Australian GP: Honda race report

Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) recovered from a harrowing second turn crash in qualifying to garner his ninth podium of the season in the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island. By finishing third, the Spaniard was Honda's top performer in the race,...

Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) recovered from a harrowing second turn crash in qualifying to garner his ninth podium of the season in the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island. By finishing third, the Spaniard was Honda's top performer in the race, with Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) equaling his second best finish of the year in fourth place, while Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) took sixth.

Pedrosa got his customary holeshot from third on the grid and led across the stripe for the first lap. But on lap two he was consumed by the battle between Casey Stoner (Ducati) and Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) and fell in line. Today Pedrosa didn't have the pace of the leaders and settled into a lonely third place, where he would finish. Stoner and Rossi carried their battle to the end, with the Australian Stoner winning his home race for the third year in a row, this time by 1.935s over Rossi.

By winning the race, Stoner took third in the championship from Pedrosa by six points. With two races remaining, in Malaysia and Valencia, Pedrosa is determined to claim back the spot and finish on the championship podium.

De Angelis settled into fourth on the first lap and stayed with the leaders for the first four laps before they were able to break away. Once that happened, he secured his fourth place to the end of the 27-lap race, held under mostly sunny conditions, with scattered clouds before a crowd of over 50,000.

Dovizioso overcame a slow start-he was ninth as late as the seventh lap-to move up three spots and finish sixth. by the ninth lap there was a pack of six riders battling over sixth, but the order sorted itself out with Dovizioso moving into sixth on the 16th lap. Within a few laps he left the pack behind and rode mostly alone to the end.

Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) was engulfed in the most entertaining battle behind the leaders. The Frenchman sparred with Marco Melandri (Kawasaki) and Mika Kallio (Ducati) for much of the race, and with Melandri to the very end. Melandri made the pass for eighth five laps from the end, but De Puniet kept the pressure on to the stripe, finishing behind the Italian by less than half a second.

Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda) was in line to equal a career best finish when he was passed on lap 20 of 27. That put him 13th on a high speed track where he struggled with changes of direction.

In the red flag-shortened 250cc race, Raffaele De Rosa (Scot Honda) scored his first ever 250cc podium with a fine third place finish after starting from his first ever 250cc pole, while teammate Hiroshi Aoyama maintained his championship lead despite having an off day and finishing seventh. The podium vaulted De Rosa into sixth in the championship, with fifth well within reach.

Today's result would have been different if the race hadn't been stopped when Roberto Locatelli (Gilera) crashed on the 19th lap, bringing out the red flag. Aoyama had crossed the line in fourth place, but since not everyone had completed that lap, scoring reverted to the end of the 18th lap and instead he was seventh.

Still, Aoyama goes to Kuala Lumpur with a 12 point lead over Marco Simoncelli, today's race winner from Hector Barbera (Aprilia). Former championship rival Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia) dropped to third, 29 points behind, after crashing, remounting, and finishing tenth.

Aoyama was at the front of a pack of three Hondas that were among the six riders involved in the fight for fourth place. The world championship leader ended up seventh, just in front of Hector Faubel (Valencia CF-Honda SAG) and Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT SAG), both of whom wished the race had run to term.

Faubel said his Honda was the fastest it had ever been, but he was held back by a small problem with his shifter, which forced a change in his approach. Finishing eighth allowed him to stay among the group that sees sixth place in the championship as a goal.

Wilairot had an encouraging start to the race, though reality quickly set in when he found he couldn't reach maximum rpm's. The Honda would still pull off the corners, but was slightly shy on top end speed. It wasn't enough to discourage him from planning a late race push before the race was prematurely ended.

Shuhei Aoyama (Racing Team Germany Honda) recovered from an early race mistake, only to run into rear tire problems. There wasn't enough grip to push forwards, so he did the sensible thing and finished the race, even it meant disappointment. But before the tire problems struck he found that he could go through the corners faster than the factory bikes, which put him in a good frame of mind for the future.

