Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) led more than half today's Spanish Grand Prix, finally finishing the race in a strong second place behind reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) to go third equal on points after three of 17 ...
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) led more than half today's Spanish Grand Prix, finally finishing the race in a strong second place behind reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) to go third equal on points after three of 17 rounds.
Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda RC212V) was Honda's next best MotoGP finisher at Jerez, the satellite team rider taking a magnificent fourth-place finish, 2.8 seconds ahead of eighth-placed Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) who might have been in the hunt for a podium result if he hadn't run off the track in the early stages. Conditions were perfect for racing, with ambient temperature at 27 degrees. Track temperature was the hottest it had been all weekend at 45 degrees.
Watched by more than 120,000 sun-blessed fans, Pedrosa led from the start, all the way to lap 18 of 27, when he was passed by Rossi. The Spaniard kept his head down to finish just 2.7 seconds behind the race winner and more than eight seconds ahead of third-placed Casey Stoner (Ducati). It was Pedrosa's second podium finish in a single week, the former 125 and 250 World Champion taking third in last Sunday's Japanese GP. Both results are minor miracles, Pedrosa having battled a multitude of injury problems during the past six months. The knee and wrist injuries he suffered in early March meant that he was also the only rider to go into today's race without having attended the two-day preseason tests session at Jerez.
De Puniet was delighted with his best finish since October 2007, the Frenchman's consistently fast pace proving that his LCR Honda team has made a superb job of adapting the set-up of his RC212V to Bridgestone tyres. De Puniet started well and held fifth for much of the race. When Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) crashed out of fourth spot in the closing stages, de Puniet inherited that position.
Dovizioso had a thrilling battle with de Puniet in the early laps, the pair colliding at the hairpin on lap three. On lap five Dovi made it past his fellow RC212V rider but then ran off the track at turn eight on lap eight, taking a long detour through the gravel which dropped him way down to 16th. The Italian kept his head and fought back brilliantly, climbing to eighth place and crossing the line immediately behind Marco Melandri (Kawasaki), Loris Capirossi (Suzuki) and Colin Edwards (Yamaha) who had disputed fifth place for much of the race.
Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) had a frustrating ride to ninth place but is determined to take the positives from the weekend. Although the local star struggled during the race with traction issues he continued to narrow the gap between himself and the leaders and is convinced that he will continue to improve at the next few races.
Rookie Yuki Takahashi (Scot Honda RC212V) enjoyed a promising ride, the Japanese inside the top ten for much of the race, but tyre-wear issues meant that he lost out to the more experienced Elias, Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) and Sete Gibernau (Ducati) during the final few laps. Takahashi learned much in his best MotoGP ride so far and set the ninth fastest lap of the race.
Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) completed a difficult weekend in 14th place. Battered and bruised from a high-speed fall in qualifying, caused by the gusting winds that hit Jerez yesterday, and also weakened by 'flu, the San Marino rider went home having added just two points to his tally.
Pedrosa now sits on 41 points, equal third with Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) who crashed out today. Rossi leads the MotoGP title chase on 65 points, with Stoner second on 54. Dovizioso is fifth on 30 points.
Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda) won a stunning 250 victory, defeating local favourite Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia) at the final corner. The race was a classic, with Aoyama, Bautista, Marco Simoncelli (Gilera) and Hector Barbera (Aprilia) the stars. In the closing stages the four-way battle distilled into a two-way duel, Aoyama and Bautista swapping positions time and again. Bautista led into the final lap, Aoyama diving ahead with less than half a lap remaining. Bautista tried to retake the lead at the final corner but ran wide, allowing Aoyama to win by 0.132 seconds. It was the Japanese star's sixth 250 win and his first with Honda since the 2005 Japanese GP. After three rounds Aoyama leads the World Championship by four points from Bautista.
Aoyama's team-mate Raffaele De Rosa (Scot Honda) also rode well, scoring a tenth-place finish after a gruelling, mid-pack contest. The young Italian grabbed tenth on the last lap from reigning 125 champ Mike di Meglio (Aprilia).
Shoya Tomizawa (Team CIP Honda) was rightfully delighted with his superb ride to 12th position. The Jerez first-timer started well but found himself losing places in the early laps, so he adapted his riding style to suit the situation and started moving forward again, fighting hard with fellow Honda riders De Rosa and Hector Faubel (Valencia CF -- Honda SAG).
Faubel struggled to maintain his pace due to rear-grip issues and crossed the line in 14th place. The last point went to Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT-SAG) who rode bravely with a left ankle injury, the result of a nasty fall during qualifying. Rookie Bastien Chesaux (Racing Team Germany Honda) was 17th, just two places outside the points.
MotoGP rider quotes
Second-placed Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) said:
"I really wanted to win here but I knew it was going to be tough because Valentino has been very strong through the weekend and I knew he'd be fast in the race -- and that's how it turned out. I got a good start, got out in front and then I just tried to concentrate on my race and see what would happen. Although of course I wanted to win here for me, the team and the fans, I'm actually very happy with the podium and surprised too. We struggled when we arrived on Friday and having missed so much testing in the winter -- and the test here -- It's a very good result for us, so I must say thanks to my team and everyone who's working with me. We're having quite a difficult time at the moment to get the machine performance to where we want it, so this podium is unbelievable."
