A Conversation With ... Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa, Ben Spies
MODERATOR: Here we go, ladies and gentlemen, in third place Ben Spies, of course, riding the Yamaha. (Applause)
In second place, Dani Pedrosa riding the Repsol Honda.
And the winner this afternoon here at the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix, Casey Stoner. (Applause)
Q: First of all, congratulations, Casey. What's that, three in a row, seven Grand Prix wins? But it was hard work out there, I'd imagine, this afternoon.
CASEY STONER: Yeah, I was trying not to look at my lap counter. I was basically just going around and around and trying to make sure the gap stayed right and I did everything right, because, yeah, I knew this race was going to be hard. It ended up being very true. We were struggling again, you know. Last four or five laps, I was starting to get tired. You know, it's difficult to stay with concentration, and I had to pick my pace up every now and then just to get my concentration levels back and sort of stay focused to the end. The whole weekend has been pretty good for us. We can't complain. The track has been very difficult to ride and very difficult to understand. But the team managed to get the bike sorted, and we managed to ride this track pretty well this weekend.
So we started off the race pretty average. We got a good start, but going into Turn 2, I didn't have my brakes hot enough and I almost tagged the back of Dani. So I ran wide and then Jorge came past me. I knew that this track was going to be hard to overtake on, so I didn't really want to lose many spots, as many as I could. From there I was just trying to get past Jorge. He was riding well; he was covering his lines well. There wasn't many opportunities. But once I got past, we were able to sort of start chasing down Dani and then sort of holding the lap times we knew he could. But it wasn't an easy race right from the start, and a lot of hard work to get what we have.
Q: Forty-four-point lead in the championship, six rounds to go. Still a long, long way, but those last three wins have made such a difference, haven't they?
STONER: Yeah, I mean, we came off not so much a bad run but a run where we were struggling a little bit. Didn't have a lot of confidence. Was sort of sore with the neck and shoulder since Assen, and we sort of were on the back foot slightly. Also coming off two difficult weekends in Laguna and Brno, but we came up with some fantastic results. So this weekend the whole weekend has gone so well for us. We're really looking for a good result because if we turned this one around the opposite way, it wasn't going to be too good.
But, no, the way the team worked, the way everybody worked around me this weekend was fantastic. We managed to get that bike slowly but surely better every session. By the time it came to the race, we were ready.
Q: Misano is the next race. It's such a short space of time, isn't it, back across the Atlantic and back on it again on Friday. How about Misano as a track?
STONER: Misano is not too bad a track. I do like the two corners off the end of the back straight. I find them a lot of fun, and they're very fast. So I'm looking forward to going there. You know, it's hard after a track like Brno to compare to other tracks. Even when you go to Mugello and Phillip Island and you go to a track that isn't so fast and flowing, it's not quite as good, but you still find each track has its own little things and features about it.
So I'm looking forward to go to going to Misano and seeing how competitive we can be. In 2007 and 2008, we were fast there and I wasn't there in '09, and last year we struggled. So we've had a mixed bag there, and we'll have to see what we can pull out this weekend.
Q: Thanks, Casey, congratulations on the win here at Indianapolis.
Going to second place, Dani Pedrosa. Qualifying and practice hasn't been an easy weekend. I should think second place is a very good result for you, Dani.
DANI PEDROSA: Yes, sure. After yesterday qualifying, we had to work a lot. I don't know, really Casey was very fast, and I wasn't really, really fast yesterday. And I took one second, so it's not so common, but, you know, I knew for the race pace I was not there, so I tried to do my best race. And I start well; I did a good couple first laps, then Casey came by, and he starts to pull away. But I kept focus on my rhythm and I was doing quite decent laps, so happy with the performance. The bike was working well for the whole race. So thanks to the team for that.
We did a good improvement from yesterday. Also, to keeping the tires safe, you know, because if you push too hard, then the front starts to close a lot and then you had to -- I wanted to keep the tires safe for the end of the race. And finally 20 points is not so bad after the crash of the last race.
Q: Another Dani Pedrosa start, wasn't it? Great start from the second row of the grid.
PEDROSA: Yeah, that's true. It was a long time since really good start. Happy to get a good start because, you know, the first part of this track is quite tight. So like, for example, what happened to Ben, he had some problems in the first corner. So it's always fine to go first and have a clear road ahead.
Q: Six races to go, Dani, obviously the fitness level, I would think, is almost there, the disappointment is behind you. A big six races for you, isn't it?