The education of CIP Moto-GP250 Honda teammates Shoya Tomizawa and Valentin Debise continued in Phillip Island. Of the two, Tomizawa had the more productive race, finishing 15th to 19th for Debise. Both were slightly intimidated by the track, and the weather, at the start of the weekend, but Tomizawa came to understand the circuit and improved his lap times and understanding of the track throughout.


Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 3rd. "It's good to be on the podium again, especially after the crash in qualifying yesterday, so I'm happy about that. I pushed myself to the maximum in the race and we led for a short while from the start. Actually it's a shame they don't award points for getting the holeshot! Casey and Valentino were going superfast today and I just couldn't keep pace with them once they came past. From then on I just tried to keep my rhythm going and tried not to make any mistakes. It's a little frustrating of course not to be able to fight at the front, but considering the crash yesterday this result was OK and I'd like to say thanks to the team because they worked hard this weekend. The next race is in Malaysia and it's a track that I like, so I'm looking forward to next weekend and I hope we can get another strong result."

Alex De Angelis, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 4th."It has been a fantastic weekend all round and I really enjoyed myself in that race -- especially the first four or five laps when I was running with the top guys in the championship. It was a good feeling but their pace was incredible and for me it was just an achievement to stick with them for a while and open up a gap over the guys behind me. From then on it was a case of staying consistent and holding my position, which is a great result for us. Despite not scoring points in the last two races we have been on an excellent run of form since Germany -- I've finished in the top five in four of the races since then, and I think I've proved that I deserve to be seventh in the championship and I deserve to be here again next year. It is a credit to my team as well because we have worked fantastically well together recently and I want to thank them too."

Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda: 6th. "In the second half of the race my feeling on the machine improved and this was probably the highlight of my weekend here. Once I was clear of the battle for sixth I was able to ride at a good pace and realistically I think I could have fought with De Angelis and Edwards in this race. It's just a shame that I lost time starting from tenth and then fighting with Kallio, De Puniet and Elias - which is what I feared might happen. I cannot be happy with the 6th position but I have to consider the whole weekend and the set-up issues we experienced in the practice sessions and also my physical condition which wasn't perfect this weekend. Still, I felt good at the end of the race, so I'm looking forward to Malaysia with confidence."

Randy de Puniet, LCR Honda: 8th. "We could finish in a better position but I took a bad start and got stuck behind Elias for 4 laps. After that I started to set my pace and was pretty fast. I had fun battling with Dovizioso, Kallio and Melandri but in the middle of the race the rear tyre dropped and had too much spinning. With 8 laps to go I was not comfortable on the front and decided to keep my position to score important points for the world classification. Honestly I aimed to finish sixth today but I still feel very confident for the next races."

Toni Elias, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 10th. "We have made the bike a lot better as the weekend progressed but we never managed to find any consistency from the tyres. We had them working well for six or seven laps and after that they were gone. That is exactly that happened in the race: I got a great start and kept pace with the front guys for the first few laps but then the tyres went and I was dead. I went from setting high 1'31s to struggling around in the 1'33s -- losing two seconds a lap is just ridiculous. Anyway, considering all the problems we've had we've rescued a few points and we're within five points of seventh place, which is now occupied by my team-mate. That is our goal over the next two races and I'm sure we won't suffer the same problems in Malaysia."

Gabor Talmacsi, Scot Honda: 13th."The engine was OK, and the bike was OK in the very fast last corner. That was important. I have still problems going into the corners and in braking. But probably the main issue is the fact that I struggle when changing direction rapidly. I'm confident that if we can fix this problem, everything, including braking, will be by far better. Anyway, I can say we got the right direction. It's OK."

