Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) came within the length of his Honda RC212V of finishing on the podium in the greatest race of the 800cc era. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) won the instant classic with a brave pass of teammate Jorge Lorenzo in the...
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) came within the length of his Honda RC212V of finishing on the podium in the greatest race of the 800cc era.
Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) won the instant classic with a brave pass of teammate Jorge Lorenzo in the final corner of the Catalunya Grand Prix before a sun-drenched crowd of 88,502 on the Montmelo circuit north of Barcelona. Almost as exciting was Dovi's late charge on Casey Stoner (Ducati), who held him off by a scant .052s.
Held in 36 degree heat, the race was not only the hottest of the season atmospherically, but on the track as well. There was the battle for the front, mostly waged between Rossi and Lorenzo, and the race just behind, with Dovizioso making a late charge. The heat ruined the tires after five or six laps leaving the riders slipping and sliding on a race course where much time is spent at maximum lean angle and the right side of the tires is increasingly subject to abuse.
Sixth ending lap one, Dovizioso passed fellow Honda rider Randy De Puniet (LCR Honda) on the fourth of 25 laps only to find teammate Dani Pedrosa just ahead. Two laps on Dovi passed Pedrosa and settled into fourth, but at a distance of 2.5s to Stoner. For the rest of the race, Dovizioso inched ever forward, making huge inroads in the final six laps. The interval continued to shrink on every lap, but on the crucial run from turn 13 to the stripe Stoner was just able to hold him off. Still, Dovizioso took solace in knowing the gap to the winner was only nine seconds.
Pedrosa was riding hurt and in pain from incidents two weeks ago in Mugello, but you wouldn't know it from his performance. With the help of a pain-killing injection, Pedrosa was racing better than expected given the seriousness of his right leg and hip injuries. Once passed by Dovizioso, he came under attack from Loris Capirossi (Suzuki). But it would take the Italian ten laps to slip past the gritty Spaniard, who was hoping for better in front of the home crowd. Pedrosa, who grew up not half an hour from the track, gave way on lap 17, but finished a valiant sixth, exhausted and in pain.
De Puniet got little rest once he was passed by Dovizioso. Pedrosa and Capirossi also passed him, as did Colin Edwards on lap 14. But the Frenchman was close enough to re-take the position until the final few laps when the Texan edged ahead. He finished eighth, 1.7s behind Edwards.
Alex De Angelis was the final Honda finish in a deceptive 12th place. The San Marinese was in the thick of a six-way battle that spread out over the final several laps. The Montmelo circuit is configured with a number of long, sweeping turns where riders are at maximum lean angle for up to 15 seconds. It's at full lean that De Angelis said he's currently struggling with rear tire grip. And today's ground temperature of 46 degrees was stressful on the dual compound tires.
Not as lucky were his teammate Toni Elias and Yuki Takahashi (Scot Honda). Takahashi crashed on the first lap while Elias lost the front end in the La Caixa left-hander at the end of the back straight on the tenth lap.
Hungarian Gabor Talmacsi finished his first MotoGP race in 17th place for the Scot Honda team. Talmacsi had only ridden the Honda RC212V for the first time on Friday afternoon and was suffering from a slight virus.
Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda) finished strongly in the second half of the 250cc race to recover strongly for a second place finish. The Japanese rider was a fighting fifth when the engine on his Honda RS250W overheated and suddenly began to misfire, dropping him to sixth and costing him three seconds. But the resolute Aoyama never gave up, finding clean air to cool the engine, and began taking back positions three laps later. A series of very fast laps put him into a podium position with two laps to go and he improved to a sterling second place with a late pass of Hector Barbera (Aprilia) on the final lap.
Aoyama's third podium in a row kept him second in the 250cc World Championship to race winner Alvaro Bautista. After six of 16 races, Aoyama trails 108 to 96.
Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT SAG) finished seventh in a mostly solitary race. Wilairot was in a battle for the first eight laps before he found himself mostly alone. For the final 14 laps he was never challenged, but picked up two positions. Both upward moves came on the 15th lap when Roberto Locatelli retired and Mike Di Meglio ran off the track.
Unlike Wilairot, Raffaele de Rosa (Scot Honda) was part of a multi-rider battle to the flag. Five and six riders ran as a ribbon for almost the duration of the 23-lap race, with de Rosa in the thick of it throughout. The Italian battled to the end to pick up ninth place on the penultimate lap.
Hector Faubel (Valencia CF-Honda SAG) finished tenth and less than a tenth of a second behind de Rosa, who passed him on the final lap. The Spaniard had been eighth on the opening lap, but early gearbox issues dropped him out of the top ten before he was able to stabilize his position.
GP rookie Shoya Tomizawa (Team CIP Honda) had a number of small engine problems during the weekend and one large one that took him out while lying 12th halfway through Sunday's race. GP rookie Bastien Chesaux (Racing Team Germany Honda) finished out of the points in 18th place, the same finish as he'd recorded two weeks ago in Mugello.
The MotoGP World Championship now makes its first northern European stop for the Dutch TT on the venerable Circuit van Drenthe, the Cathedral of Racing, on June 25/26/27.
HONDA MotoGP RIDER QUOTES
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda), fourth finisher, said: "We had a great race today and we finished only nine seconds behind the winner - this is a very important point and we are getting closer every time. We only missed the podium by 52 thousandths of a second, which is a pity because I really like this racetrack and we were fast for the whole weekend, so the podium was the target and it was within the reach. I didn't have a good start and it took me some time to overtake Randy and then Dani which meant I had a gap to close before I could reach Stoner. Maybe I should have tried to attack Casey with six laps to go, when he slowed down, because later I didn't have any other chance. The race conditions were really demanding because it was really hot today, but the result was promising and we can move on from here."
