Portuguese GP: Honda race report

Dani Just Loses Out In Intense Battle For Victory Dani Pedrosa misses the win by just 0.175 seconds at the flag to Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) at the Portugal Grand Prix at Estoril. Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC212V) was the pole man but it was...

Dani Just Loses Out In Intense Battle For Victory

Dani Pedrosa misses the win by just 0.175 seconds at the flag to Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) at the Portugal Grand Prix at Estoril.

Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC212V) was the pole man but it was rapid line-launcher Stoner who took the lead into turn one on lap one with Pedrosa and Hayden hot on his heels. On-form Marco Melandri (Gresini Honda RC212V) lay fourth with Rossi fifth.

Stoner was quickly into the groove turning in an early fastest lap of the race on 1m 37.779s on the second lap. Rossi edged past Hayden on lap three while the gutsy Kurtis Roberts (Roberts KR212V), working as hard as ever to get the Honda-powered KR machine on the pace, retired to the pits on lap three with clutch difficulties.

Melandri was now getting some speed on and took Hayden for fourth place on lap four, but the battling reigning World Champion was in no mood to relinquish any places easily and he retook fourth from the Italian on the next lap.

Pedrosa meanwhile was getting fully to grips with a track that he has not so far enjoyed much success at. He out-braked Stoner into turn one on lap six for the lead and set about giving himself some breathing space with a clear track ahead of him.

But Rossi was on the go and now held second place. He then moved on Dani at turn one on lap nine and Pedrosa was not going to let the pass stick. It took the 21-year-old Spanish man a number of laps to set up the pass, but by lap 18 of this 28-lap dice he led again.

Hayden was now chasing Stoner for third but the American dropped off, clawed his way back, and then had little grip left to sustain the pressure in the closing stages. The fight for the win was clearly between Rossi and Pedrosa.

Rossi stalked Dani, sizing him up along the start/finish straight but never going for the pass until lap 23 when he took his chance to slip by as Dani ran wide on the exit of turn one. Dani was having none of it and as Rossi made almost the same error later in the lap, Dani seized his chance.

In the final laps it was nip and tuck between these two consummate riders. On the penultimate lap Rossi tried a pass at turn one but thought better of it before the manoeuvre was completed. He then made his move on the entry to the turn after the back straight. It was a brave move -- and it worked.

Stoner finished 0.8 seconds adrift of Pedrosa, but the points gained with just four rounds to go mean the Aussie is well-placed to take the title in Motegi next weekend -- barring any unforeseen events.

Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 2nd.
"I'm happy to be fighting for win and the pace we could run today was very quick. We were lapping very fast right until the end and this is good progress for us because there have been races where this was not possible. I made a good start and pushed very hard at the beginning, got into a strong rhythm and the pace was very high. I was able to pass Stoner but when Rossi came past me and was in front I knew that he was not pushing at 100%. With Stoner and Hayden catching this was risky so I went for the overtake to try to up the pace because I didn't want them to catch up. This allowed Rossi to watch me for a while which I think was useful for him in the closing laps. I knew my pace was very similar to Rossi's because we had both been in the front of the race. When he came past at the end I tried my maximum but did not have the speed to take the lead on the last lap. Still, this was a good race for us and I'd like to thank my team and everyone at Honda because they've been working really hard. Now we're going to Motegi, which is a track I like and I hope we can put on another good performance there."

Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda: 4th.
"There are a lot of positives from this weekend and pole position was one of them, though certainly fourth wasn't quite the result we hoped for. We knew it was going to be tough today and the first lap wasn't so kind to me - but actually I was just happy to get through the first lap after what happened at the last race. In the beginning I wasn't able to quite get into a rhythm, I was really struggling out of Turn 6 and some riders were able to get up the inside of me into Turn 7. I was duking it out with Melandri which lost me some time and then I found a rhythm, got down into the 1m 37s laps and caught up to Stoner. I was riding right on the edge and used up a lot of my tyres to try to catch the leaders, and then I made one big mistake which cost me a lot of time. My bike ran really well today. The engine was good and the Michelin tyres worked well so I really don't have a lot of excuses - those guys were just a little bit quicker today and I give them credit. This was my first pole position of the year and I had the fastest lap of the race which is definitely positive. We're way better off than we were a few months ago so things feel like they're back on track and I'm enjoying riding the bike again. So, we'll go to Motegi and try to keep it rolling. We've got four more cracks at it!"

Marco Melandri, Gresini Honda: 5th.
"The problems we had in practice resurfaced in the race and the chattering meant that I couldn't ride the bike as I wanted to. I had two good battles with Nicky and then with John, where I was faster in the first part of the track but then lost out in the second part. I think we went with a rear tyre that was a little too hard for the conditions and the track characteristics today but I gave my best and now I'm looking forward to Motegi."

Carlos Checa, LCR Honda: 7th.
"I'm very satisfied with this result after some problems in qualifying meant I started on the fourth row. It was a good race, I enjoyed it, especially from the start and passing many riders including Elias, West and Edwards and finally Tamada for seventh. My feeling was that if I had started closer to the front I could have raced with Melandri and Hopkins for fifth, but anyway, this is a positive step forward with the new tyres from Michelin and our set-up from Honda."

Toni Elias, Gresini Honda: 8th.
"It has been a tough weekend. We've had traction problems since Friday and only partially solved them. Then in the race I had to deal with another rider punting me off track when I was in eighth place after making a good start. I went straight on at a corner and came back onto the track in thirteenth place but I put together a good recovery and got back to my original position. I'm disappointed because this is a circuit I like a lot and I could have done much better."

Shinya Nakano, Konica Minolta Honda: 11th.
"In one of the fast corners there were so many riders together and I was on the inside but got pushed back and I lost some places. We also had a small problem with the engine, which disappeared when I started using a gear higher and by the middle of the race I could start to push harder and begin to overtake a few riders and enjoy the race. Our settings are an improvement over earlier in the season, so the positive we take from Estoril is that the team and I have found a good direction. Thankfully we have only one week to wait before the Japanese GP, and I trust the team and myself to get a good result."

Kurtis Roberts, KR212V: dnf -- clutch problem.
"The clutch went out after the start, slipping a lot for a lap and half. I don't know why. The only thing I can think is I had a hard time getting the gear into neutral on the grid. It wasn't like I was hard on it. I was just sitting there hunting for neutral. I started fine, but it started to slip after turn four or five, and it didn't get any better. There was a rumour that Honda will have some more horsepower for us at the next race, and I hope it's true, because this is starting to get ridiculous. It's frustrating when you are the only guy that hasn't had the engine update yet. I've tried to be positive all year, up until now - but it's getting stupid. I don't think anyone would want to ride the thing like it is now. You can't draft anybody, you can't accelerate with anybody, you can't shut anybody off to pass them properly. Hopefully it'll get better for Japan."

Kenny Roberts -- Team Principle Team Roberts.
"The clutch failed. I don't know why - it wasn't from the extra horsepower we put in it! I guess he burned the clutch up too much coming off the line, and it never recovered. I don't know if the thing was borderline on wear or not. It wasn't going to be a very good day, no matter what, but we would have got points. We need some help for acceleration, otherwise it's kind of a waste of time."

-credit: honda

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Kurtis Roberts , Nicky Hayden , Carlos Checa , Shinya Nakano , Kenny Roberts Jr. , Marco Melandri , Toni Elias , Dani Pedrosa