HONDA 250cc RIDER QUOTES Raffaele De Rosa, Scot Honda: 3rd. "I'm absolutely delighted. I would prefer to see the chequered flag. I'm more than happy, however. I brushed the podium so many times in the 125 class. And too many times I went home with empty hands. This time I bring with me a cup and the clock I got as pole man. I'm happy. I didn't immediately realize that I was on the podium - I thought the race could restart - and I was worried for the rider that crashed. I enjoyed every single moment of the weekend, and every meter of the race. At the start I did not risk; it was not necessary and I knew that I had a good pace. In fact, I was soon able to close on the top guys. At the end we all were experiencing problems with tyres, but I feel I could have a chance to get a second place. Thanks to the team: great job. Thanks to my family. I'm happy." Hiroshi Aoyama, Scot Honda: 7th. "The engine was OK. The problem was the stability of the bike out of the fast corners, where I could not get a high speed, loosing a lot of time. Nevertheless, in the 19th lap I was able to pass quite a few riders and to progress in the ranking, but the race was stopped."

Hector Faubel, Valencia CF-Honda SAG: 8th. "The start of the race was incredible. I reached the third position starting from the ninth, then it was a group who was fighting for the fifth position that was very competitive. Today the bike was faster than ever, but I had a little problem with the shifter that made it difficult to change the gear and I had to close the throttle to change it. Also the front suspension was rebounding a little bit. I think that without these two little problems I could fight for the podium. For me today the race was incredible, but it was a pity that we couldn't the race because of the red flag. Anyway we are eighth in the general classification and this lets us continue fighting for the fifth position of the world standings."

Ratthapark Wilairot, Thai Honda PTT-SAG: 9th. "The start was not so bad and in the first corner I reached the fifth place, but at this moment I saw that the bike wasn't working at 100%. The bike wasn't taking the rpm enough and I lost a little bit of top speed. I pushed hard all I can, but with this little problem I didn't want to take any risks at this moments of the race, because I wanted to attack the front position of the group at the end of the race. But unfortunately Locatelli had a really dangerous crash and this situation finished the race at six laps to the end of the race. It's a pity because I was thinking that I can be in front, but we must be optimistic and as everyone could see we had finished the last two races in the top 10 and this means that we are working in the good line."

Shuhei Aoyama, Racing Team Germany Honda: 14th. "At the start I made a mistake and lost some positions and after that I tried to overtake some people. And I followed (Roberto) Locatelli and it was easy to follow him and lap by lap we were catching (Thomas) Luthi and (Lukas) Pesek. We are closing the gap, and I stayed behind Locatelli and when I caught him I tried to pass him, but after seven laps I see there's something wrong with the tire. Then the tire was moving a lot and it was difficult to keep up the lap times and lap by lap I started coming down. And after some laps I changed my mind, because if I pushed a little bit I will crash. So I wanted to finish the race. I'm not happy about the finish, but I was happy about the potential of the bike because in the corner I was faster than the factory bikes."

Shoya Tomizawa, CIP Moto-GP250 Honda: 15th. "It was a very good race, because I have done a good lap time and faster laps all the time. At first it was difficult to learn this track, but my understanding gets better all weekend and now I like it, though it is very challenging and very fast. Next year I think I can improve my position and use better lines."

Valentin Debise, CIP Moto-GP 250 Honda: 19th. "The whole weekend I was struggling and in the race it was no different. The front end was diving in practice, so we put in another spring, but then I was fighting it harder. Then I made a few mistakes and started to lose my rhythm. Then you start to panic. You're riding harder, but you go even slower. But it's a learning experience for this race track. It's quite difficult. I didn't think it would be this difficult."

-credit: honda

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Series MotoGP
Drivers Valentino Rossi , Randy de Puniet , Roberto Locatelli , Marco Melandri , Hector Barbera , Gabor Talmacsi , Alvaro Bautista , Andrea Dovizioso , Toni Elias , Shuhei Aoyama , Casey Stoner , Mika Kallio , Hiroshi Aoyama , Shoya Tomizawa , Dani Pedrosa , Phillip Island , Valentin Debise
Teams CIP