The MotoGP World Championship returns to action after a short break this coming weekend, with the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix marking Round 10 of the 2014 season.
This will be the seventh successive year that MotoGP has visited the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway venue and, since last season, some modifications have taken place. The IMS MotoGP layout has been redesigned to create a 16-turn, 2.591-mile (4.170-kilometre) circuit with exciting new turn configurations and braking zones, creating more passing opportunities.
Turns 3, 4, 7, 15 and 16 have been reconfigured and the entire infield section of the circuit has been repaved to create a more uniform and smooth racing surface. Compared to the previous circuit, the new one is slightly shorter overall (by 0.03 miles / 0.048 km) but retains its 16-turn layout (ten left-handed turns, six right) and anti-clockwise racing direction.
As the riders return from a three-week holiday after Round 9 in Germany, they will hope to quickly find the optimum setup for their racing prototypes through the updated sections of track. All eyes will be on undefeated World Champion Marc Marquez as he seeks to maintain his winning form.
A run of nine straight wins in the first half of the season has given Marquez a significant 77-point lead over Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa in the standings and a considerable psychological advantage over his title rivals. Marquez has also won every premier class race in which he has competed in the United States and his 2013 IMS victory was part of a four-race winning streak which strengthened his historic title challenge during the middle part of the campaign.
So can anyone beat him at Indy or over the forthcoming rounds? That is the challenge which the likes of Pedrosa and Movistar Yamaha MotoGP pair Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo have in front of them.
Rossi sits third in the standings – seven points behind Pedrosa – and if he cannot beat Marquez this weekend he will at least hope to make it onto the podium at Indianapolis, having missed out at Assen and the Sachsenring. Incidentally, Rossi was the winner of the inaugural MotoGP visit to Indy in 2008.
Lorenzo’s five MotoGP podium finishes at the Indianapolis circuit – including victory in 2009 – is more than any other rider. The 2010 and 2012 MotoGP World Champion will look to move up from fifth in the standings in the second half of the season.
Meanwhile, currently sitting fourth and 14th respectively in the championship, Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow each have their own specific targets to meet as racing resumes. Dovizioso is confirmed to continue with Ducati for two more years and aims to build on his good start to 2014, whilst Crutchlow has been announced as switching to Lucio Cecchinello’s LCR Honda MotoGP for 2015 and looks to recover form and fitness after double arm surgery post-Sachsenring.
Meanwhile, the likes of Aleix Espargaro (NGM Forward Racing), Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), Andrea Iannone (Pramac Racing), Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda MotoGP) and Alvaro Bautista (GO&FUN Honda Gresini) will jostle for points and to finish as high up the top ten as possible, with Iannone now having been confirmed as joining Dovizioso as a factory Ducati rider for next season.
American rider Nicky Hayden (Drive M7 Aspar) unfortunately misses the Indianapolis round as he recovers from wrist surgery and he will be replaced by Briton Leon Camier on the Honda RCV1000R.
Meanwhile, this will be the last ever ride on home territory for popular veteran Colin Edwards, with the NGM Forward Racing man set to retire from MotoGP at the end of 2014.
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