Day 6

At the Races: Qualifying

A bit of Downtown Indy

This and subsequent symbols like it denote where I was when I snapped a particular set of pictures. See the map at the bottom of this page.

I wanted to be early to get a decent parking spot and ended up being one of the first 25 bikes in the lot. For my effort, they made me park in the area furthest from the entrance to the track. These two guys nicely listened to my complaint then we got to talking about more interesting things.

In the South Vista seating which you could cut through to void the main tunnel into the track, I met these two volunteers from east Indiana "just about as close as you can get to the Ohio border". They volunteer for the Indy 500, the Brickyard 400, and now the GP. They said they get paid a bit but the biggest bonus is that they get to see the races for free.

Event food is always the same... hot dogs, hamburgers, French fries and so on. Here's something I've never seen before. You could buy a smoked turkey leg. They looked good but smelled better.

First group on the track today was 125cc.

The track was still wet...
...but the rain gradually disappeared.
The 125's sound like buzzing bees.
The track workers include corner workers (orange lettered vest), flagsmen (also orange), and medical staff (red).
When a rider goes down (as they did quite a bit in turns 1, 2, 3 & 4), the medical staff check the rider, the corner workers pick up the bike (and take it off the track), and the flagsmen wave flags depending on the severity of the situation. Yellow flag means caution (the downed rider is off the track and does not present an obstacle to those on the track unless they, too, lose control). A red flag stops the race. The situation pictured here was flagged yellow.
After the 125cc Practice came Moto GP Practice. This series of three shots of my favourite rider, Rossi, shows how differently a rider takes the same turn in successive laps.
As he warmed up his tires and as the track dried (HEY! No more rain!) he took turn 4 at greater and greater speeds.
Note the different lean angles. Remember: these three pictures were taken at the same spot on DIFFERENT laps.
Nicky Hayden leans into turn 3.
Chris Vermeulen is ahead of Hayden in turn 4.
Casey Stoner in turn 3.
Turn 1 was wicked because of the wet. Jorge Lorenzo, foreground, has already entered the turn & Valentino Rossi is about to.
Loris Capirossi didn't make turn #1 at all!
My man, Rossi, ended up with the fastest lap of the session. Nice but practice rounds are just that: they don't count for anything.

I decided to check out the front stretch so I hunted out Tunnel #6. The tunnel runs right under the track just before the finish line.

Gordon, left and Geoffrey, right, are Moto GP fans from Great Britain. They go to a GP every year. They recommended all venues except Barcelona. Pickpockets ruin the weekend of many a fan there. After this GP, they are going to take their rent-a-car up to the Great Lakes for a bit of a "round-about".

Isn't this Rossi shirt great? Gordon got it at one of the European GPs.

Get a load of this Rossi contingent. These two families are from New York. I asked the second mother where her shirt was and she said that her husband wouldn't buy her one. :(
Sad thing is, if she'd convinced him later to buy her a shirt, too, there were no more! Rossi shirts (and other paraphenalia) sold out almost immediately.

From the main grandstands you get a view of the long straight, a reverse view of turn 1 (the Southwest Vista stands are the ones with the flags), and the garages.

I got a decent view of the first corner...
...but what was interesting was the bikes coming into the pits for adjustments.
Mechanics wait around...
...until their rider comes in. Perhaps they'll change tires or maybe they'll adjust suspension or gearing. During practice (like here) they're fairly easy going but during qualifying laps, they need to be as quick as they can to get their rider back on the track.

After watching the 250cc for awhile, I visited the dealer area and chatted with this German BMW rep. We discussed marketing and strategy. I also learned that BMW America has gone through 3 (or was it 4?) head honchos in the past 5 years which hasn't been good for continuity.

Someone stripped my bike down!!!!!

I went to the AAA display next. They had a truck which housed an F1 simulator.

But better yet they had an observation deck on top of their truck which I was able to use to take pictures during Moto GP Qualifying.
Colin Edwards followed into the corner by Anthony West.
Look! A train!
Actually, the only place to be in a group is in front. A rider ahead of you will slow you down; it'll take time to get past him. Since fastest lap (during 60 minutes of qualifying) will get pole (#1 position on the grid), you obviously want some clear space in front of you.
Valentino in a tight tuck down the short back stretch.
Teammates, Toni Elias leading Slyvain Guintoli. These two were both very fast.
Host of the AAA truck.
AAA was displaying a 1958 BMW. I've seen a couple quite like it in Manitoba. I really like this bike.

I decided to go back to the front straight to watch the pits for the remainder of the Moto GP Qualifier. You might wonder what happens when teammates like Nicky Hayden and Danny Pedrosa come into the pits at the same time. Although teammates share a garage, each rider has a crew and crew chief of his very own.

The "fix me up" process: Rossi comes to his garage and a crew member holds the bike while he gets off and a wheel chock is put under the back wheel to keep it upright.
While Rossi talks to his crew chief, the crew put on new tires.
Rossi then heads out down the pit lane. Since there's a speed limit in the pit area, Rossi's bike has a "PIT" button which limits the bike's speed to exactly that and no more.
Then it's back out to the track. Lap time begins and ends at the finish line so the rider has to ride an entire lap from the pit exit to the finish before they'll be clocking his speed again. By the time Rossi (or any other rider) reach the front straight, they are FLYING!
Valentino was in and out of the pits three times while I was watching the pit area. As a fan, you get nervous because people are setting faster and faster times while your rider isn't even on the track.
Every time he leaves the pits, Valentino stands up on his bike...
...then settles into his seat (look, ma, no hands!)...
...and eventually grabs the controls as he curls into a crouch. I guess it's his way of getting comfortable on and with the bike.
All the fixes, the rituals, and whatever else must work since each time Rossi went back out, he regained top time...
...and just when Stoner threatened with a really quick lap near the end, Rossi beat his OWN time to seal the deal and earn pole position.
On my way out of the park...
...I stopped to watch a bit of the 250cc Qualifying.
Then it was off to downtown Indy to snap a few photos. Everything centres around Meridian Street which you're looking down here.
A war memorial on Meridian.
You're looking at the west side of Obelisk Square. Its north and south sides look up and down Meridian.
The Indiana Pacers Fieldhouse, just a couple of blocks over from Meridian.
Gorgeous buildings...
...with lots of intricate detail...
...have obviously been part of the landscape for a long while.
The houses in the area look as if they've been converted for alternate use, but I can't be sure of that.
I do know that the old and the new seem to blend together very nicely...
...and the unexpected presence of certain types of buildings probably mean they are heritage buildings of some type.

        Map of Day 6 to left.
        Locations on downtown map are approximations only.
        I added the green dots to show you how close one thing is to another.

        Next: Day 7
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