De Puniet Top Honda in MotoGP, Aoyama Wins 250 Epic Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) was Honda's top finisher in today's Dutch MotoGP race, taking a hard-fought seventh-place finish after Repsol Honda team-mates Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso ...
De Puniet Top Honda in MotoGP, Aoyama Wins 250 Epic
Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) was Honda's top finisher in today's Dutch MotoGP race, taking a hard-fought seventh-place finish after Repsol Honda team-mates Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso crashed out in separate incidents. Watched by the biggest Assen crowd in years, the race was won by reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) who scored a dominant victory, his 100th in Grand Prix competition, over team-mate Jorge Lorenzo.
Today's 250 race was won by Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda) after a thrilling duel with title rival Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia) ended on the penultimate lap when Bautista rammed Aoyama and fell. The Japanese rider's second victory of the year moved him back into the World Championship lead with seven rounds done.
Pedrosa had high hopes of scoring a podium finish in the MotoGP race after he had qualified second fastest, just 0.085 seconds off pole position. And the Spaniard was looking good in the early stages, contesting third place with Lorenzo. But on lap five Pedrosa lost the front at the first turn and slid off. Despite the tumble, which left him uninjured, Pedrosa believes that his team has taken a step forward with machine performance and is looking forward to the next races.
Team-mate Dovizioso took over fourth place after fighting his way through from seventh after a so-so start. The Italian was confident of another strong result but he ran out of luck on lap 11 when he slid off at turn one. He too walked away unhurt.
While Rossi ran away with the race the interest settled on a frantic seven-man battle for sixth place, featuring de Puniet, Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini), Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini), James Toseland (Yamaha), Nick Hayden (Ducati), Loris Capirossi (Suzuki) and Mika Kallio (Ducati). Positions within the group changed constantly as the seven men fought for position through the challenging twists and turns of Assen, MotoGP's most historic racetrack. There was little doubt that the finishing order would only be finalised during a last-lap sort-out and that is exactly what happened. Kallio crashed at the high-speed Hoge Heide section just a few hundred metres from the finish, then Elias and Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki) ran off the track at the final chicane, Elias crossing the line in eighth place, just metres ahead of Hayden and Capirossi. Elias had made an impressive charge through the pack, from 13th on lap four, but was penalised 20 seconds for his last-lap indiscretion at the chicane which put him in 12th place.
De Puniet had good reason to be satisfied with his seventh-place finish, especially since he might have finished higher up the order if he hadn't been hit by both two rivals during the race.
De Angelis spent much of the 26 laps in the group battling for sixth, happy with recent improvements made to his RCV, but in the latter stages he lost some front grip and slipped back to a lonely tenth place. Yuki Takahashi (Scot Honda), who broke a finger and hurt his back at Catalunya two weeks ago, took the last World Championship point in 15th place. Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda) finished 16th in his second MotoGP race.
Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda) once again demonstrated his immense talent and awesome determination with a stunning 250 victory aboard his RS250RW. The Japanese rider's second win of 2009, following his dramatic success in May's Spanish GP, moved him back into the World Championship lead ahead of Bautista.
Aoyama came through from sixth place to take the lead from Bautista at two-thirds distance. The pair were inches apart until the end of the penultimate lap when Bautista ploughed into the back of the Honda at the chicane and crashed. Aoyama was lucky not to go down and continued at reduced speed with a buckled exhaust pipe dragging on the ground. He still crossed the line four seconds ahead of Hector Barbera (Aprilia).
Hector Faubel (Valencia CF-Honda SAG) rode a breathtaking race after a first lap incident damaged his bike and put him way back in 17th position. Undaunted, the Spanish RS250RW rider stormed through the pack, moving into eighth place with two laps to go. Faubel finished one place and 1.9 seconds ahead of team-mate Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT-SAG) who battled rear grip issues in the closing stages to beat Raffaele De Rosa (Scot Honda) by a fraction of a second. De Rosa struggled with a full tank in the early stages of the race but got better and better as the race went on.
Vincent Debise (Team CIP Honda) netted his second points haul of the season with a fine ride to 14th. Shoya Tomizawa (Team CIP Honda) and Bastien Chesaux (Racing Team Germany Honda) both crashed out. Tomizawa fell at high-speed on the very first lap after losing his front brake lever in a first-corner collision. Chesaux fell in the late stages of the race after running short of rear grip. Both riders were unhurt.
Randy de Puniet, LCR Honda: 7th - said: "That was a thrilling and stressful race. My grid position did not help; I got a bad start but after the first corner I overtook a few riders and I was up to ninth by the end of the first lap. After that I caught a group of riders with faster engines and I could not pass them. Suddenly Toseland passed me after the back straight but he was on the limit and hit my machine. once again I had to push to catch the group and then Elias came past and hit me at turn three. However, I stayed focused and when Capirossi and Elias made a mistake in the last corner I was ready to take the chance to pass them. After a difficult time in qualifying we deserve this seventh place. My crew made a very good job on the electronics between the warm-up and the race."
Alex De Angelis, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 10th, said: "From the first lap to about three quarter distance it was a good race for me, fighting in a group for seventh place. We've been working hard to find rear traction recently and made some progress at the Barcelona test that has helped us here and I think we have gathered more interesting data to help us move forward. Unfortunately it was the front tyre that we struggled with today. From about halfway through it was pretty worn and the front was folding on me more and more. I almost crashed on a few occasions so decided it was best to back off and settle for the position I was in. It is not exactly where we want to be but I think we are getting closer and I'm excited about taking this progress to America."
