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GP Week : Issue 28
V alentino Rossi wrote a new page in history at Indianapolis, becoming the most successful rider in the premier class by claiming his 69th victory, and his fourth in a row, as he marches inexorably towards an eighth World Championship. The Fiat Yamaha rider conquered atrocious conditions and a flying home hero Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda) in the first motorcycle race at the historic ‘Brickyard’ since 1909. He was pulling away, leading by almost three seconds by the 20th of 28 scheduled laps when Hurricane Ike took a hand. It wasn’t just the rain. By now gale- force winds were blowing debris across the track, signage and tents were collapsing, and there was imminent danger of trackside Astroturf lifting and blowing across the circuit. The red flag came out late enough for results to be declared, with more than two-thirds distance run, but only just soon enough for most riders. Amazingly, there were no crashes. “It was like Russian Roulette,” said Rossi – miming the actions because he didn’t know the English words. “I think these are the worst conditions of all my career.” Apart from the new track and surface, the standing water, “at the end the bigger problem was the wind. It was very inconsistent, and strong. You never knew what would happen on the straight. The bike took all the track. “I didn’t want to put my hand up because I was leading the race. But every lap I was hoping for the red flag. I think it was a good decision.” The race had started almost on time, after the 250 race was postponed because of heavy rain (and later cancelled). Casey Stoner (Marlboro Ducati) took a flier to lead through the first corners, but by the end of the lap Andrea Dovizioso (Team Scot Honda) had seized the lead, with Hayden second. Next time round Hayden was in front, and he stretched away by almost a second by lap six, when Rossi had moved through to second. Over the next seven, the American home hero held him at bay, sliding wildly on his softer tyre choice. But when Rossi finally pounced, at the end of the back straight on lap 13, he was soon pulling away. Nicky closed up again when the rain got heavier on laps 17 and 18, and said later: “I had nothing to lose here – I had to go for it. It’s been a long time since I led a race, but when Valentino came he had a little more speed. I pushed 38