PEDROSA: Yes, of course. I am very looking forward to the last races of the year. I miss five races because I crash in two and I miss three, so it's a lot of points lost, but I hope I can do some good races till the end of the year and get some podiums and some wins.
Q: Dani, congratulations, second place to Dani Pedrosa, ladies and gentlemen.
We come on to the final position on the podium, Ben Spies, riding the Yamaha. Great run, Ben, after a really, really tough, not even first lap, first two or three bends, wasn't it?
BEN SPIES: Yeah, it was a tough race, for sure. Didn't make the greatest start, but then when me and Dovi made contact, it made my race pretty miserable. But in the end, we made some good passes. We came from a long way back to get a great result. So I'm happy with how the race went. Besides that, there's always should have, could have, would have, but that's how it goes. We had to kind of reset the brain after the first five turns and just try to stay focused on picking people off. We had to make some creative passes out there because it was quite tough getting it done in the straightaway. So we did what we could and we got a third place in front of the home crowd. So I'm happy, and now we fly across the pond and do it all over next weekend. So we try to take some of this confidence and do Misano.
Q: When you came up to third place, you started to close on Dani a little bit, he upped the pace a little bit. Was there any time you thought perhaps you could get second?
SPIES: No. It was just one of those things, as soon as I got past, when I made the pass on Jorge, I tried to nail a couple really hard laps just to get a gap, and then once we did, once I got two seconds on him, I just tried to stay in a rhythm because I knew Dani was six and a half seconds or so ahead of me. So, you know, with the amount of laps, I think there was 10 laps to go and I got into third, there was no way unless he made big mistakes, which I could see he was quite comfortable. So I just made sure we had a gap to fourth, because we had to push the tires pretty hard in a few areas to make some of those passes early on.
So the bike might have been even a little bit different if we could have started, you know, with more clear track in the first couple laps. So it was quite difficult actually the first -- the last five laps. But like I said, we just got a gap and maintained for third. There was no way we could catch second.
Q: Ben, thanks very much indeed. Ben Spies, ladies and gentlemen, in third place.
MODERATOR: Any questions from the floor? We've got the microphones on the side.
Q: Casey, is it possible this place might, might be growing on you?
STONER: I don't, you know, I'm not like some other riders that really enjoy tracks just because they win there. I think I've won on most of the circuits that we have on the calendar now and, you know, we ride a lot of different tracks around the world, I can't honestly say this is better than most of them. You know, we drive on some fantastic circuits, and we unfortunately don't go to some of the best ones in the world. So it's a circuit for me. I don't get a kick out of it just because I win on it. If I didn't win on it, you know, Mugello is one of my most favorite circuits, and I think I've won there once. So, you know, it's things like that. I look at what quality the circuit has rather than just memories.
Q: I would like to ask all three of you, this is the last year of the contract for Indianapolis. Do you think that MotoGP should come back here next year and in the future, given your feelings about the track?
STONER: I think this whole facility and place could be unbelievable, but, in my opinion, the corners that tight, some of them, you know, we use first gear here a lot more than some other circuits. They're just really tight, twisty, and they're corners that you don't push on at all, you just kind of roll around and ride around it. That for me is what I don't like about it. There's maybe two or three corners that I think are a lot of fun, Turn 5, Turn 12, some of my favorite corners around the place. But the rest of the track is just very tight, twisty. It's also not meant to be run the way we're running it. So instead of corners opening up for exits, they just keep tightening up. That makes things sort of different, as well.
I don't know. Like I said, this facility could be unbelievable with the history and everything that it's got. But this is just my opinion, and I don't enjoy riding it as much as I do a lot of other circuits.
Q: The other guys, do you think it should come back here or do you want to come back here?
SPIES: Yeah, for me it's a home race. It's in front of the home crowd. I've had good results here. But I think it's more important for America to get involved with MotoGP and for it to grow in the States. So, yeah, I mean I would like to see it, for sure. It's an easy flight for me, so there's a lot of bonuses to race here.
PEDROSA: Well, as Ben say, as I think important to still having races here. I don't know if it will be Indianapolis or maybe -- I don't know when the new track is ready in Texas, but obviously we are having race in California and then here, so it is good. I mean, about the track, as Casey also said, it could be a little better. The track is quite strange going in the opposite way. But, you know, I don't know the future with it.