Toni Elias, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 12th - said: "I'm happy because it looks like little by little we're making progress. The problem here was that I qualified badly yesterday, I got a bad start today and a lost so much time at the start of the race fight with Sete [Gibernau], Talmacsi, Takahashi and Canepa. It was only three laps but it felt like a lifetime! Once I got free of them I was able to keep passing riders until there were three seconds of clear track in front of me to the second group, which I was able to close down. There were some really hard riders in that group and it was a lot of fun. I want to publicly apologise to Capirossi though because I was very late into the last chicane and ran us both off track. I feel bad for him but I just had to give it everything I had today. Race direction have decided to penalise me for it, which I have to accept, but the most important thing about today was the performance and not the result."
Yuki Takahashi, Scot Honda: 15th - said: "I did not have had a perfect start. Moreover, in the very first part of the race I almost collided with another rider and was forced to take a wide line which lost me time. Mid-race, my back began to ache and then lap by lap I lost sensitivity in the finger I broke in Barcelona. I wanted to finish at any cost. I did it, and I'm satisfied. But not happy: I can do better, and I'll do so in the next races."
Gabor Talmacsi, Scot Honda: 16th - said: "The start was fun. I had practised my starts and I saw that I was good at that. So, we decided for a soft tyre for the rear and a medium tyre for the front. For ten laps I was able to stay with the other guys in my group. I'm very pleased with my race weekends in MotoGP so far; I'm improving race by race, day by day. Next, we are going to have a technical meeting to decide how to work on the setup for Laguna Seca."
Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda: DNF, said: "At the beginning the race was going well and I was lapping with a fast pace -- the same as in the practice sessions. Fourth place was looking on the cards and I believe that would have been an achievable and a reasonable result for us this weekend, so I'm very disappointed about the crash at Turn 1. I had a good start but I was trapped by a bunch of riders and it took me a few laps to get by them. Once I was past I was feeling quite comfortable, although I wasn't sure I could catch Stoner. Then, while I was in the middle of the corner at the maximum lean I lost the front. I wasn't on the brakes when it happened -- we have to lean a long way over in the middle of the turn and that's when it caught me out. The next race is only a week away so we have to put this result behind us and focus on Laguna. It's a track I like and, in spite of today's result, I'm confident when can get a good result there."
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: DNF - said: "The good news is that I didn't hurt myself in the fall and, considering my recent run of luck with injuries, this is a big relief. But of course I'm disappointed with the result today because, even though it's unlikely I could have won the race, I was feeling strong on the bike again and believe I could have made the podium. My feeling on the machine this weekend has been much better and I have been able to ride close to my maximum potential, so I was quite confident coming into this race. I made a fast start and found a good rhythm, so the crash was very unexpected -- for the whole weekend I had no warning this might happen. Now we have to forget this race and remain positive and focused because we have been the best in the past and I believe we can be the best again. The whole team deserves better than this and I know we will work even harder to take the fight to our rivals, even though they are very strong. Laguna is the next race and we will go there with the same positive mood that we brought to Assen this weekend."
Hiroshi Aoyama, Scot Honda: 1st - said: "First of all, let me say thank you to my team. They did a great job, providing me with an excellent bike to fight for the top prize in a circuit that might not have been easy for us. My start was not perfect, and I had to push to make up. Then, I found a good pace, and in the second part of the race I was able to get the leadership and cross first the finish line. My position in the championship begins to be interesting. The most important thing, now, is to keep the rhythm. Then, we will see".
Hector Faubel, Valencia CF-Honda SAG: 8th - said: "The race was crazy! I started like a rocket and overtook five or six riders but Di Meglio touched me in the second corner and bent one of my handlebars, which made my race more difficult. Then on the second lap Cluzel fell down and I had to go off the track to avoid his fallen bike. After that I was able to gain positions until finally I finished eighth. I'm happy because after so many handicaps this is a really good result. Also, the riders in front of me on points are very close so I think I can move further up the classification."
Ratthapark Wilairot, Thai Honda PTT-SAG: 9th - said: "I made a really good start, climbing from 11th position to ninth. At that moment of the race I had a good pace and I felt great on the bike. The problems started with ten laps to finish when I rear tyre started working not so well, very bad through the right-handers. Despite that I'm happy because I achieved another top-ten result and got some important points which moved me up in the points standings."
Raffaele De Rosa, Scot Honda: 10th - said: "At the beginning I experienced the same problem I had in Barcelona: with the tank full I'm not able to do what I want with the bike. And unfortunately I added to my problems my making a couple of mistakes. Everything went far better in the second part of the race. If I can fix that full-tank problem that I'm having in the first laps I'm certain I can improve a lot."
Vincent Debise, Team CIP Honda: DNF - said: "It's great to get some more points. It was a tough race and I suppose I was lucky that some other riders dropped out. But the important thing is that we are improving and that I got some more points which makes me more confident for the next races."
Shoya Tomizawa, Team CIP Honda: DNF - said: "I knew it was going to be busy in the first few corners. I was on the outside into the first corner and someone hit me from the inside. We managed not to crash, but when I got to the next corner and tried to brake I discovered that the collision had ripped off the front brake lever. It was a fast crash, fourth gear, but I am okay."
Bastien Chesaux, Racing Team Germany Honda: DNF - said: "I don't know what happened. From lap ten I had no rear grip, which was very strange because yesterday we tried a tyre with 25 laps on it and it was okay. I went into a corner, no gas, nothing, and the rear went away from me. Other than that, the bike was really good."