This past weekend I attended the inaugural MotoGP race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This was very historic in that the very first race at the track in 1908 was a motorcycle race, and motorcycles have not raced there again until now. MotoGP returned to the U.S. in 2005, adding Laguna Seca in California to the calendar, and this year they added Indy as a second U.S. location. As soon as it was announced last year, I knew I was going.
I left Columbia Thursday morning in drizzle, which continued until around Asheville; from there to Lexington, KY I had gorgeous riding weather, but I then encountered heavy rain; I rode through about 15 miles of it, but it got to where I could barely see where I was going becuase my face shield was fogging badly, plus lightening began flashing, so I pulled into a gas station to see if I could wait it out. After about 30 minutes the rain hadn't really lessened in intensity, but the lightening had stopped, and I had sprayed some anti-fog spray on my shield and donned my rain suit, so I resumed my journey. The rain continued until a bit south of Cincinnati, where I was heading for the night to stay with my friend Daryl and his wife Sheila.
I got to Daryl's around 7:00, and he was outside grilling hamburgers and brats, with beans cooking inside and good beer in the frig. Yum! Had a great meal and evening visiting with him and his wife, Sheila.
Friday morning we loaded up and headed out in the rain, stopping for a late breakfast at a local diner in Okeona, OH. Great food and great service. We continued riding through rain most of the way to Indianapolis, and it was raining when we got to Indy, so went to the hotel to take it easy for the rest of the afternoon rather than going to the track; there wasn't too much going on at the track on Friday, anyway. I jumped in the pool for a while, which was quite nice.
Pat and his wife Joann from Florence, KY and Troy from Chicago showed up a couple of hours later, so he all hung out and visited for a while before heading to dinner at a sports bar that was the designated meeting place for the Honda Sport Touring Association for the evening; we had probably around 50-75 members show up; we had a great time visiting.
Saturday gave us perfect weather. After a hearty breakfast at Cracker Barrel we headed to the track. We first watched some racing action from near the track; those MotoGP machines are insanely loud! You just have no idea from watching on TV how loud they are. Earplugs were a must. We then wandered down to the manufacturers' and vendors' exhibits, where I got to see John Hopkins' and Valentino Rossi's bikes up close. Amazing machines!
Also met the Repsol Honda umbrella girls:
John Hopkins was signing autographs, but the line was insanely long, so a photo will suffice:
Why we wear protective gear:
We then grabbed a bite to eat and headed into the stands to eat, soak up some sun, and doze a bit while watching qualifying. Very relaxing. Not quite as loud up there, but still pretty loud.
Some action shots:
That evening we walked over from the hotel to Texas Roadhouse for dinner. Keith and Marie from Cincinnati rolled in just in time to join us. Following a great meal we had a nice evening hanging out, visiting, and kicking tires while enjoying a few bottles of Bad Elmer's Porter, a great local beer brewed just down the road in Bloomington.
Sunday morning we passed on the big breakfast, because we wanted to beat the crowd to the track and be sure to get some decent parking. An HSTA member lives just across from the track, and he opened up his yard for parking, so that's what we did. He and some fellow HSTA members were serving breakfast out back for a donation to the Ride For Kids charity. A big breakfast burrito and cup of coffee did the trick, and it offered another opportunity to visit with fellow HSTA members.
We headed back to the spot in the stands where we sat Saturday afternoon, which offered a good view of the final three turns before the front straightaway. We watched the morning warmups and then the Red Bull Rookies Cup and MotoGP 125cc races with just some intermittent rain. Then things started to get interesting as the remnants of Hurricane Ike made their way to the area; the rain became steadier, and the wind really started to pick up. After this endured for a while, race officials decided to postpone the 250cc race until after the MotoGP race. The rain died down by a little after 2:00, though the wind was still blowing pretty hard. They brought out their track blowers to get the standing water off the track and had it in decent shape by the scheduled start time of 3:00.
Nicky Hayden, the crowd favorite not only for being one of the American riders, but also for being a local boy, hailing from just down the road in Owensboro, KY, got off to a fantastic start and took the lead early and held it for several laps but was ultimately overtaken by "The Doctor," Valentino Rossi; once Rossi got past Hayden, he took off and was getting further ahead with each lap. Meanwhile, the wind kept increasing in intensity, to the point of blowing debris onto the track and even blowing some of the air fence safety barriers out of place. After 20 of the 28 scheduled laps, race officials halted the race out of safety concerns. This rarely happens, but it was a good call. Rossi easily took the win, his fourth in a row, and which makes him the all-time winningest MotoGP rider, passing the record of 68 wins set by Giocomo Agostini in 1977.
The fate of the 250cc race was yet to be determined, but we figured it would surely be canceled, so we headed back to the bikes to find them still upright - unfortunately not the case for a group of Ducatis that was parked in the infield:
We had a moderately wet and very windy ride back to Cincinnati, where we found the city in tatters - large trees and power lines were down everywhere, and we later learned that 90% of the city was without power. It was quite a mess. Fortunately Daryl's power came back on shortly after we arrived. He cooked up a batch of his awesome Tanzanian Peaberry coffee, which really hit the spot after being in the monsoon all day.
Monday morning I headed home; it was bizarre seeing very little traffic in Cincinnati; most places still had no power, so no one was out going to work or to stores. I finally had a dry day of riding, making it the entire way with nary a drop, though I made it home just in time; as soon as I put my bike away, it began raining, and a serious lightening storm commenced.
Even though Mother Nature didn't give us the best weekend, it was still quite a blast, and I can't wait to go again next year! Here are all the photos I took.