Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) finished less than a second off the podium before a crowd of 51,436 on a warm and sunny day at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, site of today's United States Grand Prix. The race was won by Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)...
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) finished less than a second off the podium before a crowd of 51,436 on a warm and sunny day at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, site of today's United States Grand Prix.
The race was won by Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) from Casey Stoner (Ducati), with Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) just holding off Dovizioso in his second race since returning from a leg injury, sustained during last month's Italian GP.
The race had begun strongly for the Honda side, with Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) jetting into the lead in front of Stoner and Lorenzo. Lorenzo passed the Australian on the sixth of 32 laps of the 3610m circuit in the hills outside of Monterey, California and began to chase Pedrosa.
The two Spaniards quickly pulled out and threatened to make the race a runaway. Then, on the 12th lap, Pedrosa had the front end slide away when he hit a bump while entering the left-hand turn five, a corner that would claim two more riders.
That put Dovizioso into third, where he'd remain until the 27th lap when Rossi attacked on the brakes into the final corner, the hard braking left-hand turn 11. The Repsol Honda rider came back at Rossi closing tight into the signature Corkscrew turn and pressuring him into the final bend. But Dovizioso had been having braking issues and a small mistake sent him wide and allowed Rossi to claim the final podium spot.
Despite difficult afternoons, Pedrosa and Dovizioso remain second and third, respectively, in the World Championship classification.
Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini) finished alone in eighth place, while gathering important data as the team integrates its upgraded electronics package. The Italian spent much of the race battling with team-mate Marco Simoncelli, making his first visit to Laguna Seca, and veteran Colin Edwards (Yamaha). Melandri had been in ninth and just in front of Simoncelli when the rookie crashed on the 19th lap in turn five, the same corner that had claimed Pedrosa.
Simoncelli was hopeful of a seventh place until encountering braking difficulties. He adjusted his riding style and was preparing a late race assault when he hit a small bump and the front end slid away.
Melandri then lost touch with Edwards when he made his own mistake on the 22nd lap, after which he solidified his eighth-place position.
The final two Honda finishers were the replacement riders, Roger Lee Hayden (LCR Honda) and Alex de Angelis (Interwetten Honda MotoGP). Hayden, riding on short notice in place of Randy de Puniet (injured during last weekend's German GP), made steady progress throughout the weekend and would turn in his fastest laps during the race. De Angelis, who is filling the seat of the injured Hiroshi Aoyama, was making his second visit to Laguna Seca.
The battle came down to the final laps, with Hayden making a pass on the penultimate lap and holding off a charging de Angelis on the run to the flag, the difference between them only 0.577s.
Hayden picked up five valuable points for the team, which keeps them solidly in sixth in the team championship, an impressive feat for a one-rider squad.
Now the series heads into the summer break, the battle to recommence at the Czech Grand Prix in Brno on the weekend of August 13-15.
HONDA MotoGP RIDER QUOTES
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V): 4th "I cannot be happy about this result because the podium was so close. I made a good start on the inside, but then got a little bit trapped going through turn one and lost positions. I really wanted to get away with the front riders but in the first three laps I lost time behind Spies, and because of this I lost contact with the leaders. I was lapping with a pace of 1m 22.5 and the middle of the race was going well, but in the last laps Valentino began to go faster and I couldn't lap at the low 1m 22s pace he was able to achieve. When he came past me I did everything I could to take him back but I was not fast enough -- especially in T3 and T4. I didn't have the performance on the brakes to make a move -- so I couldn't overtake him again. The result is not what we wanted and so we have to keep working hard so that we can challenge for race wins -- that's the target."
Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V): 8th "That was a really tough race for me. We thought we had found something good in the warm-up this morning but we made a couple more changes for the race and they didn't have the effect we'd hoped. We also have a lot to learn about the new electronics package. The bike changed a lot as the race progressed and it was difficult for me to manage. After fifteen laps I was really struggling under braking, especially into the left-handers because I didn't have any strength. It was important for me to get to the finish and gather as much data as possible."
Roger Lee Hayden (LCR Honda RC212V): 11th "This was a very good race for me! At the start I got boxed in at the first corner and after that it took me a few laps to find my pace. The rest of the guys had taken a few seconds on me but I started to pull them back in and I did my fastest lap of the whole weekend in doing so. I charged hard and caught de Angelis. With two laps to go I passed him and took 11th place. At the start of the week I really did not think I could have taken 11th place. I really really want to thank the LCR Honda team for this fantastic opportunity. Everybody in the team has bent over backwards to help me in every way. The guys worked really hard on the bike and made it very comfortable for me to ride. They put absolutely no pressure on me this weekend for a result but this is the American GP and all my friends, family and fans are here so I wanted to give them all a good result. I would love a chance to ride for this team again as they are a fantastic bunch of guys and the machine they gave me was perfect."
Alex de Angelis (Interwetten Honda MotoGP RC212V): "This was a very difficult race. We don't know what was the reason for the problems because yesterday went quite well. Especially with the tyres we had problems and I was sliding around all the time. The first 10 laps were okay, but then my time dropped. In the last lap the marshals started to wave blue and green flags at me, so I closed the throttle, because I didn't know what was going on, but I guess this was not meant to be for me. I think the first rider crossed the finish line and they started to wave the flags. This was a mistake and it took my pace away and I could not attack Hayden anymore."
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V): DNF "At the time that I crashed I was pushing hard to maintain the gap to Lorenzo and my rhythm was good. Unfortunately though I hit a bump on the way into the corner and I couldn't do anything -- I was down. It's very, very disappointing obviously but this can happen when you're trying everything to win. You have to push as much as you can and take risks -- and I really wanted to win this race. The one thing we can do now is to remember that we were having a good race until this moment, and we were leading the race -- this is what I want to take from the weekend. You cannot sit there with your arms crossed thinking about what could have been. For the whole weekend, me and the team were working well and we put ourselves in a winning position. It hasn't worked out for us but we'll come back fighting at the next one."
Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V): DNF "Bad things usually come in threes and that proved to be the case for me this weekend. I crashed again in the race and it was a shame because I was running really well. I could have finished seventh, but in any case I was struggling more under braking today than yesterday and I couldn't find my pace particularly over the opening few laps. I managed to ride around my problems and put together a decent pace but as soon as I pushed a tiny bit harder under braking I hit a bump and the front folded. Now we have to wait and see if we can make up for it at Brno."