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda), sixth finisher, said: "It's been a very hard weekend and I finished the race exhausted and in a lot of pain, but I don't regret being here this weekend trying to do my best. I didn't want to miss my home race and even though sixth position is not the best result in front of my fans, I'm happy with it. I could feel their enormous support during the whole weekend and it helped me a lot to race. It also wouldn't have been possible without the doctors' help: They kept me in the best possible condition to bear the pain. The injections I've had on each day worked, but obviously to do 25 laps it's been very hard. The doctors told me that this fracture needs time to heal so I'm going to rest as much as possible and see what the progress is for Assen. The team asked me not test tomorrow to give me the best chance to recover and it's a sensible decision. I didn't have a great start today, but I could manage to stay in the second group in the race. I tried to stay with Capirossi, but I couldn't, so I choose to maintain the sixth position. I'm really tired now, but it was a worthwhile race."
Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda), eighth finisher, said: "I am very happy because I think we had a great weekend. It has been a hard race for everybody but I took a perfect start from the third row ending the first lap in fourth place. After that I set my rhythm but some guys (Pedrosa, Dovizioso and Capirossi) overtook me on the straight in the following laps. I am not surprised about that and we have to accept it. Edwards was a bit faster than me but I push to keep his slipstream for the last 10 laps. I could not do better than this and we deserve this 8th place behind the factory bikes. We are ninth in the provisional world standing and we need to continue in this way for the future races."
Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini), 12th finisher, said: "The position is clearly not what we want and I don't think it's a true reflection of my potential, which I showed last season is in the top six. This year we're having a few more problems and we haven't managed to resolve them as quickly as we would have liked. The only positive thing is that in the opening race in Qatar I was fifty seconds behind the winner and now we have reduced that gap to thirty seconds so we're obviously doing something right. What we need now is to find more grip at full lean because when the bike is at a higher angle the traction is good and we get a glimpse of the potential of the bike. When I can improve my corner speed, which is one of my strengths as a rider, we can make bigger steps forward and this is the target for the test tomorrow and the next race at Assen."
Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda), 17th finisher, said: "Not bad. Less tired than after some 125 races. After four laps, in which I tried to keep the pace of the others, I understood that that was not my rhythm, so I decided not to risk. This is learning time for me. I had a lot of fun and I understood a few things, for example, that I want a wider handlebars. The fever? Gone. I feel really well." Yuki Takahashi (Scot Honda), DNF, said: "I had a good start. I overtook De Angelis and Vermeulen was in front of me. My bike was good, and the feeling was excellent. So I said to myself, 'Let's go.' He braked sooner than expected and to avoid him, I went wide. I broke my little finger against his bike."
Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini), DNF, said: "I was riding on the limit today to try and finish tenth and that tells you everything about our situation. I didn't make any mistakes when I crashed -- I wasn't going any faster and I didn't brake any harder than I had done on the previous laps, the bike just let go and that was it. It's disappointing but racing can be like this sometimes. We have to keep thinking positive and look ahead to the test tomorrow, when hopefully we can make some progress. We've shown we can do a fast lap but we need to improve our race pace so that is the objective for the test, even though we have no new parts to try. Tomorrow is another day!"
HONDA 250cc RIDER QUOTES
Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda), second finisher, said: "I'm happy and angry at the same time. Second is a great result. At the same time, my pace in the last lap was so good to make me suspect that, without that misfire, I could compete for the first place. I did a good start - from sixth to second in a few turns. I tried to stay with the guys in front, but the problem I suffered obliged me to lose a few positions. There were several friends of mine in the paddock, today as I've been living here in Barcelona for a while. And this is another reason by which I absolutely wanted a good result, here in Montmelo."
Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT-SAG), seventh finisher, said: "I made not a good start, but anyway I pushed hard but the bike from the beginning had a problem. The bike was so hot-more or less 75 degrees-and the gears didn't work as well. In consequence the bike don't reach the rpm necessary to work good. Finally I passed the riders to be at seventh position and I'm so happy for this. In the general clasification I climbed to the 12th position and until the final of the season I must be in the top ten."
Raffaele De Rosa (Scot Honda), ninth finisher, said: "I had a good start, but with the tank full the feeling was not the best. Lap by lap the situation improved, but in two points we wasted a lot of time. Had we found a solution, the result would have been by far better. I could finish a few places ahead." Hector Faubel (Valencia CF-Honda SAG), tenth finisher, said: "My start was really good but it was a lap where we had some problems and in the straight it looks like I stopped in the sixth gear. I lost too many positions and after this the bike don't work as well. The high temperature of the weather made the bike not work at the maximum and I tried to push hard. In the last lap I was ninth, but DeRosa overtook me and I finished tenth. Anyway, I'm happy because I climbed one position in the world classification and I'm eighth."
Bastien Chesaux (Racing Team Germany Honda), 19th finisher, said: "My start wasn't bad. Today I always did the mistake to upshift too early from second to third or fourth gear. In the first round I already overtook four or five riders. I could go inside a group with (Valentin) Debise, (Balasz) Nemeth and (Imre) Toth. Debise overtook me and Nemeth. Although we went the same speed as Debise in the corners, on the straights we lost a lot of time against him. The motorbike was very good and I recorded my best time in the race, which is a good motivation for the next race."
Shoya Tomizawa (Team CIP Honda), DNF, said: "Today, I had a very good feeling. I didn't get a good start and didn't have a good position on the first lap. But it was a very, very interesting race and I was able to race with many other riders. Then I had a little bit of a problem with my engine and it was broken. I had engine problems earlier in the weekend, but this was different. This time it stopped suddenly in turn four.