Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) and Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda) scored a double success for Honda in today's British Grand Prix. It was a fitting achievement for the Japanese manufacturer which made its World Championship debut in Britain 50 years...
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) and Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda) scored a double success for Honda in today's British Grand Prix. It was a fitting achievement for the Japanese manufacturer which made its World Championship debut in Britain 50 years ago this summer.
This was Dovizioso's first victory in the elite class, while Aoyama's third win of the season extended his lead in the 250 World Championship.
Dovizioso won in treacherous conditions, with drizzle falling on and off throughout the 30 laps. The former 125 World Champion, who has previously ridden Hondas to 250 and 125 successes at Donington Park, exhibited enormous courage and inch-perfect riding to take a 1.3 second victory from Colin Edwards (Yamaha). His maiden MotoGP win was Repsol Honda's second success in three races, following the US GP win of Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) earlier this month.
Honda satellite team riders Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) and Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) completed a great day for Honda in third and fourth, making it three RC212Vs in the top four. De Puniet's third-place result, just two tenths of a second behind Edwards, was his first podium with Honda.
Dovizioso led for two laps early on, the slippery conditions claiming Toni Elias (San Carlo Gresini Honda) and Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) by one-third distance. When Lorenzo crashed out of the lead on lap nine, series leader Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) took over, chased by Dovizioso. The two Italians were inches apart as they felt their way in the risky conditions, their lap times slowing down and speeding up as rain showers hit various parts of the circuit. On lap 20 Rossi slid off at the Foggy Esses, handing an eight second lead to Dovizioso. But the last third of the race was anything but easy for the new leader. The intermittent rainfall caused the left side of his tyres to cool down too much, leaving him with very little grip at certain points of the track. And all the while de Puniet and Edwards were inching closer. Dovi kept his head and just enough of a lead to prevent the pair getting close enough to launch an attack. Today's result, which followed three no-scores for Dovi, moves him to sixth in the World Championship.
Of course, de Puniet and Edwards were suffering the exact same problems as Dovizioso. The Frenchman and the American swapped positions several times in the closing laps, Edwards finally taking second place into the final turn. Nevertheless, de Puniet was delighted to give the Monaco-based LCR Honda team (run by former GP winner Lucio Cecchinello) its first MotoGP podium.
De Angelis was delighted to equal his best MotoGP result with a storming ride to fourth place, the same as he managed in last year's Italian and German Grands Prix. Tenth at the end of the first lap, the San Marino rider moved steadily forward, taking fourth place from Pedrosa on lap 23. For a while it looked like he might make the podium, but like everyone he was struggling to ride the knife edge between going fast and going too fast.
Pedrosa ran with the leaders during the early stages of the race but the Spaniard's tyres cooled down too much, leaving him without the grip he needed to maintain his pace. At one point he considered entering the pits to change to his second bike equipped with rain tyres (as did several rivals) but decided that would cost him too much time. At the end of the race he had netted seven valuable points, while two of his title rivals (Lorenzo and Rossi) crashed and Casey Stoner (Ducati) gambled on starting the race with rain tyres, finishing 14th.
Former 125 World Champion Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda), who only graduated to the premier category last month, came home in 12th place for his second and best MotoGP points haul.
Elias led the first two laps and was still with the leading group when he ran wide out of Schwantz Curve, touched a damp kerb and crashed in spectacular fashion. The Spaniard was unhurt in the high-speed fall.
Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda) proved his talent and intelligence with a brilliant 250 win in tricky conditions. The race started on a drying track, all but one of the 26 starters using rain tyres. Aoyama took the lead on the first lap at the chicane and from there he steadily established a 6.7 second lead. But as the track dried, the rain tyres started to deteriorate, with some riders choosing to pit for slicks. Aoyama meanwhile came under pressure from title rival Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia), who closed the gap to 2.3 seconds at one point. The Japanese star handled the pressure brilliantly to take the win by almost six seconds. Aoyama's third victory of the year extends his series lead to 15 points over Bautista with seven races to go.
Raffaele De Rosa (Scot Honda) rode another great race, scoring his seventh consecutive top-ten finish. The 250 rookie has only finished outside the top ten once this year, in Japan where he was 12th. He is also one of only three 250 riders to have scored points in every race so far.
