INDIANAPOLIS – Spain’s Dani Pedrosa thrived Saturday in Indianapolis Grand Prix qualifying.
Almost everyone else was trying to hang onto their motorcycles.
On a day that three fan favorites had their race hopes jeopardized by crashes, Pedrosa barely held off a late challenge from Jorge Lorenzo to win his second Indy pole in 1 minute, 38.813 seconds. Lorenzo, the points leader from Spain, was second in 1:38.913, and Italy’s Andrea Dovizioso was third in 1:39.235.
The biggest challenge was staying upright on the treacherous 16-turn, 2.621-mile road course.
It was tough and tricky because it was very slippery and we could see many crashes, Pedrosa said. It was important to keep focused. The back end was sliding a lot, so it was tough. But at the end, it was good because we could get on pole.
Drivers complained about the slick track after Friday’s first two practices, comparing it to competing in the rain.
Things weren’t any better Saturday when reigning world champion Casey Stoner, former world champion Nicky Hayden and American Ben Spies, the 2010 Indy pole-sitter all crashed and qualifying was red-flagged twice.
Stoner tore a ligament in his right ankle. Hayden was knocked unconscious when his head hit the asphalt track, broke two bones in his right hand and was later declared unfit to ride. Spies thought he may have torn ligaments in his shoulder.
The toughest part was contending with turn 13, where both Stoner and Spies went down – and the sight of so many other drivers hitting the ground.
That corner is very, very long on the left and create a lot of temperature, too, so it’s very, very easy to make mistake, seven-time world champion Valentino Rossi said.
Stoner was the biggest name to get hurt. Originally, doctors thought the 26-year-old Australian fractured his right ankle after he flew over the handlebars and across the grass.
An MRI later showed that he had a torn ligament. He was taken to Methodist Hospital to determine whether he could race after qualifying sixth in 1:39.465.
Hayden spun sideways between turns 14 and 15 and was flung into the air, slamming his head against the unforgiving track. By the time he was lifted into the ambulance, he was conscious but was still transported to Methodist Hospital for a CT scan.