Rossi takes red flagged Indy win
14 September 2008
Valentino Rossi has set a new all-time record for premier-class race wins after taking his 69th 500cc/MotoGP victory at the first ever Indianapolis MotoGP on Sunday.
The 2008 world championship leader overcome local star Nicky Hayden and some appalling weather conditions before the red flags were finally shown with seven of the 28 laps to go, confirming Rossi's seventh victory of the season and fourth in a row.
The race had looked in real danger of being cancelled when the predicted rain and wind from Hurricane Ike hit the circuit shortly after midway, forcing the 125cc race to be stopped and 250cc race to be delayed until after the MotoGP event (it was later cancelled). The MotoGP riders had already warned that a repeat of Friday's flooding on the poorly drained new parts of the Indy road track would make racing impossible.
A window in the storm fortunately appeared, allowing the MotoGP race to start on time, albeit on a soaking wet track.
Rossi dropped from pole to fourth into turn one - behind Casey Stoner, Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso - with rookie Dovizioso wasting no time in passing both Hayden and Stoner to lead by the end of the first lap.
Hayden, chasing his first podium of the season, also quickly demoted future Ducati Marlboro team-mate Casey Stoner, then put his factory RC212V ahead of Dovizioso's satellite-spec machine at the end of the second lap. Nicky, from nearby Kentucky, has done much to promote the Indy event and his return to the front of a MotoGP race was greeted with a cheer by the soaking trackside fans.
Rossi overtook reigning world champion Stoner soon after, with team-mate Jorge Lorenzo and fellow Italian Dovizioso falling victim to the #46 by lap six. Only Hayden remained ahead and Valentino soon arrived on the 2006 world champion's rear wheel.
Hayden's pneumatic-valve Honda proved a potent force along the straights, and Rossi had made the occasional error whilst racing with the #69 - then dropped away slightly when heavy rain returned on lap eleven.
As the rain began pouring down, Nicky built his advantage up to 0.6secs, but Rossi soon adapted to the treacherous conditions and made his victory pass by diving inside Nicky at the end of the back straight on lap 14.
Rossi initially broke away from Hayden, but the rain and wind mercilessly lashing the Indianapolis Motor Speedway continued to deteriorate - kicking Rossi sideways on several occasions and allowing Hayden to close back in on the seven time world champion.
But by lap 19 the track was beginning to flood, conditions Hayden had struggled badly in on Friday, and he began losing several seconds a lap as he fought to keep his RCV on two wheels. Lorenzo smelt blood and was on the verge of seizing second position when the red flags were finally waved with seven laps to go.
Race direction had almost certainly been waiting for two-thirds distance to be run, so that a result could be declared, but it then seemed that a restart was possible. After ten minutes of confusion, during which an air fence was seen being blown into the air and a Yamaha awning collapsed, it was decided that there would be no restart.
After climbing the top step of the podium for the 69th time, Rossi gave his jacket to a frozen podium girl then celebrated increasing his world championship lead over Stoner from 75 to 87 points, with just four races and 100 points left.
Stoner, having crashed out while leading at the last two events, could be forgiven for feeling satisfied with fourth position whilst Dovizioso dropped to fifth after his early heroics.
Wild-card Ben Spies took a MotoGP best of sixth for Rizla Suzuki, losing just one place from fifth in the dry qualifying session, while Alice Ducati's Sylvain Guintoli used his wet weather skills to charge from 14th at the end of lap one to seventh by the time the race was stopped.
Dani Pedrosa finished his first MotoGP race with Bridgestone tyres and the pneumatic-valve Honda in a creditable eighth, while Chris Vermeulen - a MotoGP race winner in the wet - must surely have hoped for better than ninth.
Honda Gresini's Alex de Angelis rounded out the top ten on a day when incredibly, given the conditions, all 19 riders finished the race.
Indianapolis Grand Prix:
10. de Angelis
13. de Puniet