Japanese GP: Honda Teams race report

Determined Dani Takes Podium Place In Honda's Home Race Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) celebrated 50 years of Honda excellence in the World Championships by taking a hard-fought third place, from eleventh on the grid, in the company's home...

Determined Dani Takes Podium Place In Honda's Home Race

Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) celebrated 50 years of Honda excellence in the World Championships by taking a hard-fought third place, from eleventh on the grid, in the company's home race on the Twin Ring Motegi circuit, while Jorge Lorenzo (Fiat Yamaha) held off teammate Valentino Rossi for the victory.

Pedrosa's teammate Andrea Dovizioso battled for a podium spot until the final few laps when he fell back to finish a close fifth to the fourth place finisher, Casey Stoner (Ducati Marlboro).

The race may prove to be one of the most difficult of the season for the riders, who went into the second grand prix of the season with a number of questions. The only dry session was Friday, when the temperature was 10C colder than on race day. Saturday's practice was held in a steady rain and qualifying was rained out. Which meant the teams had to make educated guesses on everything from suspension to tires, and some of those guesses were proven wrong.

Rossi was away at the start, with Pedrosa in hot pursuit after making a bullet start from 11th on the grid. The Spaniard forced the action in the early going, despite still having limited mobility in his left knee.

On the third lap Rossi's teammate Lorenzo came past, while Dovizioso chased Pedrosa.

Now came the heart of the race, with the Yamaha riders being chased by the Honda riders and both teams fighting among themselves for bragging rights. Lorenzo made a pass of Rossi on the ninth lap, but wasn't able to break away. It was only when Rossi had a slight problem just past the mid-point in the 24-lap race that Lorenzo was able to put a second on his teammate.

A few laps later and it was Pedrosa Rossi had to contend with. The world champion hung tough until the 15th lap when Rossi made a mistake that cost him a second and dropped him closer to the clutches of Pedrosa.

Pedrosa made his first move up in the inside in turn one on lap 17, but Rossi immediately struck back. Pedrosa tried him again in turn five, but couldn't make a clean pass. It was on the run down the back straight that Pedrosa snuck by into the 90 degree right that leads into the tunnel.

Rossi fought back on the 19th lap, taking Pedrosa in turn five before the first tunnel. From there he was able to hold onto second, but finished 1.304 secs. back of Lorenzo, who won by 1.304s.

Dovizioso chased Pedrosa closely in the first half before his pace slowed slightly in the second half. It was then that Stoner made a run after struggling with front brake problems in the beginning. Stoner passed Dovizioso for fourth in turn three on the 23rd of 24 laps.

LCR Honda's Randy De Puniet finished 11th in the midst of a four-rider battle for ninth that went to James Toseland (Monster Energy Yamaha Tech 3).

San Carlo Honda Gresini's De Angelis, starting his 150th GP, finished two spots behind in 13th . More than most riders, De Angelis was handicapped by the lack of dry practice. The settings he chose for the race clearly didn't work and he did his best to keep the group in front of him in sight, only to fade at the end.

Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini) had worked his way up to eighth place before what he described as a "stupid crash" put him to the back of the field. Despite losing valuable time, the Spaniard remounted to score the final point in 15th place.

Scot Racing Team MotoGP's Yuki Takahashi failed to finish his home race. The Japanese rider crashed among a tight pack of riders in turn five on the first lap.

It was 50 years ago this June that Naomi Taniguchi scored Honda's first World Championship point at the Isle of Man. Naomi Taniguchi, a spry and lively 73, paraded a replica of his RC142 prior to the MotoGP race. He was joined by Kunimitsu Takahashi, 69, the first Japanese rider to win a World Championship Grand Prix on a Honda. Takahashi rode the RC164 that Jim Redman rode to the 1963 250cc World Championship. Freddie Spencer, a three-time world champion for Honda, rode the radical 1984 NSR500 that featured the famous "upside-down" design, with the exhaust chamber above the engine and the fuel tank below it.

250cc Grand Prix

Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Racing Team 250cc) came close to winning his home grand prix for the third time, but in the end had to settle for second place. Aoyama, the winner in 2005 and 2006, took the lead from world champion Marco Simoncelli (Metis Gilera) on the ninth of 23 laps. Soon he was joined by Alvaro Bautista (Mapfre Aspar Team), who gave him no quarter.

Five laps from the end Bautista outbraked Aoyama into the 90 degree right-hander at the end of the back straight and quickly opened a gap, while Aoyama secured his podium position.

Mattia Pasini (Team Toth Aprilia) was a distant third place.

Wild card Shuhei Aoyama, Hiroshi's brother, rode his Harc-Pro Honda to sixth place in his return to grand prix racing.

The most improved rider on the weekend was Shoya Tomizawa (CIP Moto -- GP250). Tomizawa was 25th on the grid, after encountering problems in the free practice session that set the grid positions, but sped through the field to finish tenth, his best yet.

Scot Racing Team 250cc's Raffaele De Rosa had to serve a stop-and-go penalty for jumping the start, but still scored four points by finishing 12th.

Just out of the points was Racing Team Germany's Bastien Chesaux in 16th.

Neither Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT SAG), nor Valencia CF -- Honda SAG's Hector Faubel finished the race. Both raced with settings they hadn't been able to test on Saturday, when rain lashed practice and washed out qualifying. Uncomfortable from the start, both riders crash, though, luckily, unhurt.


Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 3rd.
"I'm very happy with this result. I've had injury problems for a long time - since last October - and so to be on the podium in the second race of the season is fantastic for me, and really we didn't expect this so soon. I got a good start - the start was really the key part of my race - and I was able to get away with the front group. I couldn't really believe it when I stayed with them because I was expecting to drop back after maybe one or two laps. But then it was lap five or six and I was still there and I was thinking, 'this is unbelievable'. In the end I was near the front for the whole race, had a good battle for second, and finished on the podium so this is great. We still have to sort out some issues on the machine, but it's a very positive result going in to the Jerez, and I'd like to say big thanks to the team and the fans."

Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda: 5th.
"I'm pretty happy after this race because, considering that we struggled a lot during all the practice sessions, we were able to stay near the front for 24 laps. I was pushing really hard for a podium finish for the whole race but in the end I couldn't make it. It was a tough race and this is a very demanding track, with many hard braking zones so we struggled a lot physically to achieve this result. I think me and Dani just gritted our teeth and got on with it today. It's promising because we've reduced the gap to the guys in the front. I was 27 seconds behind the winner in Qatar and only 9 seconds behind here, so this is a good step forward. But we must keep on working hard. I have to give my compliments to Dani - he did a great race. I made a good start and was able to maintain a good pace during the race, but we still have to fine-tune the machine so that we can be really competitive."

Randy De Puniet, LCR Honda: 11th:
"It was a very hard race starting from the last row and I lost some time behind Sete (Gibernau). After six laps I finally passed him and started to set my pace getting the 9th place. At that time (Mika) Kallio was behind me but he overtook me on lap 14th. After that I tried to catch (James) Toseland but my rear traction was not very good as we had only 18 laps in the dry on Friday and the machine was not as we expected. I struggled in the left corners entries and I probably made a small mistake changing gear in the two last laps and (Chris) Vermeulen easily passed me. It's a pretty positive result considering my position on the grid and I am looking forward to racing in Jerez to improve my machine set up in the dry".

Alex De Angelis, San Carlo Gresini Honda: 13th.
"We had some problems on Friday and missed our only opportunity to get the bike set up for dry conditions, which was an unfortunate circumstance that we paid the price for today. I went for a hard front and rear tyre but it clearly didn't work with the set-up we had and I had no feeling from the tyres or the suspension today. There was a group of four riders fighting in front of me and I was desperate to get involved in the battle but I lost the rear a couple of times so finally decided to give up the chase. Three points isn't much but it's better than nothing."

Toni Elias, San Carlo Gresini Honda: 15th.
"I'm very disappointed. I was struggling a little over the opening couple of laps but by lap three I started to feel good and I was able to start making up positions. I caught the group that Melandri and Vermeulen were in but just when I had done all the hard work I had a stupid crash. I got on the dirty part on the outside of the track and lost grip on the front and rear under braking. That's the most disappointing thing because I had the opportunity to pick up some important points and I threw it away. Looking at the positives, I finished the race and picked up a point, which is something, and we have improved the bike here, which should help us in future races."

Yuki Takahashi, Scot Racing Team MotoGP: DNF:
"Out at the very beginning of the race... what a pity. Not only for the race itself, but especially because I need making laps to learn and improve. The crash occurred at the turn number five: I was in a group of drivers, more or less all of us at the same speed, then the collision under braking. I'm really sorry."


Hiroshi Aoyama, Scot Racing Team 250cc: 2nd. :
"At the beginning, when I was second behind (Marco) Simoncelli, I did a few mistakes. So, I told to myself, 'Stay calm. Cool down.' When Marco made a mistake, I was able to take advantage of it. Mid-race, the wind began to blow stronger. I saw (Alvaro) Bautista getting closer and closer. He was fast, and I could not prevent him from overtaking me. It is his day, I thought. And I settled for second, which was great, in my home race."

Shoya Tomizawa, CIP Moto -- GP250: 10th.
"Yes, a good race for me and for the team. And my grid position is 25th and no pressure and I got a good start. The first part of the race, I pushed and pushed and I tried to pass as many riders as possible and that was easy because I had a very good motorcycle. Halfway into the race, my physical energy was a little bit down and I know I have to train a little harder for the next race. The weather was hotter today than all weekend and I didn't learn about the weather in the first session and Gilles (Bigot) thought very hard about the settings and tires and he put in new settings and my Honda came better."

Raffaele De Rosa: 12th.
"A silly jump start. It never occurred to me before in all my career. The red light lasted a lot, and I let the clutch slip just a fraction. What a pity, the bike was good, I could feel it. But when you are not in the position that you deserve, everything is more difficult."

Ratthapark Wilairot, Thai Honda PTT SAG: DNF.
"Today I nearly crashed too many times and the time that I did crash in the fast corner I could not stop it. With both the front and rear there was too much sliding. I think it's the same problem for everyone. Today we did a good start and then we went with the top group and the bike was OK. It was difficult because of the weather. Nobody had a good setting because of the heat. Even before I crashed, when I was braking for the turns, the front was closing and when I opened the gas the rear was sliding. It's the same for everyone, but I think in the front tire is too soft. But the rear, everybody was on the same tyre."

Hector Faubel, Valencia CF -- Honda SAG: DNF.
"Today I had a good start, but my race was only six laps. For me the race started good. I was up to sixth position after being ninth position in the first corner. Then I went into the firs corner and the front tucked and it was impossible to save and finish the race. I had too many problems all weekend. In the first training on Friday it wasn't possible to do many laps, only six laps because I had problems with my engine. So I started the race without knowing anything. It was all a guess and it was difficult because the weather was hot and we didn't have settings for the machine or the tires. Now we go to Jerez where I'll be at my maximum to go to the front of the pack."

-credity: honda

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Valentino Rossi , James Toseland , Kunimitsu Takahashi , Alvaro Bautista , Andrea Dovizioso , Jorge Lorenzo , Toni Elias , Freddie Spencer , Shuhei Aoyama , Casey Stoner , Jim Redman , Hiroshi Aoyama , Shoya Tomizawa , Dani Pedrosa , Mattia Pasini , Yuki Takahashi
Teams CIP