Q: Ben, a question about tire wear. According to what Jorge said after he got off the bike, he used virtually the identical settings that you used today. Your bikes are the same. And yet he had tire wear very early, tire problems very early. And you, in spite of having to push the tires as you came through the pack, ended the race with tires in better shape. What did you do to save your tire, your front tire?
SPIES: I guess he should gain some weight or something. (Laughter)
No, I don't know. We ride totally different, for sure. I think that's an example of you can put a setting on a bike and jump on it, and it's not the best thing. I rode Valentino's setting when I first went to the factory team, and there was no way I could race on it. That's just how it is sometimes. The way we brake and release the brake and pick up the throttle is completely different. We ride different lines. The way I ride was better for today. Most of the time it seems like his style is a little bit better. It's just the way it is, but I think that's a good example for people that don't know about racing, that setups are -- you can't always just jump on something and go fast. So I don't really know, but when I followed him, he was definitely having some problems in some areas, and that's the way it goes. But I don't know anything about his bike or what his setup was or anything.
Q: Ben, exactly what did happen to you from the start of the race into those first several turns?
SPIES: The start wasn't great, but it really wasn't that bad. We were actually pretty close around fourth place going into Turn 1, but I think it was Nicky that came on the inside and he pushed a few people wide and just got behind a couple people. Then in Turn 4 we were, everything was OK, we weren't in a great position, but then all of a sudden I just got hit from the outside. You know, I was happy to stay on the bike after that and found my place, myself back in eighth or ninth. So it made it tough.
But the actual start itself again really wasn't that bad. I think like I said, Nicky came up in there and wasn't overly aggressive, just kind of was kind of in my way at the wrong time. But that's how it goes, and after that we just, you know, fought like hell and did what we could for the rest of the race.
Q: Casey, when you looked at this track, did you think that full throttle down the straight coming off the start/finish line, that might be the spot that would be ideal to overtake if you were in a position to overtake? Looked like that was a real popular spot, full speed off the main straight.
STONER: It's not just because that's a good spot because it's easy to make a mistake coming on to the straight. The grip levels were a bit inconsistent as you come up and then you hit the curbing, which was really grippy. I'm sure some people made mistakes. Other people had a good run, and that's sort of what let them pull up next to the other riders and overtake. Also, I think because we were going into Turn 1, which isn't the new tarmac, and it gives you a bit more confidence. There's a wider range of way you can go and there's still grip, whereas the rest of the track there's very much one line. You know, you can see the balled-up rubber, you can see the dust when you're going around there. If you go anywhere offline, I mean it's just unbelievable; there's no grip there whatsoever. So it was very important to stay within those sort of limits. To overtake somebody there is going to be a lot of hard work. To overtake someone you have to brake harder and later than them. If you haven't got the grip on the inside because there's dust and dirt there, things aren't going to go well. So it's probably the reason that most people chose Turn 1 just because you've got a lot more confidence to go in there because you know the grip is reasonable.
Q: Ben, I don't know how far you fell back, but how determined were you and how good an effort was that to get up to the podium today?
SPIES: I mean, you know, it was just everything I had. I don't even know how far back I was. I was trying to figure it out. I think I was like ninth or 10th out of Turn 4, but, yeah, I mean after that you just -- you kind of forget about a whole lot of things, about race strategy, what it was beforehand and you just start trying to pick people off. Some riders were definitely a lot harder to get around than some. But I was happy. We made a couple passes where I didn't think you could actually pass there. It made it fun; it made it interesting for everybody. It wasn't what I had in the forecast for the race, but that's how it goes.
Q: For all three riders, did the track surface improve at all from yesterday to today?
STONER: In my opinion, I don't think it got any better from Saturday morning. I think you know, we improved the setup slightly from Saturday morning, but I don't think the circuit improved. Maybe it did slightly on Saturday afternoon, but because of the hot conditions, you know, it sort of brought it back pretty even and things like that. But I didn't find much improvement from Saturday morning.
PEDROSA: Yes, I mean from the first session it was very slippery, but basically what I felt most was that the dust of the race line was off by riding. So then is when I felt the track coming better. But basically the tires were struggling on the whole weekend, and much more in the afternoon with the heat.
SPIES: I think Saturday afternoon it got a little bit better from Saturday morning, but I think mainly the riders got a little more comfortable with how the track was, you know, what it took to go fast and the way the bike moved on the surface and things. So, yeah, I don't think it improved much today.
MODERATOR: Anybody else, ladies and gentlemen?
OK. Thank you all very much indeed. See you all at Misano in five days' time. Thank you.