Not unlike 2000, when Indianapolis and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened their arms and welcomed Formula One, we now await the full arrival of the most elite form of motorcycle racing in the world — MotoGP — and wonder, well, what will it be like?
How big will the crowds be? Where will the spectators arrive from? What can we expect from this invasion of motorcyclists and their machines … and I’m talking about in the streets, and not at the Speedway.
In anticipation of the big weekend, for some reason, somehow I can’t get the Doors’ song, “Riders on the Storm,” out of my head.
The Red Bull Indianapolis GP is really nothing new to Indy of course … not if you want to go back 99 years to the birth of the Speedway. The first form of motorized racing there was, yep, motorcycles.
So we’ve come full circle, even though it’s one big circle.
It’s now a full-blown international circuit, one that’s been around for nearly 60 years. And despite its decidedly international audience, MotoGP comes with some truly all-American stars, notably Kentuckian (Owensboro) Nicky Hayden. But the points leader and defending champ is the wonderfully named Italian, Valentino Rossi.
They’ll be racing around the Speedway’s reconfigured 2.6-mile road course. After attending a couple of the testing sessions in July, I can personally testify that this will be an awesome spectacle. After all, just think about a pack of riders accelerating to 200 miles an hour down the Speedway’s main straightaway, then braking hard and leaning so far left into the first turn that their padded knees scrape the asphalt.
Indy has done its best to roll out a royal welcome for both the competitors and their fans. Nighttime activities in downtown and in nearby Broad Ripple will augment the action on the track that begins with practice and qualifying on Friday and Saturday and then concludes with four races on Sunday. After the Red Bull Rookies Cup, the 125cc and 250cc events, the big boys will stage the grand finale with the 28-lap MotoGP event.
Three-day, reserved-seat passes cost from $75 to $125. Single-day admissions for Friday and Saturday also are available at the IMS gates (cash only).
The Speedway has put out information that 30 percent of all motorcycles registered in the United States are in the eight Midwestern states, and that the normal audience is 80 percent male, ages 16 to 37. IMS officials are hoping for a crowd of 100,000.
Also not to be overlooked is a Saturday night “flat track” race on the mile dirt oval at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Those riders also come equipped with substantial daring and courage.
In particular, Saturday night promises to be quite a diverse night in Indy, in fact. In addition to the RedBull Indianapolis GP fans, Lucas Oil Stadium will host a Kenny Chesney concert and, on Monument Circle, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra opens its season with a gala featuring violinist supreme Joshua Bell.
Wonder if he’ll mark the occasion by playing “Riders on the Storm” on his fiddle?
Bill Benner is the associate director of communications for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association, an Indiana Chamber member. This blog post was written for Building a Better Indiana.