Honda Race Report

Spanish GP

Honda Race Report

Pedrosa Takes Second in Rain-Hit Spanish Grand Prix

Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) scored a great second-place finish in the rain-hit Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez to move into second place in the World Championship standings after two of this year’s 18 rounds. The race was won by reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) with Nicky Hayden (Ducati) finishing third.

Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) challenged Hayden for the final podium position during the final lap, crossing the line just four tenths of a second behind the American for his best result since moving to MotoGP last season.

But Honda’s other MotoGP hopes were out of luck this afternoon. Qatar GP winner Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC212V), who yesterday qualified on pole position here, was taken out by former World Champion Valentino Rossi (Ducati) in the early stages, while Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) crashed out of the lead a few laps later. And Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V), who made a great start to place fourth after the first lap, ran into grip issues.

Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda Team
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda Team

Photo by: Repsol Media

Rain arrived at Jerez before morning warm-up, with all three Grands Prix getting underway on a wet track. There were a number of crashes in all three races, but conditions were probably at their most treacherous during the MotoGP race. As the laps went by the track started drying out, which caused serious degradation to the rain tyres chosen by all riders. Eight of the 17 riders who started the race slid off during the 27 laps, none of them sustaining injury.

Stoner made a perfect start from pole to lead the first few laps, while Simoncelli was the man on the move, passing both second-placed Lorenzo and then Stoner on lap six. While the lanky Italian quickly established a 2.6 second lead and seemed destined for a maiden MotoGP victory, Stoner and Lorenzo were coming under attack from Rossi, who was in a hurry coming through from 12th on the grid.

In fact Rossi was in too much of a hurry. After taking Lorenzo on lap seven, he dived under Stoner as the pair entered the first turn for the eighth time. Rossi lost the front, his fallen machine skittling Stoner, both bikes and riders sliding into the gravel trap. Rossi managed to regain the track – his engine hadn’t stopped during the accident – but Stoner wasn’t able to restart his engine, which he had stopped as he fell to avoid engine damage.

It was a bitter end to a weekend of great work and great speed for Stoner. The Australian was looking in great shape after Friday and Saturday. As at Qatar, Honda machines topped all four practice and qualifying sessions, those honors shared once again by Stoner and Pedrosa.

Four laps after the Rossi/Stoner incident, Simoncelli also fell at turn one. The former 250 World Champion lost it mid-corner, the tyres refusing to let go completely until the slide ended with a highside that put him out of the race.

That put Lorenzo in front for the first time, with Pedrosa 2.7 seconds behind. In three laps Pedrosa shrunk the gap to 1.2 seconds, but that was as close as the Spanish pair got, watched by a huge Spanish crowd collectively holding its breath. Like many other riders, Pedrosa struggled more as the track started to dry, the grippier tarmac playing havoc with the soft rain tyres used by the entire grid.

Tomorrow Pedrosa will undergo surgery in an attempt to fix a circulation problem in his left shoulder, the legacy of a multiple collarbone fracture at last October’s Japanese GP.

Dovizioso had a race to forget. The first laps went well for the Italian who came through from sixth on the grid to run with the lead group, but soon ran into grip worries because of tyre and traction control issues.

Toni Elias, LCR Honda MotoGP
Toni Elias, LCR Honda MotoGP

Photo by: LCR Honda MotoGP Team

Toni Elias (LCR Honda MotoGP RC212V) scored his first points of the year with a steady ride to ninth position.

Andrea Iannone (Speed Master-Suter) was the deserving winner of another thrilling Moto2 race, the Italian rocketing through from the fourth row of the grid to win on a damp track and take the World Championship lead. Third in last year’s inaugural Moto2 series with dominant wins at Mugello, Assen and Aragon, this was Iannone’s first Moto2 win in the rain

Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2-Suter) and Simone Corsi (Ioda Racing Project-FTR) completed the podium with rookie Bradley Smith (Tech 3 Racing-Tech 3) beating Qatar winner and Jerez pole-sitter Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing-Kalex) in an entertaining duel for fourth place.

