The weather on Saturday at the track was even nicer than the day before! Temperatures started to warm up, and the skies were as blue as ever. It looked to be a great day for some two wheel action.
The XR1200’s rumbled to a start for a short 15 minute warm up before Free Practice 3. In Moto3, Sandro Cortese held his lead with his Red Bull KTM while his teammate Danny Kent and Maverick Viñales were only fractions of a second behind him. MotoGP Champion Casey Stoner showed his colors in FP3 and took the lead, breaking the lap record that Dani Pedrosa had just set the day before. The conditions were definitely favorable since Stoner, Pedrosa, Spies and Bradl all dropped into the 1’39s. Cal Crutchlow suffered a small crash in T4 right before he got to our station and ended up 9th on the time sheets, not having been able to get back out after his crash. Moto2 closed up Free Practice with Pol Espargaro once again taking first with Scott Redding and Marc Marquez biting at his heels all within half a second behind him!
We got a break while the VIP Village Pit Lane Walk opened up along the straight and MOTOX2 took the track. I was confused when I saw our schedule, but once I heard the Ducati roar by, two-up with a passenger, it all made sense! I have to admit that I had to look all this up since it’s something I’d never seen before! Apparently, Randy Mamola takes passengers for a ride on a modified Desmosedici GP6 900 with a passenger seat, pegs and grab bars. Watching him fly past, you can tell he isn’t taking anything easy. As he powers out of T4 past our station, you can see that the passenger’s ‘seat’ is sliding back and hanging behind the tail section… no pun intended! I’m not quite sure if he takes the same passenger each lap, but he definitely goes around a few times! I’m not quite sure how you get to become a passenger, but I’m adding it to my Bucket List! I’ve gone two-up with former AMA Pro Racer Glen Goldman a few times and I know what a workout that is on your legs and arms when he brakes, I can’t even imagine what kind of ride a GP bike would offer! I might have to do a few extra push-ups to get ready for that ride.
Qualifying Practice started after lunch which promptly turned into a Crashfest! We heard about questionable conditions on the other side of the track from our station which may have contributed to the crashes. Moto3 started the qualifying sessions, where Sandro Cortese took pole position holding off his teammate Danny Kent once again and with Maverick Viñales close behind them. Hector Faubel highsided and was taken to hospital for checks, Jack Miller crashed breaking his collarbone, Danny Web crashed and injured his arm, and Alex Marquez crashed three times one of which caused a red flag and an early end to QP for Moto3. Unfortunately MotoGP followed along the same theme! The first red flag was for Casey Stoner who experienced a massive highside in T14 which severely injured his right ankle. The second victim was Ben Spies in the exact same spot, luckily walking away with only minor injuries. Minutes later, Nicky Hayden was thrown from his bike at the same spot as Stoner and Spies except that Hayden hit the ground hard, knocking him unconscious and red flagging the session again. They later announced that Hayden had two bones fractured in his hand and was declared unfit to compete in the race. Despite all the crashes, Dani Pedrosa broke the lap record a second time that weekend taking pole. Lorenzo came in second and Spies fourth despite his crash.
Moto2, thankfully, kept their QP session crash free however a little groundhog kept it interesting for the marshals in Turn 4-5. Colin spotted our little friend across from our station on the infield. The little groundhog spent the rest of the session trying to run across to our turn, then down to the outside of T4, then back and forth finally getting cornered into the tires in T4. With us throwing a debris flag, the ground hog almost saw his end as one of the Moto2 riders rode by, but thankfully both survived the near-incident. With no escape, the best we could do was to shoo it toward T4 away from the race line. Pol Espargaro took pole with a hot lap early in the session beating his own FP2 time by almost a second. Marc Marquez was in second position only a quarter of a second behind Espargaro.
The AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 race followed QP unfortunately continuing the day we could have trended #crashfestsaturday! To our elation, P.J. Jacobsen was on his game, taking off from the others and pulling an unanswered four second lead after Tyler O’Hara crashed out. Past the half-way flag, P.J. himself crashed which was followed by a crashfest of XR1200’s falling all over each other. The race was red flagged and P.J. was announced as the winner because he was the leader of the lap preceding the red flag. We later swung by the M.O.B. Racing paddock to applaud P.J. for his win, where we encountered an awkward silence in the pit as two officials with AMA Pro shirts on came by and were asking questions and wanted the mechanics to show them P.J.’s bike and samples of his oil. We found out later that evening that the officials controversially concluded that P.J.’s bike was the cause of the accidents which led to the red flag, therefore giving Kyle Wyman the win. AMA Pro Racing posted a highlight video of Race 1 where you can see the chaos from the crashfest…
We heard a lot of whispering about the track conditions in general, and unconfirmed reports of MotoGP not returning to Indianapolis in the future. The fact that three of the best motorcycle racers in the world all had similar crashes, and Valentino Rossi almost added to that list luckily saving an almost highside in QP, would make anyone wonder what might be wrong with the track around that T14 area. We we were being shuttled off the track when we saw workers and officials working diligently around the crash spots. I hoped that they are able to make all the repairs necessary overnight to make Sunday safer for the riders! We were told by some of the other marshals that the infield course that the bikes were using that weekend is only used for MotoGP and that no other race organization uses it, which could explain the conditions and why the problems unfortunately would not have been known until this weekend. I could be wrong, because this is all hearsay, but no motorcycle team or organization tests at Indy either. I would hate to see one less round of MotoGP in the US but if conditions are dangerous for riders, I would prefer it over injury! Rumors of a Formula 1 track in Austin being added to the MotoGP series put my mind at ease.