural Indianapolis GP was still contested despite highly unsuitable weather conditions. The replacement asphalt was meant to solve the issue, but the track is still more conducive to crashes than to great racing, with its one clean line and treacherous alternatives. In fact, there are more dirty sections at IMS than in '50 Shades Of Grey.' Turns 13 and 16 proved to be particularly contributive to trips to the medical centre or beyond.
It's over and done with now, but the after-effects are going to drag on into next weekend and further down the line. One of the main title contenders is injured with a fractured and sprained ankle, losing out on a podium finish because he had been exhausted by overcompensating on the opposite side and his painkilling injection had worn off. Heroics the day after a crash are almost commonplace in MotoGP, but after a few days the soreness will set in and Stoner has a tough weekend ahead of him. Indianapolis might have been the race from which there is no coming back in the championship fight.
Watching riders approach their garage on crutches, receiving a painkilling injection and generally just being patched up, rather than treated, isn't something that I like to see. Guts and glory are one thing, but the simple test of walking to the bike unaided doesn't really give the best assessment of the situation. Returning to action 26 days after breaking your leg, like Barberá, or depending on painkillers to get through a race is an invitation for problems in future life. Nicky Hayden would definitely have tried to ride in his home GP as well, but thankfully concussion is something still taken seriously as far as medical clearance is concerned.
Track conditions will be better at Brno —rider conditions won't. That's the real shame to come from the Indianapolis GP.
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