Hector Faubel (Valencia CF-Honda SAG) came very close to crashing on the very first lap and decided then and there that he wanted to make sure he scored some points in the sketchy conditions. He finished the race in tenth place.
Shoya Tomizawa (Team CIP Honda) bounced back from a fall to score the final World Championship point in 15th position.
Valentin Debise (Team CIP Honda) was one of several riders who swapped to slicks, so he was one of the fastest men on the track in the final stages, passing Bautista to unlap himself and following Aoyama over the line. His final result was 19th place. Bastien Chesaux (Racing Team Germany Honda) also pitted for slicks and finished 22nd.
Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT-SAG) was not able to capitalise on his second row starting position. Wilairot was running in 14th place when he ran into quick-shift problems eventually deciding to retire from the action with nine laps remaining in the 27 laps race.
HONDA MotoGP RIDER QUOTES
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda), race winner, said: "It's a fantastic feeling to win my first MotoGP race because this is the top series in the world with the best riders and so to win is a fantastic emotion. I'm very pleased with my performance today as the conditions were so difficult. It was like three different races -- riding hard at the start when it was nearly dry, following Valentino as it got wetter, and then judging the pace once I was in front. I rode well in every section and managed the very tricky situation, so it's really satisfying. This is also important for my confidence after the last three races. In the first three laps I took a lot of risks to maintain my position with the leaders because the tyres need two or three laps to get up to temperature. Once I was following Valentino it was quite easy because it's not so difficult to follow someone in these conditions since the leader has to judge where it's wet and where it's dry. But when he fell it was clear from his crash that the tyres were very cold and this was scary because now I had to set the pace. Colin and Randy closed the gap quickly in the last five laps and at this point I was being careful and wasn't pushing to the limit, but in the final two laps I pushed as hard as I could and they weren't able to get close enough to try and pass. I'm so happy with this win, and we'll use it to move forward. The important thing is to fight with the best riders in normal dry conditions, so me and the team will work really hard to repeat this victory in the dry."
Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda), third-place finisher, said: "It's like a dream for me and the team! It was a very stressful race and I was very nervous on the grid as the conditions were pretty bad. I took a good start on slick tyres and was very aggressive in the first laps. I got into sixth place but the gap on the front riders was too wide and I thought to keep my pace without taking any risks. Elias crashed in front of me and Pedrosa did not seem very confident on his machine. When he started to lose time I took my chance to pass him and we battled for several laps. I could overtake him because my machine was working well and I suddenly realised that I was holding third position. After Rossi's crash I took second place and tried to remain focused because the surface was very slippery. Then Edwards came up quickly, giving me the chance to reduce the gap on Dovizioso, but it was too late and too dangerous, so I kept my position and we battled for the second place until the last corner. I am so happy for this result and want to thank everybody especially Lucio. We are sharing an amazing moment together!"
Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini), fourth-place finisher, said: "I am absolutely delighted. That was one of the most difficult races in my whole career because when you're on a bike with so much power in those conditions, on a circuit like Donington, which everybody knows is particularly slippery, it's tough! The hardest thing was finding a compromise between attacking for a good position and defending it by staying upright. I could see I had a good pace and I was closing the gap to the guys in front of me but the most important thing was to finish and get a good result. I think that shows how much I have matured because it is the kind of mistake I made last year. I hope that is a good sign for the future and I think it proves the way myself and my chief mechanic have kept working and kept trying to improve without losing faith."
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda), ninth-place finisher, said: "First I have to congratulate Andrea on his win because he rode a great race from beginning to end in very difficult conditions. For me, the result today is obviously disappointing because I have been fast all weekend and I couldn't keep that up during the race. At the beginning I was feeling good on the Bridgestone slicks and was able to judge my pace well according to the conditions. As the rain came, however, I couldn't maintain the temperature in the tyres and when this happens the grip really goes away and I wasn't able to control the bike as I wanted. On the grid I was sure my tyre choice was correct, but with 10 laps to go I thought that maybe I should go into the pits and change to wets, but it wasn't worth losing 20 seconds for the bike change because the lap times of the riders on the wet tyres were the same as the times on slicks. It was a frustrating race in strange conditions, but we'll still have confidence going into the next race in Brno because we've been making progress recently and I'm feeling strong on the bike."
Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda), 12th-place finisher, said: "I'm really happy. I'm happy because of the race, for the result we got and because we chose the best strategy. At the beginning, I was not sure about what tyres to ask for: the weather was changing second by second. We decided for slicks and that was the right choice. A key point in the race was when I decided to stay out and not to come into the pits to change bikes, in spite of the increasing rain. I calculated that it would not gain time, so I decided to continue on rain tyres, and this too was a good move."
Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini), DNF, said: "The crash was a real shame because I felt we were capable of a good result today. I'm really disappointed for everybody in the team. I got a great start and my pace was really strong, but unfortunately my rear wheel ran slightly onto the white line and it was so slippery that I crashed. It was nice to at least run at the front for a while and even lead the race, and when I was behind Rossi I was comfortably able to follow his pace. That's what makes me so convinced I could have kept it up to the end. I don't want to think about the negatives or what might have been because the good news today was that we ran with the front guys and we know we can do it. That gives a great confidence boost for the future."
HONDA 250cc RIDER QUOTES
Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda) race winner, said: "It was difficult because the track quickly dried out, but we had chosen rain tyres. I got a good start, got into the lead and could push hard to find my rhythm. I made a good advantage on the other guys, so I felt good, but by mid-race my tyres were completely finished, so it became difficult. I had to watch my pit board to see the gap to Alvaro and control the gap. I felt comfortable on the bike and I could keep my rhythm, even though the tyres were destroyed"
Hector Faubel (Valencia CF-Honda SAG), tenth-place finisher, said: "Today I made a bad start and came very close to crashing at the end of the very first lap. After that I decided to take care and get the maximum points possible so I would not lose my position in the points table. In this morning's warm-up session we set up the bike for wet conditions, but in the race it didn't work at its maximum. Anyway, I pushed as hard as I dared and I'm happy because I got five valuable points which keeps me well up in the points."
Raffaele De Rosa (Scot Honda), seventh-place finisher, said: "That was a strange race. Probably, the winning choice was to use slicks from the beginning, but nobody dared do it, everyone preferred a more conservative choice. At a point my crew showed me the signal 'box' to let me know that they were ready to change my tyres, if I wanted. But I preferred to stay out. At the beginning all was okay, then I began to experience some issues with the gearbox. At the end, the bike was sliding a lot and it was fun. But I'm a little bit disappointed -- it was a good race, but it could have been much better."
Shoya Tomizawa (Team CIP Honda), 15th-place finisher, said: "That was a very, very, very difficult race! We all expected more rain, so we started with rain tyres but soon the track was almost dry. The bike was moving around a lot on the rain tyres, so when I overtook Faubel I crashed as I tried to turn the bike into the corner. The left handlebar was badly bent so I had to use a strange riding position. I am very happy to get a point in these conditions!"
Valentin Debise (Team CIP Honda), 19th-place finisher, said: "The race became very difficult when I was on rain tyres. The bike was moving around all over the place because the tyres were getting so hot. It was easy to crash so I thought it would be a good decision to change to slick tyres. After that things were much better, but of course, we had lost a lot of time by going into the pits. It was difficult being with Bautista and Aoyama at the end, with me on slicks and them on rain tyres."
Bastien Chesaux (Racing Team Germany Honda), 22nd-place finisher, said: "That was a very strange race. I started on rain tyres but for some reason I had no grip whenever I opened the throttle. It was very odd, I don't know if it was me, the setting or what. I changed tyres but obviously that lost me a lot of time and conditions were still quite difficult. But I suppose I gained a lot of experience today!"
Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT-SAG), DNF, said: "Today is a day to forget. I made a bad start and I was down in 14th position. The whole race wasn't good for me because I didn't feel as smooth with the bike as I usually do. In morning warm-up we set up the bike for wet conditions and it was good, but in the race I didn't feel the same. One of the little problems I had was that the shifter sensor didn't work very well and I had to close the throttle to change the gear. Finally I decided to retire from the race because I didn't feel that I could give my best. Now the holidays are here and I hope that this break may change my luck."