It’s crunch time for two riders at the upcoming Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix, and it’s because of them I will be even more interested in the Moto2 race at Indy than MotoGP.
I’m thinking of American riders Roger Lee Hayden and Jason DiSalvo.
Both Roger and Jason are at a crossroads in their careers. Roger, at 27, and Jason, 26, both have plenty of racing in front of them, but the race this weekend in Indianapolis could go a long way in determining how the second half of their careers will play out.
Hayden was caught out in the recent downsizing of the American domestic championship. He had few options and took a ride with Pedercini Kawasaki, generally acknowledged as one of the worst seats in World Superbike. Hayden is finishing about where most expected him to on the outclassed machine - that’s usually around 16th to 19th. In a few rounds he fared better – a 13th in the second race at Brno is the most notable result. The World Superbike Championship is nearly complete. With just three rounds remaining Hayden has little time to make a major breakthrough in that series.
Roger Lee got a one-off ride in MotoGP at Laguna with Team LCR, filling in for the injured Randy de Puniet. Hayden finished 11th, but that sounds better than it really was since only 12 riders completed the race.
Now before him comes an excellent opportunity with this Moto2 ride at Indy. The scenario couldn’t be more perfect for Roger. He’s racing on the same machine in the Moriwaki, that the Moto2 series leader Toni Elias is on; he’s had ample testing on the bike, having just completed his third test at three different tracks, including Indianapolis; and he has the full force of American Honda behind him for the effort – including mentoring from Kevin Schwantz and a proven, championship-winning crew in Erion Racing.
If ever there was a time for Roger Lee to prove his abilities this weekend is it.
One of the things I admire about Roger Lee is that he’s straight up when it comes to answering questions. He didn’t candy coat it and proclaim false confidence after his final testing session with the American Honda Moto2 team.
“I don’t have any idea where I stand,” he said with brutal honesty about his Moto2 debut. “There is a lot of pressure knowing how much Honda has spent in putting this team together. They’ve put so much into this, I want to go out and give them a great result, but I know it’s not going to be easy. I’m ready for race weekend. I can’t wait for it to get here. This race means a lot to me and everyone on the team.”
Jason DiSalvo is in the same boat. Talking with DiSalvo, you get the sense that this once spoiled kid, protégé of Freddie Spencer, who has had everything handed to him on a silver platter as compared to most racers, is now a man in full, coming to the realization that, yes his dad was living a dream through him when he bred him to be a road racer, but now that plan has been set, and Jason finally realizes that he really does love road racing and he wants to do this for himself and no one else.
DiSalvo didn’t have to go back and do WERA races, a seeming backwards step in his career. Instead DiSalvo talked with enthusiasm about going back and racing in the series where he grew up.
“I loved being back out there doing WERA races,” Jason said. “Those are my roots and everyone there is pulling for me to do well. Plus, I got a lot of seat time doing those endurance races. There’s no substitute for that. I’m sharp now and ready to ride because I did those [WERA] races.”
Wait a minute! Where’s the prima donna Jason DiSalvo of yesterday? It appears that he has a new attitude and now it’s hard not to pull for the guy as he prepares for his pivotal ride at Indy. And he looked strong in testing on the GP Tech FTR, directed by Al Ludington. DiSalvo looks eager to prove that his recent fruitless stint on the ParkinGo Triumph BE1 World Supersport team was an anomaly.
It’s going to be tough. Moto2 is the most highly competitive, cut throat championship in motorcycle racing today. It’s not for the faint of heart. But with Roger Lee Hayden and Jason DiSalvo in the lineup, the racing just got even tougher. These two have a lot to prove and any Moto2 regular has a right to be nervous if they happen to find themselves in front of Hayden or DiSalvo at Indy next weekend.