Fourth-placed Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) said:
"It was a perfect weekend for me and the team, so my thanks to them. When I enjoy the bike I can really go fast, and people could see that today. The bike was very easy to ride and I had fun. I made a good start and when Dovizioso overtook me I remained concentrated to try and keep my position. After a few laps he made a mistake and I got back into fifth place. Then at the end I finished in fourth place. I am very satisfied with the work we did this weekend, because we struggled here during preseason testing. Honestly, I think if we can keep this pace for the rest of the season we can be really competitive. However, we must keep our feet on the ground because we restart from zero at Le Mans. My goal is to finish all the races and get as many points as possible."
Eight-placed Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) said:
"I didn't make a great start but I was able to recover some places and I'm pretty sure I could have stayed with Lorenzo if I hadn't made the mistake. On the eighth lap while I was in fifth position I lost the rear entering turn eight and I almost crashed. Fortunately I was able to rejoin the race and started to climb back up from 16th to eighth position. I wasn't as fast as I wanted today because we're still not at 100 per cent with the set-up of the bike. I'm disappointed about today's result because we didn't get the best out of the bike today. Dani had a great race today and I think he's getting the maximum possible from the package, so I want to say congratulations to him."
Ninth-placed Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini) said:
"I honestly thought we were capable of a better race today but it was impossible. We were suffering too much throughout the race with a lack of rear traction and I can promise the fans that I couldn't do any more than what I did. In a situation like this you can only try to take some positives away from the Grand Prix as a whole and looking back at the weekend we have at least continued to make progress. We were two seconds off the pace in Qatar, one and a half seconds off in Motegi and one second off here. The target for Le Mans is to reduce it to less than a second. I hope we can do it."
12th-placed Yuki Takahashi (Scot Honda) said:
"I'm satisfied with that result. I had a good feeling with the bike -- the best since the beginning of the season. I made a good start and rode a fast first lap. Then I overtook Elias and found myself in a good position, but in the second half of the race I began to experience some problems with the tyres -- first with the front, then with the rear. Anyway, I'm really happy: my programme is to learn race by race, at that is what I'm doing."
14th-placed Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) said:
"I woke up this morning with a bout of 'flu and I was really struggling. Doctor Costa sorted me out with some medication but I certainly wasn't at 100 per cent for the race. I got a decent start but I got stuck behind Toseland and even though I felt much faster than him he was very, very strong on the brakes and I just couldn't get past. I got stuck there for the whole race and that was that, pretty much. There's not much else to say! It has been one of my hardest weekends for a long time and I'm looking forward to spending some time at home, recovering from this illness and having a good rest before France, which promises to be another tough one for us."
250 rider quotes
Winner Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda) said:
"First of all, thanks to my team, sponsors and to the fans. For some reason, while we had a good practice, I did not find a good feeling with the bike during qualifying yesterday. Saturday night and Sunday morning we changed the set-up, and found a good setting. I was fast in the flowing part of the circuit, which is so important. What's really great with this bike is the overall package, so even when the situation is difficult -- like in Qatar, for example -- we are able to have a good race. I don't know if I can be a contender for the championship, but I am certainly looking forward to Le Mans. We will see what happens."
Tenth-placed Raffaele De Rosa (Scot Honda) said:
"I had a problem: shifting from fifth to sixth the engine would often cut out. It took me some time to adapt to that problem. Add to that the fact that race conditions were different from morning warm-up, and that I was a little bit nervous. When I found a good rhythm I was able to ride a few fast laps, which tells me that my real position should be further towards the front of the race."
12th placed Shoya Tomizawa (Team CIP Honda) said:
"That was a very, very interesting race, and I really enjoyed it! I got a very good start but then during the first few laps it seemed like I was going backwards, so I changed my riding style a bit -- my riding position, my braking position and so on, and it worked well. There were many big fights and I have to say that De Rosa is a very fast rider! The bike was good and we learned a lot, so now I can't wait to get to Le Mans."
14th placed Hector Faubel (Valencia CF -- Honda SAG) said:
"I got a good start and was very motivated to get a good result here. But pretty soon I started losing some positions because I was struggling with rear grip. I'm not sure why, maybe it was the suspension setting. I don't like to lose here because I was racing in front of the Spanish fans, but I have to stay focused and look forward to getting a better result at Le Mans."
15th placed Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT-SAG) said:
"After the morning warm-up session I went to the Clinica Mobile to get some painkilling injections in the left ankle I hurt yesterday. But I was still in a lot of pain, I couldn't weight the footpegs, I struggled to change gear and I couldn't move around on the bike like I normally do. Now we have some time to make my ankle better before going to Le Mans, which is good for me and for the Honda. I want to score my first World Championship podium there!"
17th-placed Bastien Chesaux (Racing Team Germany Honda) said:
"I got a very good start and I was able to make up three places. Then I overtook Baldolini, but he was able to get away from me on the straights. The first six laps I was doing fine with grip, and then the rear started to slide around when I accelerated. We need to find a solution to this problem for the next races, so we are going to have to work very hard. I think Le Mans should be a bit better for me because the track doesn't feature any really fast corners, which are my problem at the moment."