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GP Week : Issue 165
ROSSI – QUO VADIS INDY KILLS CASEY’S CHANCES 40 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: The matter is all done and dusted now. Rossi is drawing a line under two bad years at Ducati and returning (this time supposedly as junior partner) to Yamaha alongside Jorge Lorenzo. It was probably done and dusted a couple of weeks before it was confirmed, in the summer break between Laguna and Indianapolis; a reported 17-million Euro offer from Ducati so much window dressing. By the first of those races, Ben Spies had already broken ranks with his own announcement, via social media, that he was leaving Yamaha. Did he jump or was he pushed? Either way, it opened the way for Rossi. At Brno two weeks ago, Yamaha called a conference to explain their side. The approach came from Rossi, said race MD Lin Jarvis; there had been no meddling from Dorna; and Jorge remained the chosen one for the title. Lorenzo would be leading development. “Valentino will assist,” said a factory spokesman. His hopes of a factory Yamaha dashed (he’s now been sidelined by both Japanese factories), Andrea Dovizioso bit the silver bullet and signed for two years with Ducati. In the meantime Nicky Hayden’s contract with the team had been renewed for a further year. In the wake of this Cal Crutchlow, his Ducati deal having melted away in front of him, signed to stay on with Tech 3 Yamaha next year. There are big questions: Can Rossi win again, or is he past it? Will he have to hand best to Lorenzo? The same questions exercise racing’s biggest superstar. “IwanttofindoutifIamstillatop rider,” he said at Brno. In spite of – even because of – partial resurfacing last year, the Brickyard’s little used infield circuit is treacherous and unpredictable ... one of those curious tracks is abrasively punishing on tyres while at the same time short of grip. There were a number of victims, but two high-profile tumblers whose loss made a big difference. One was local hero Nicky Hayden, the track less than four hours drive north from his Kentucky home. He’d just set a top-eight qualifying time a full second faster than team-mate Rossi and was striving to better it when his Ducati spat him high in the air on the Turn 13/14 pair of lefts. He landed hard, unconscious for a spell, bashing his right hand hard enough to break bones and rule him out of the next race too. Ben Spies fell at the same corner, escaping with a big bruising; but the most spectacular high-side exiting the 130 km/h bend was executed by Casey Stoner, early in qualifying. His bike destroyed itself; the back wheel smashed to pieces – leading to some conjecture that tyre pressure loss might have caused the crash. The human cargo fared little better. Stoner bravely raced the next day to a remarkable fourth, but the injuries proved bad enough to rule him out at Brno and for two or more races to come. It ended his chances at a final title in his last year, and opened the door for a deep-end substitute role for Superbike rider Jonathan Rea. MOTOGP >>> UPDATE