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Indianapolis History: The first motorcycle event at the scene of this weekend´s Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix.

Indianapolis History: The first motorcycle event at the scene of this weekend´s Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix.

A flashback to the most recent motorcycle event held at the IMS Speedway; but don´t expect to read about the likes of Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner or Loris Capirossi as we take a trip to 1909.

The first motorised competition ever held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway took place Saturday, Aug. 14th, 1909 and, as will happen this weekend for the first time since, it was bikes that took to the track.

The Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix has undergone meticulous planning, and the first MotoGP visit to the new speedway circuit will –unlike the 1909 run- be taking place according to schedule. The original track suffered from difficulties in laying the rock and tar surface, causing over a month´s worth of postponement to the planned race action. Indiana at the time had no paved streets, and the lack of experience of track surfaces lead to the laying of a somewhat inadequate riding material –especially in the summer heat.

A scheduled maiden practice session for the riders on Thursday, August 12th was cancelled, after Californian competitor Ed Lingenfelder adjudged the track to be too abundant with rocks for safe competition after a test run. Last minute changes with powdered rock and oil were made, leaving a first day of practice as one fitting for the bad luck encountered until then: Friday 13th.

Superstition came through to further hit the action, as heavy rainfall called off the Friday session as well. An eight-competition-strong Saturday lineup, with the original Saturday events moved to Monday featured on the revised schedule.

The finale was to be a 10-lap, 25-mile affair, with riders using the likes of Indian, Reading Standard, Harley Davidson, NSU, Thor, Excelsior, Merkel and Peugeot bikes to aim for victory. There were no Yamaha machines, but certainly one rider whose showmanship was akin to MotoGP star Valentino Rossi. Indian´s factory rider Jake de Rosier, despite his Canadian roots, wore an American flag stitched to the back of his apparel, and some flamboyant red tights to complete the attire.

Event number five of the Indianapolis action, a four lap race which received only three entries, became a Lingenfelder-De Rosier duel after third rider Charlie Merz pulled out. The pair battled side by side for the first lap, but when the tread separated from De Rosier´s tyre separated and sent him flying over the handlebars. Lingenfelder slowed to check on his rival, than cruised to victory on the final two laps at an average speed of 55.23mph.

The final motorcycle race until this weekend was a four-man, four-lap event won by Erwin G.Baker, later known for his speed feats and nickname of `Cannonball´. FAM officials cancelled the finale, and subsequent damage from car racing led to the cancellation of any further racing until the surface had been relayed. Although the events of 1909 were far from a resounding success, they did lead to a significant part of Indianapolis history: the relayed surface featured 3.2 million street bricks, leading to the world famous `Brickyard´ moniker and the start/finish straight line still in place to this day.


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