Smith led the first lap, before Corsi and then Luthi took over, Luthi building a one second advantage by lap nine. But Iannone was already on the charge, moving into second on lap seven, chased by Corsi, Smith and Yuki Takahashi (Gresini Racing Moto2-Moriwaki). Three laps later Takahashi crashed at Ferrari, the fastest corner on the track. The Japanese rider was unharmed but unable to continue due to machine damage.

Iannone enjoyed working his way through the pack and finally took the lead on lap 14 when Luthi missed a gear on the start/finish straight. Within a lap he had opened a 1.2 second lead, and when Luthi had a few slides the Swiss decided that discretion was the better part of valour and settled for second place rather than risk a tumble. He crossed the line 7.8 seconds down on Iannone.

Karel Abraham, Cardion AB Motoracing, Hiroshi Aoyama, San Carlo Honda Gresini
Karel Abraham, Cardion AB Motoracing, Hiroshi Aoyama, San Carlo Honda Gresini

Photo by: Karel Abraham Cardion AB Motoracing

Corsi was 4.7 seconds behind Luthi at the flag, happy to have scored his first podium result since Mugello last year, especially since he had started from 18th on the grid. Smith took fourth place back off Bradl on the penultimate lap when the German had a slide at Sito Pons corner.

The close-fought action which is a feature of the Honda-powered series was especially evident in the mid-pack today; with at one stage a dozen men battling for what turned out to be sixth place. That contest was won by top Spaniard Julian Simon (Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2-Suter), runner up in last year’s Moto2 series.

Perhaps the most remarkable performance of the race came from Alex De Angelis (JIR Moto2-Motobi) who was penalised with a ride-through penalty after jumping the start. Down in 34th place after his visit to pit lane, the San Marino fought back to finish seventh.

Kev Coghlan (Aeroporto de Castello-FTR) won a frantic skirmish for eighth place, the Scotsman crossing the line just ahead of Michele Pirro (Gresini Racing Moto2-Moriwaki).

Local favourite Marc Marquez (Team Catalunya Caixa Repsol-Suter) was running strongly in the second group when he was rammed out of the race by Jules Cluzel (Forward Racing-Suter) who touched a white line and fell, taking the reigning 125 World Champion with him.

The next round of the MotoGP and Moto2 World Championships takes place at Estoril, Portugal on April 29/30/May 1. The third GP of 2011 had been due to take place in Japan on April 22/23/24 but was postponed following the tragic events that hit the country last month.

MotoGP:

Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 2nd
“It’s been a very difficult race. At the start, many riders overtook me and I thought ‘that’s it’. Anyway, I knew there were 27 laps and the situation was difficult for the tyres. I was a little nervous after my bad start, but when I realised that in the first lap I was faster than in the warm-up, I calmed down and started to improve. I took a good pace and had to ride at maximum concentration in order not to not make any mistakes; it was very easy to crash. Some riders started falling down and it was a matter of resisting. I tried to catch Lorenzo when I saw that his gap was about a second, but at ten laps to go the tyres were almost finished; I couldn’t even open the throttle on the straight because the track was very slippery. When Spies crashed, my gap with Nicky was big enough to keep the second place and I crossed the finish line very, very happy. It’s been a tough weekend for the arm injury, today I also had numbness and lack of strength, but to ride in the wet helped me because it’s not as aggressive as in dry conditions. To leave Jerez with a second place finish, after the third place in Qatar, is amazing. We are nine points behind the Championship leader and it’s a good gap to resume the Championship again in Estoril. On Friday we considered whether it was worth racing here or better to pull out thinking about the operation. So this second place is amazing. We’ve been doing great, but now comes the hard time, the surgery. Nobody likes to undergo surgery, but this time I almost wish for it because I want to end the pain and problems and start competing fully fit.”

Hiroshi Aoyama, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 4th
“The situation was really tricky today but we have taken a solid result from a tough race. A lot of riders went down but I was able to manage the situation at the most critical points. I am pleased but not totally satisfied because with a bit more conviction early in the race I could have passed some slower riders and I’m sure that would have put me on the podium. We have to wait until next time but this is a great confidence boost for me and the team, who have done a great job to give me a competitive bike in the wet conditions.”

