MotoGP: Indianapolis 2011
There is an almost inevitable feel in the air as Indianapolis looms. Casey Stoner has not just been on song, he has been on fire. The pattern has become clear - his weekend begins with setup struggles that can persist up to the opening laps of the race; by mid-race he adjusts and stalks the upper third of the field (he never falls too far backwards, his dues paid on the ill-handling GP08-10 having more than prepared him for anything that the Honda can throw his way) and finally dispatches with whoever had the temerity to assume the lead with laser-like precision. Lorenzo has tried at every turn to foul Stoner's championship charge, and has done an admirable job of keeping the race tight. Yet the past two races have seen him start to slip further behind, and incurring a minor injury to boot. That he has the skill seems to be without question, whether the equipment is up for the task however is. While Honda didn't exactly bring a gun to the proverbial knife fight, they certainly showed up to an '80s styled switchblade showdown with nothing short of a Bowie when they rolled out the RC212V. The bike is fast, smooth, and in factory trim with skilled riders puts Lorenzo as the lone matador in a colliseum of four bulls. The Tale of the (engine) Tape says it all. Despite turning up the power for 2011, Honda's riders still have the most unused miles to give of any manufacturer. Still, Yamaha may have found a little something to help Lorenzo in his fight, with the newly specced motor that he will be using this weekend providing more power everywhere to combat the Honda's incredible drive. Lorenzo will not be the only person benefitting from Yamaha's engineering development. Ben Spies rode crippled at the last round, and still is not completely healed, complaining of continued numbness in the arm although the condition is somewhat improved. Still, the rider who took pole and 2nd place on an outdated satellite Yamaha is a strong contender to finish on the podium again this year, and the newly revamped engine should help greatly. That may be for the best, because Yamaha brass confirms that there are no official team orders for the race, though conspiracy theorists can guess at what unofficial orders may exist. In the Ducati camp, we await to see what the latest round of development will show. There are reports that Ducati is developing an aluminum chassis in parallel with their carbon one in light of both fan an rider/team pressure. Whether such a chassis will be available this weekend for at least a round of practice session testing remains to be seen. Still, Ducati claims to have made some progress on the overall GP11.1 project. How much this will allow them to gain on the established title threats is a mystery.