Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) won his first victory of the year in brilliant style at Estoril today, shadowing Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) for much of the race before moving ahead in the final stages. Pedrosa’s 13th premier-class win and his first success at Estoril moves him to within four points of series leader Lorenzo with three of 18 rounds done.
Pedrosa’s team-mates Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC212V) and Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) finished third and fourth, Dovizioso snatching his position from Valentino Rossi (Ducati) at the finish line. Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) rode well to seventh, but team-mate Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) was out of luck, falling on the first lap after starting the race from the front row.
The race got underway in cool conditions, with the track none too grippy following two days of rain showers. Stoner had a huge moment exiting the very first turn, then Simoncelli highsided three corners later at turn four (the first left-hander), which also claimed Hector Barbera (Ducati). Simoncelli was battered and bruised, but otherwise unhurt.
Lorenzo led the race from pole position chased hard by Pedrosa and the positions stayed like that for 24 laps, the two Spaniards just metres apart as Pedrosa watched and waited.
Pedrosa didn’t know what to expect because this was his first race since he underwent further surgery on the left shoulder he injured in last October’s Japanese GP. Following last month’s Spanish GP, surgeons operated to relieve pressure on a pinched artery that had been interrupting blood flow in the shoulder. The fact that Pedrosa was able to race to the finish without numbness or loss of strength seems to indicate that the op was a success, a huge relief for the former 250 and 125 World Champion.
Today’s race was a masterful tactical display from the 25-year-old. On lap 25 he drew level with Lorenzo and out-braked him into the first turn. Twice in the next three laps he broke the lap record to give his rival no chance to counter attack. Pedrosa crossed the line 3.051s in front.
... it’s my first win in this track.
Stoner spent most of the race alone in third to bring home valuable points following his DNF at Jerez where he was knocked off by Rossi. The Australian has struggled all weekend to get his RC212V working perfectly on this bumpy, patchy racetrack and lacked some feeling during the race, especially in left-handers during the early stages. A further problem was a recurring back injury, which struck him mid-race, putting him in serious pain and discomfort. Stoner has had back problems following a crash at the 2003 Catalan GP.
If Pedrosa left his move to the late stages, Dovizioso left his until the final seconds of the race. The Italian shadowed Rossi from the first lap to the last, apparently unable to make any inroads into his compatriot. In fact he had been biding his time and he timed his attack to perfection, getting superb drive out of the final corner to beat Rossi by 0.025s.
Aoyama won an entertaining battle with rookie Cal Crutchlow, the pair swapping places several times before the Japanese finally prevailed on the final lap. Toni Elias (LCR Honda MotoGP RC212V) had a better race day than he expected. After struggling in practice and qualifying he was able to ride well, attacking Loris Capirossi (Ducati) in the final few laps to finish 11th.
Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing-Kalex) took the lead in the Honda-powered Moto2 World Championship with a brilliant 0.147s victory over Julian Simon (Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2-Suter). Bradl, who won the season-opening Qatar race, led most of the 26 laps, only briefly losing first place to Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2-Suter) and Andrea Iannone (Speed Master-Suter) who both fell. Yuki Takahashi (Gresini Racing Moto2-Moriwaki) completed the podium in third place.
With the track still damp in places from morning rainfall rain, Bradl led from pole, but soon came under attack from Luthi. The Swiss took the lead on lap four, only to slide off a few corners later. From there, Bradl fought off challenges from Kenan Sofuoglu (Technomag-CIP-Suter) and by lap 11 he had established a 1.4s lead. Next man to pressure the young German was Simon, who closed the gap down to a few tenths, just as Iannone arrived on the scene.
Iannone had made a typically spectacular charge through the pack, coming through from the fifth row of the grid to attack Simon and then Bradl to take the lead with a few laps remaining. But his hard charging had taken its toll on his tyres and he slid off at the chicane on lap 23, while just ahead of Bradl and Simon. The Italian, who had earlier established a new lap record, remounted to finish an unlucky 13th.
Iannone’s downfall put Bradl back into the lead, and although Simon did his best to mount an attack during the last two laps, he never quite got close enough to attempt a pass. This was Simon’s first podium of the year and his sixth runner-up finish in Moto2. Takahashi crossed the line six seconds further back. It has been a sad and emotional weekend for the Japanese star who lost his brother Koki in a road accident in Saitama, Japan, last weekend. Takahashi dedicated his race to his brother’s memory.
Dominique Aegerter (Technomag-CIP-Suter) finished fourth, just ahead of Simone Corsi (Ioda Racing Project-FTR), for his best-ever GP finish. Pol Espargaro (Pons HP40-Pons Kalex) came through to win a thrilling four-way battle for sixth, a fraction ahead of Randy Krummenacher (GP Team Switzerland Kiefer Racing-Kalex), Alex Baldolini (NGM Forward Racing-Suter) and Mike Di Meglio (Tech 3 Racing-Tech 3).
The Moto2 action was fast and furious throughout and there were a number of fallers, including Marc Marquez (Team Catalunya Caixa Repsol-Suter) who took out Scott Redding (Marc VDS Racing Team-Suter) in the early stages. Marquez and Redding remounted to finish 21st and 25th.
The next round of the 2011 MotoGP World Championship, the French Grand Prix, takes place at Le Mans on May 13/14/15.