At the start, many riders overtook me and I thought ‘that’s it’.

Dani Pedrosa

Toni Elias, LCR Honda MotoGP: 9th
“Basically I am not happy about the race result because my feeling on the bike was still bad, but ninth position in these conditions is a positive result for me and the team. I know I have been lucky because many riders crashed out and I was able to finish the race although the tyre situation was very difficult for everybody because we just had the warm-up session in the wet. We must continue our job to improve our future performances.”

Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda: 12th
“I am very disappointed with what happened today. We have to understand exactly the reason why, but I felt the rear tyre was not working properly, moreover the set-up of the traction control was not perfect for today’s situation and this made things worse. The traction control was too ‘low’, the bike was spinning a lot and the tyres overheated. With ten laps to go I felt it was dangerous to go ahead so I entered the pit lane to change tyre and finish the race to get some points. It was a real pity because we have always been competitive in the wet and today it could have been a good occasion to achieve a good result. In the warm up everything was fine and I had no issues.”

Marco Simoncelli, San Carlo Honda Gresini: DNF
“I am really disappointed! I knew after the first five laps that the tyres were struggling but I managed to hold my advantage over Lorenzo. Unfortunately I lost the front in turn one and the rear came round on me – I tried to get it back under control but I couldn’t manage it. It happens in racing and even though I am disappointed I am also happy to have shown again that I am a contender this year. The most frustrating thing about today was that I got no help at all from the marshals, unlike other riders today. The bike was okay and if I could have had some help I am sure I could have still had a good race. That is not good but as I said before I showed I can run with the best today and that’s the main thing we’ll take away with us. A major result is around the corner.”

Casey Stoner, Repsol Honda: DNF
“We made a good start to the race and the bike felt good for the first few laps, then the tyres seemed to move a little so we tried to conserve them in case it rained again. I really wanted the chance to fight the Spanish riders here in a dry race, so it was disappointing for me that that it was wet. However, we were competitive here in the wet and dry and this is very important for us - at a track that hasn’t been that great for me in the past. After so much hard work, I hate to have a race like this because the team did a great job all weekend and now we go home empty handed. With the accident, I heard Valentino arriving and I wasn’t worried about anyone passing me at that point in the race so I gave him plenty of room. It was a racing incident and there’s not much we can do, what is more frustrating is the reaction of the stewards and their assistance for Valentino and not for me, it was unbelievable. I want to just get to the next race now in Estoril, where I’m sure we can be competitive again.”

Moto2 rider quotes

Andrea Iannone, Speed Master-Suter: race winner
I’m delighted – this is only the third time in my career that I have scored points at Jerez. I’m also very happy with the work that the team did, especially in preparing the bike for the wet race. Once the race started I had to work hard, it was difficult coming through and passing people and I touched a few. But I enjoyed the race -0 that’s what racing is all about. Once I could see Thomas ahead I felt comfortable with my rhythm so when I passed him I could pull away okay.”

Thomas Luthi, Interwetten Paddock Moto2-Suter: 2nd
“For sure it was very easy to make a mistake out there today. We had two days of dry practice and then a wet race, with only a few laps in the rain this morning to find a wet set-up. We had a good rhythm, a good pace, but when Iannone caught me I made a mistake while shifting gears and he was able to overtake me. Then I made I had three or four slides, so I was a little bit scared of crashing. Closing the gap would have been risky, so I decided to ride more carefully. I’m happy with second on such a day.”

Simone Corsi, Ioda Racing Project-FTR: 3rd
“I’m very happy with this result because this is my first podium with my new team and because the conditions were very difficult. We picked up 17 positions in the first two laps and I was suddenly in the lead! I felt comfortable but at the same time it was very easy to make a mistake on such a track. In the end Luthi and Iannone had more than me, so I decided to settle for this place and some important championship points.”

-source: honda

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