Day two of our MotoGP adventure in Indy started with a nice, lazy wakeup time. The main race wasn’t until well after lunch, and we’d already seen a ton of the race grounds and gone behind the scenes. Today was really just about hanging out, taking in the energy of the crowd, and then of course, watching the main event.
Just like Saturday, we took advantage of Ducati Island and their hospitality. MotoGP at Indy is such a perfect event to arrive to on a motorcycle. Arriving on a Ducati was even better, since it meant rock star parking right at their pavillion. Someone from the Ducati team would greet us, with a kickstand puck in hand, ready to place it under our side stands and insure nobody’s bike took a topple in the grass. By being registered for Ducati Grandstand seats, we also got to take advantage of the complimentary gear check. Not having to stuff our jackets into panniers or drape our gear awkwardly over our bikes was its own kind of luxury. The hospitality we encountered at Ducati Island was all small things, but they added up to a much easier, more luxurious race day experience.
Yet the Ducati Grandstand wasn’t our only seating option. Even though more than 60,000 people showed up for race day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the facility is capable of handling so much more that it gave a real sense that we all had the place to ourselves. As a spectator, this is great, yet I couldn’t help but feel a little bit sorry for this grand old facility and how empty it felt. Regardless, such under-utilization meant that while the Moto2 and Moto3 races were going on, I was free to wander the facility and take in the action from many different venues. There were viewing mounds and even small grandstands in throughout the infield course’s many turns. Then there were the main grandstands along both sides of the back stretch to the start/finish line and its iconic stripe of bricks. Thanks to the facilities numerous Jumbotron-style video screens, there really wasn’t a bad seat in the house.
As I walked around the grounds, I ran into more and more Chicago folks, some even from the Motoworks Chicago crew, which is always fun. It’s often in question as to whether or not MotoGP will return to Indy. Obviously all of us in the Chicago area hold out hope that this event will continue into the future. With Indy less than three hours away, it gives us so many options. We can swing down for the whole weekend, or just ride down the morning of MotoGP, watch the race, and then travel back that same evening. The latter is what most of the Chicago folks were up to, and that’s great.
As we got closer and closer to race time, I wondered where we’d finally settle in and watch the action. With just a little while to go, Johnny got a text from his buddy Gus, who invited is all to come watch the race from his company box at the top of the grandstands along the main straightaway. From that vantage point we were able to see quite a bit of the track. To our left was the final 4-5 corners of the circuit, then the bikes would blast down the straight right in front of us toward the start/finish line on our left. With two giant Jumbotron screens in view as well, it was a great vantage point.
Now if you follow MotoGP, my recounting the race isn’t going to tell you anything you don’t already know. This was three races really. There was the race for first, between Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez. There was the race for third between Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi. Then there was the rest of the pack.
Lorenzo lead from the start and kept that lead for what felt like 3/4 of the race before being edged out by Marquez on his Repsol Honda. The two of them battled 1-2 seconds ahead of Pedrosa and Rossi, which at those speeds meant they might as well have been on another track. As most already know, Marquez would hold his pass in the end to take the top of the podium.
The battle for third between Rossi and Pedrosa was a similar dual. Pedrosa held third until about half way through the race Rossi began to really challenge, and finally overtake him. The two of them traded third place a handful of times before Rossi finally held onto his position and took the last spot on the podium.
The rest of the pack was lead by Ducati pilot Andrea Iannone, who held fifth place for what seemed like the entire race. Fellow Ducati Team pilot Andrea Dovizioso rounded out the top ten in ninth posiiton — a terrific showing for our Italian partners. Having seen these bikes in full race prep just the day before gave me a whole new appreciation for all the hard work that goes into even finishing a GP race, let alone taking a pair of top ten finishes.
As the leaders and the pack screamed by for the last time, it was another MotoGP in the books. Marc Marquez came out on top, but Rossi continued to add to his list of podium finishes this season. For us in the stands, it’d been a great race full of blistering speeds and wheel-to-wheel competition. I particularly enjoyed seeing the bikes come around the last corner onto the main straight and accelerate like rockets toward the start/finish line. Granted, this didn’t make them any easier to photograph, but it’s always fun to see just how much a motorcycle and rider are capable of. Adding to that the look behind-the-scenes we’d gotten from Ducati the day before, I left MotoGP with even more appreciation for what a spectacular sport it really is.
What’s more, I knew that this entire enterprise would begin packing up and moving on to the Czech Republic before the checkered flag had even quit waiving over Marquez’s helmet. The sheer scale of that, plus the spectacle of these men and their machines made MotoGP in Indy so much more to see in person than it would have been just watching the action online or on TV. There’s no substitute for being where the action is, even if in the end, we watched most of it on big screens anyway, our little glimpses of the action as it unfolded made all the difference.