Honda MotoGP rider quotes
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 1st "I’m very happy for today’s win, but more than the win I’m happy for my condition and it seems that my surgery was finally successful. I was trying to rest my arm at times as it was cramping with 15 laps to go, I was riding behind Jorge and waiting for the numbness to come together with the loss of power, but it didn’t come! I’m just so happy to see that the surgery has worked. It’s been around six months with this and it’s a big relief. For the race, I was riding at my best; Jorge is amazing here, always riding so smooth and fast. I was trying to stay with him and in the end I felt comfortable and tried to make a move and I was successful. I’m very happy to win here, it’s my first win in this track and thanks to all the doctors, my physio and trainer because it’s been hard work and finally we got a win."
Casey Stoner, Repsol Honda: 3rd "We had a pretty good start to the race, but Dani moved across and I had to back off so after that I was challenging Marco for third position in the first turn and he cut me off which I’m not so happy about, then in turn four he crashed and I lost the tow to Dani and Jorge. I didn’t really have a lot of confidence in the first laps with the rear tyre, it didn’t seem to want to work so well especially on the left side, and I nearly crashed a few times so I slowed down a little. Then during the race at some point, I felt my back completely lock up on me and I couldn’t move for three or four corners, I was struggling to do anything and had no breath. I thought I had to go back to the garage, but thankfully within half a lap it eased up a little, got better and we managed to finish so I’m very happy to stay in third place today."
Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda: 4th "After a difficult weekend we had a good race with the best lap at the end and a good strategy to overtake Valentino. I was riding at the limit during the whole race and Valentino was stronger in two or three points so it was difficult to overtake him. I pushed hard to keep contact with him and at the very last lap I tried to overtake him at turn ten, even if I knew that it’s a difficult corner to overtake. Then at the very last long corner I tried to overtake him inside, Vale closed the door so I tried to exit faster than him, I made it and I could overtake him in the straight with the draft. I’m happy of this result, but we are still too far from the first rider. We need to be competitive from the first day if we want to fight with Dani, Casey and Lorenzo so it’s good to have a test tomorrow where we can work on set up and electronic system."
Hiroshi Aoyama, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 7th "First of all I have to say thanks to the team because they have done a great job in changeable weather over the weekend here at Estoril. I tried to stay as focused as possible in the race, which wasn’t easy at the start on cold tyres but after about five laps I started to get confident with them and the bike. At that point I was able to be more decisive and after a tough fight with Crutchlow all the way to the last lap I was able to secure seventh place. It is a positive result but we will try to do better still in the next race."
Toni Elias, LCR Honda MotoGP: 11th "Well... it has been a difficult and hard race for me. In the beginning I have struggled a lot because the bike was pushing a lot in the front in the braking points, but then Capirossi and Randy have slowed down and I could catch them. I beat Loris and could have passed Randy with two more laps as my pace was consistent. I am not satisfied about my position but I am pleased with my performance because I pushed hard till the end. In my opinion we have got a big potential and we took a step forward on Friday so in tomorrow’s test we must develop the data we have gathered to improve the bike."
Marco Simoncelli, San Carlo Honda Gresini: DNF "I am really disappointed for myself and for the team. I had a warning from the rear tyre coming out of turn one. I also saw Pedrosa and Stoner have trouble so I tried to stay calm and decided to take turn three in a higher gear to keep the engine sweet. I did the same in the next corner to make sure it wasn’t too aggressive but in the middle of the corner with the throttle closed I was thrown out of my seat and that was goodnight. I am really disappointed and I don’t know what else to say. For sure it was my mistake and I have to be more careful next time. It’s a shame because I was fast! We’ll try not to make any stupid mistakes at Le Mans."
This victory is wonderful, my thanks to my team.
Moto2 rider quotes
Stefan Bradl, Viessmann Kiefer Racing-Kalex: 1st "That race was very hard for me. I got a good start and tried to concentrate on myself, which wasn’t easy because the asphalt wasn’t 100 per cent dry everywhere. Luthi was pushing hard, he came past and then he made a mistake and crashed. I just tried to stay focused because I knew the conditions were dangerous. I had a good pace, but my pit board was giving me +1, +0.5, +1, so I knew it was impossible to break away from the others. Then Iannone caught me, overtook me and he too made a mistake and crashed. I knew I had to be careful, it was dangerous because I was having problems with front whenever I flicked into a turn. I knew Julian was right behind me, so I closed him down. This victory is wonderful, my thanks to my team."
Julian Simon, Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2-Suter: 2nd "I’m very happy with this podium, especially because it is my first at Estoril. I’m also happy with the whole weekend, because we’ve been on a much better level here than we were at the first two races. The start was difficult and I found it impossible to run the pace of the leaders. After Luthi crashed I was able to catch Stefan step by step, until Iannone came past me. When he crashed I was able to get close to Stefan again and my plan was to pass him at the chicane on the last lap but he closed the line. I’ll try again at Le Mans."
Yuki Takahashi, Gresini Racing Moto2-Moriwaki: 3rd "It’s been very difficult to concentrate this weekend. I did the only thing I could - focus on the race. Our first day was very good, the second day not so bad. I got a good start in the race and I wanted to follow the leaders but they were too fast. From the middle of the race my bike became a little nervous and I almost crashed a few times. Maybe my brother helped me."