MotoGP at Indy: Saturday afternoon

This is one of a series; read the previous installment here.

On the way back to our seats in the stands, Dys stopped to grab another Powerade to drink with her lunch. It was hot, and we were both pretty sweaty. I was glad I’d worn my new Rossi jersey, as it was made with some Under-Armour kind of material that made it not as unpleasant as a sweaty t-shirt would have been. Dys was wearing a tank top, which meant she was a bit cooler, but also gave her shoulders the wonderful opportunity to get sunburned, too. Oops.

Anyway, we got back to our seats to find it was quite a bit more crowded on Saturday than on Friday. Because it was a weekend, because it was qualifying instead of practice, because it was sunny? My guess is “all of the above.” We took our seats and broke out the PBJ’s (now well-squashed from several hours in the backpack with the cameras) and had our humble lunch. As we waited, the crowd built and built until it was completely obvious that the crowd was much larger than Friday’s. As people who were hoping this event would be repeated, we were very happy.

Here are a bunch of the 125cc riders, massed at the exit to pit lane as qualifying begins.

We were both excited by the fact that the track was clearly drying out for qualifying, so we got at least one chance to see the GP bikes at full speed on a fully dry track. I was going to be ridiculously happy no matter what happened, but I had a stated preference for seeing at least one session in the dry just to see what those big boys could do. Now I was going to get my wish.

The 250 practice and 125 qualifying #2 ended without anything major happening, so we waited with bated breath for the GP qualifying. I’d only seen qualifying once before, on TV from Laguna, so I was really happy to get to see it in the flesh. See, thanks to my dad I grew up on NASCAR, where each guy gets a couple of laps around the track by himself to post the fastest time. That’s not what it’s like for MotoGP qualifying. Oh no.

GP qualifying is a one-hour session – anybody and everybody has access to the track for that hour. What happens is that everybody goes out and starts laying down two, three, or four laps at a time, coming in to make minor adjustments to the bike and/or change tires, and then goes back out again. All the while they’re attempting to gauge by the lap times who is strong and who is weak; they’re trying to follow each other and watch each other’s racing lines and braking points to see if their own can be improved and to gauge where they might be faster or slower than another rider and so might be able to pass or be passed during the race; they’re trying to deny precisely that information to other riders while still turning out their best lap time for grid position. You can see how this could get interesting.

Rossi brakes for turn 1

Hayden heading through 1

Dovizioso tips the JiR Scot Honda into 1

Rinse and repeat until about forty-five minutes into the session. At that point, the gloves come off and the super-sticky qualifying tires come out. These tires are so soft that they’re only good for two laps or so before they start to wear out, but they grip like Gorilla Glue, allowing the riders to run deeper into the corners and get back on the gas earlier than ever. The lap times drop off even farther with the qualifying tires, and the serious business of sorting out the grid begins.

Here’s a video of a few bikes during qualifying.

(Compare those speeds to the video taken in the rain on Friday afternoon!)

First Randy DePuniet jumped to the top of the chart, then Jorge Lorenzo bested him. Nicky Hayden came out with an awesome lap of 1:41.271 (around a 2.65 mile track, mind you), and when his name came up on the “Fastest Time of Session” on the jumbotron, the crowd went nuts. Soon thereafter, Valentino Rossi stuck his name at the top of the charts, and fast laps by Stoner and Lorenzo bumped Hayden down to fourth but Rossi held the top with a lap of 1:40.776. In comparison, the fastest times on Friday were all in the 1:53’s – so they went around a 2 ½ mile plus track thirteen seconds faster in the dry. Wow.

Rossi rides away with the pole

By the time the GP qualifying session was over, we were still hot and a bit sweaty, and it was obvious we were both sunburned (especially Dys) so we decided to sit through a bit of 250cc qualifying to let the crowd thin out and then head back to the hotel. By the time we got halfway there, Dys was feeling pretty dehydrated and worn the hell out from all the heat, so I dropped her off at the room and went back to take the film to the 1-hour processor. We sat back, cooled off, and she accompanied me back to pick it up so we could also grab some after-sun lotion for our respective sunburns. Then we went back to the hotel and spent about an hour looking over our photos and high-fiving each other at how great they were. We called and talked to my parents for a bit, then kicked back and watched a little TV, read our books (and I read the $10 “Official Program” for the race) until we were completely goggle-eyed with exhaustion.

The more we watched the weather, the more clearly it seemed that the remnants of Hurricane Ike were going to pound the racetrack in mid-afternoon – precisely when the main event was to take place. We were discouraged, but we were game anyway. Planning for an even earlier start on Race Day, I set the alarm for 5:30am and we faded quickly into sleep.

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3 Responses

  1. Vroooooom! Vrooooom!

    Gorilla Glue?!?!? 🙂

    A name-brand, kind of like a super glue. I just thought “Gorilla Glue” had a better ring to it.

  2. Looks fantastic, I am very envious!

    Fly on over next year and join us! (Don’t I wish I could fly out to say hi to you on my way to the TT or something.)

  3. […] October 1, 2008 MotoGP at Indy: Sunday morning Posted by Taoist Biker under Life and other states of existence, Motorcycle Racing, Motorcycling, motorcycles   This is one of a series; read the previous installment here. […]

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