Dani Pedrosa won MotoGP Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix on Sunday in dominant fashion, but the day of motorcycle racing was marred by tragedy, as an accident at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway claimed the youngest victim in the 101-year history of the track.
Peter Lenz of Vancouver, Wash., died as a result of injuries suffered in an accident in the United States Grand Prix Racers Union support race on Sunday morning.
Lenz was 13. IMS officials confirmed that he is the youngest rider or driver to die on track in IMS history.
Lenz accident occurred during the “sighting lap,” motorcycle racing’s equivalent of the warm-up lap, before the support race began at 10:20 a.m. According to the Associated Press, Lenz fell on the lap and was run over by Xavier Zayat, 12, who also fell but was not injured.
Lenz was placed in a neck brace and was given chest compressions before he was transported to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. Shortly after the accident, USGPRU officials announced that Lenz “suffered traumatic injuries.” Lenz was later pronounced dead.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss, but know that Peter is racing even faster in the sky,” said the family of Peter Lenz in a statement released to the media.
Lenz is the first motorcycle rider to die at the track, he is the first fatality on the IMS road course, and is the first death on the track since Tony Renna died during an Indy Racing League practice session in 2003. The last driver to die on track during a race was Swede Savage, who was killed during the 1973 Indianapolis 500.
The USGPRU is an entry-level series for riders aged 12 to 18 designed for them to advance into higher disciplines of motorcycle racing. The series is not normally part of the MotoGP support schedule. The fatality occurred in the second race of a two-race weekend for the series. It was the first fatality in the nine-year history of the USGPRU.
A USGPRU spokesman didn’t know whether track conditions — temperatures were in the 90s and made it difficult for riders to get grip from their tires — contributed to the accident.
Most of the crowd at IMS was unaware of the tragedy as the MotoGP races unfolded later Sunday.
For the featured MotoGP class, all hopes to see the Stars & Stripes fly atop the podium in the featured race for the first time on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course were placed on the shoulders of rookie rider and pole-sitter Ben Spies.
Pedrosa, however, made emphatically certain that the red, white and blue was one step below Spain’s red and gold on the podium flag stand.
“I am very happy and pleased with my bike [a Honda]. It was a fast bike in the straight and it was going well in the corners. So I have good feelings. I’m tired but very happy,” Pedrosa said.
Spies, riding for the Monster Yamaha Tech team, got a good start off the start-finish line as riders in the first two rows scrambled for position. Spies ultimately led Andrea Dovizioso, fellow American Nicky Hayden, Pedrosa and defending champion Jorge Lorenzo coming out of the first lap.
Hayden, riding a Ducati, quickly dropped back in the field — he eventually finished sixth — as Pedrosa began to make his way forward. Never more than 1.4 seconds off the pace of leader Spies, Pedrosa picked off Repsol Honda teammate Dovizioso on the fourth lap.
Pedrosa then tracked Spies down. He clicked a tenth of a second per lap off Spies’ lead until Pedrosa pounced on the seventh lap.
Pedrosa caught Spies in the 11th turn, which begins the complex of five turns on the north end of the track before the circuit re-enters the oval portion of the course. Pedrosa was directly behind Spies as both entered the straightaway. Pedrosa drafted off Spies and passed him just before the start-finish line as the eighth lap began. Pedrosa easily cleared Spies entering the first turn and began to pull away.
“I mean, we can’t complain, you know. We came in and did better than I thought we were going to do. I didn’t set the world on fire, but we had a good pace,” Spies said.
Just five laps after Pedrosa passed Spies, he had a 3.3-second advantage and never looked back. Pedrosa, who used an extra hard rear tire to regulate temperature and grip, rode to 5.6-second margin before he ultimately won by a 3.5 seconds. It was Pedrosa’s third win of the season; he had previously won the Italian and German Grands Prix.
Pedrosa put Honda in the winner’s circle at Indy for the first time in the race’s three-year history. Yamaha had won the previous two editions.
While Pedrosa dominated up front, Lorenzo — the MotoGP points leader — consolidated his spot atop the standings. He passed Dovizioso on Lap 12 and finished third. Lorenzo has a commanding 68-point lead over Pedrosa with seven races left on the MotoGP slate.
There were three accidents during the race. Marco Melandri fell on Lap 3, Casey Stoner fell on Lap 8 and Marco Kallio fell on Lap 19. None of the riders were hurt.
Spain’s Nicolas Terol, riding an Aprilia, won an uneventful 125cc class race by a 5-second margin over Germany’s Sandro Cortese.
The Moto2 class race, which featured a whopping 38 riders, by far the largest field in Indy history, had to be restarted at a shorter distance after a red flag flew on an opening lap where six riders fell. None were hurt.
Once the race was restarted, Spain’s Toni Elias, riding a Moriwaki, edged countryman Julian Simon by 0.405 seconds.
Officials from IMS and Dorna Sports, the commercial rights holders for MotoGP, announced Friday that the race will return to Indianapolis in 2011.
Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix
MotoGP class (28 laps)
1. Dani Pedrosa=Spain=Honda=winner
2. Ben Spies=USA=Yamaha=-3.575
3. Jorge Lorenzo=Spain=Yamaha=-6.812
4. Valentino Rossi=Italy=Yamaha=-.12.633
5. Andrea Dovizioso=Italy=Honda=-21.885
6. Nicky Hayden=USA=Ducati=-35.138
7. Marco Simoncelli=Italy=Honda=-36.740
8. Alvaro Bautista=Spain=Suzuki=-36.825
9. Aleix Espargaro=Spain=Ducati=-44.905
10. Hector Barbera=Spain=Ducati=-51.368
11. Loris Capirossi=Italy=Suzuki=-55.386
12. Hiroshi Aoyama=Japan=Honda=-57.903
13. Randy de Puniet=France=Honda=-1:04.139
14. Mika Kallio=Finland=Ducati=-10 laps
15. Colin Edwards=USA=Yamaha=-12 laps
16. Casey Stoner=Australia=Ducati=-21 laps
17. Marco Melandri=Italy=Honda=-26 laps
Moto2 class (17 laps, race shortened due to red flag)
1. Toni Elias=Spain=Morikawi=winner
2. Julian Simon=Spain=Suter=-0.405
3. Scott Redding=Great Britain=Suter=-4.227
4. Andrea Simone=Italy=Speed Up=-5.978
5. Simone Corsi=Italy=Motobi=-7.058
6. Sergio Gadea=Spain=Pons Kalex=-9.432
7. Thomas Luthi=Switzerland=Morikawi=-9.815
8. Gabor Talmacsi=Hungary=Speed Up=-10.141
9. Jason Di Salvo=USA=FTR=-17.564
10. Anthony West=Australia=Mz-Re Honda=-17.592
125cc class (23 laps)
1. Nicolas Terol=Spain=Aprilia=winner
2. Sandro Cortese=Germany=Derbi=-4.995
3. Pol Espargaro=Spain=Derbi=-10.856
4. Efren Vazquez=Spain=Derbi=-15.402
5. Esteve Rabat=Spain=Aprilila=-19.912
6. Danny Webb=Great Britain=Aprilia=-20.093
7. Randy Krummenache=Switzerland=Aprilia=-20.702
8. Alberto Moncayo=Spain=Aprilia=-26.797
9. Jones Folger=Germany=Aprilia=-27.666
10. Marc Marquez=Spain=Derbi=-39.840