PROGRAMMING NOTE: The Red Bull Indianapolis GP will air LIVE on FOX Sports 1 on Sunday, August 18 in a four-hour programming block that starts at 11:00am ET.
The Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix got underway today as a star-studded press conference saw proceedings kick-off at the infamous Brickyard. Repsol Honda Team’s championship leading rookie Marc Marquez was joined by teammate Dani Pedrosa, Yamaha Factory Racing duo Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi, Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow, LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl, as well as Ignite Pramac Racing’s Ben Spies, who makes his long-awaited return from injury.
Crutchlow, whose switch to the Ducati Team for 2014 was announced during the summer break, was the center of attention for the gathered press. He commented: “After Laguna we decided that we were going to stay in America and take a break here, but it wasn’t too much of a break. We had a busy first week and then we obviously released that I’ll be riding for Ducati next year. Really pleased and it was nice to get that done, we can settle for the rest of the year now and see how that goes. Yes there are pros and cons for everything. The most difficult thing was making the phone call to Herve. It was quite an emotional phone call. It was a difficult decision to make but I am pleased to secure my future.”
When pushed by the floor as to why he switched to a bike that has proven difficult in the last few years, the Brit joked: “I like the color!”
Championship leader Marquez’s focus is solely on continuing along the same level as he has in his first part of the year: “Now we start the second half and we have recharged our batteries over the summer. We are back; step-by-step we will recover the feeling with the bike and try to keep up the same level. It will be difficult and interesting because Dani and Jorge have recovered. It’s one of the tracks I seem to ride quite well so I hope to do the same with the MotoGP bike.”
Pedrosa, who broke a collarbone in a crash in Germany, is on his way to recovery: “I have been doing some recovery these days. Basically it was all about not moving a lot and staying quiet. The healing process is getting better and over these last days we have seen some signs of the bones recovering so that is good. Now I’m just waiting to go out, checking how everything is on the bike.”
Lorenzo, also healing from his broken collarbone, had his holiday interrupted by a Yamaha test in Brno on the seemless gearbox, which the team will not yet use this weekend: “Obviously I’m not like I was before Assen, but much better than Laguna. I have spent the holiday trying to recover the collarbone, so let’s see how it goes. Yes, the holiday was stopped by the test! But I think it’s important to see how I was on the bike, as I wasn’t great at Laguna, so it was very important for the mind to feel how I am with the bike.”
Teammate Rossi feels the team benefited from the test: “Yes, we did the test and it was important to stay on the bike a bit. We had some important stuff to try and it was a positive test. Maybe tomorrow we will now be more ready. Yes, we tried the new gearbox at Brno and the feeling was very, very good. We like it a lot. But, you know, it’s still a lot of work to do and I still don’t think it’s ready to use, but we will use it as soon as possible.”
Bradl, fresh from his first-ever MotoGP podium in Laguna Seca, is keen to build on that success, especially as today it was confirmed he will stay with the team for 2014: “I can say that I will continue with LCR next year, with good support from HRC which is most important. It’s good for me and good for the team. I’m very happy with that. It is also good news for the second half of this season, going at the best speed we can from tomorrow and just trying to do the best job possible.”
Ben Spies, who has not been on a bike since his attempt to return at Mugello this year, is looking forward to getting back out on track: “Yeah it’s been a rough yeah to say the least. Now I feel good to finally be back and maybe not take your job as a commentator [to commentator Nick Harris]! Now it’s more that I can get on the bike and ride and not tell the little white lies to all of the journalists that I’m ready to ride! Now we can get on with the business and start the season properly. The last time was Mugello, so we have a lot of cobwebs to dust off. As Marquez says: step by step! It’s a good track to come back to, we have good memories here. We’ll just try to get faster with each session and see where we can end up over the next couple of weeks.”
Indianapolis, known for its raft of events before and during the race weekend, also staged the Bridgestone Golf Performance Challenge, where Dorna Sports CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards, GO&FUN Gresini duo Alvaro Bautista and Bryan Staring, Kenny Roberts Sr, Randy Mamola and Indycar race-winner Graham Rahal squared off against each other at the Brickyard Crossings Golf Course – another distinctly unique feature of the famous US circuit.Ben Spies, Dani Pedrosa, Indianapolis, Jorge Lorenzo, MotoGP