Shuhei Nakamoto Track Report

Round 11An all-Honda podium raises hopes for the championship

The second half of the MotoGP season starts after the summer break at the Brno Circuit in the Czech Republic, and this year's Czech GP attracted about 240,000 fans over the three day race weekend. It was edge of the seat stuff for the crowds watching Repsol Honda's Casey Stoner break out from the lead group early on to build up the lead that would take him to his sixth win of the season. Honda swept the podium, with Stoner's team mate Andrea Doviziosa taking second and Marco Simoncelli of Team San Carlo Honda Gresini coming third. HRC Team Principal Shuhei Nakamoto tells us about the pre-season planning and behind the scenes work that enabled Honda to achieve their goal, and talks about the battle now heating up for the championship.

Ever since 2004, we'd never been able to win here at Brno, and the last time we managed a 1-2-3 finish was the 2006 United States GP. This was also our first 1-2-3 since the 800 cc regulations were introduced. So you can imagine that it has been a tremendous result for us. Of course, it was a bit disappointing that Dani fell like that. If he had only made it through the race, I'm pretty sure we would have had Hondas taking all four top places, and that would really have made me ecstatic. Still, it leaves us something to try for next time. But all in all, a fantastic race for us.

It must feel like a good omen for the second half of the season.

It certainly does. Our riders have continuously been having problems with their front setup, and a cautious approach would have been to fit softer front tires for this race. In the end, we decided to fit the extra hard option and let the riders deal with it. The result showed that was the right decision. Lorenzo was riding with a hard tire (rather than extra hard) on front and you could see he was having difficulties with it throughout the race. Taking all three podium positions could be seen as a good omen, but we certainly can't expect to keep repeating it. No question about it, we are facing heavy competition and we have no intention of letting our focus waver.

From what you just said, it must have been a tough front tire decision.

No, we made the choice pretty quickly. The problem was that some riders were experiencing chattering, and others were getting vibration. We'd been expecting the surface temperature to rise a bit, so we didn't like it when it clouded over just before the start. But yesterday's qualifying had been even colder at 30 degrees and the tires had performed well. The conditions were still within the range we had calculated for, so we stayed with our choice. As it turns out, we were lucky and the sun soon returned.
Casey won this race handily, but we went into it not feeling very confident. In the morning warm up session, we couldn't figure out what was going on: there wasn't enough contact feel from the front, and too little grip from the rear. We managed to compensate for those before the race, but we were certainly very relieved when the track warmed up. Casey's sixth win of the season puts him 32 points ahead of Lorenzo, but with a strong rider like Lorenzo there's no way we can say we are safe yet.

What did you think of Dovizioso's race?

Andrea was also having problems maintaining control over his front tire in yesterday's qualifying. By this morning's warm up session, this had been solved but now he was having new problems cornering. We tried fixing this with a small adjustment to the height of the bike. That worked well: Andrea was lapping 1:57 toward the end of the race, and he shook off a persistent attack from Marco to pass the flag in second place.

After just two years in MotoGP, Simoncelli finished third for his first podium.

Yes, I think Marco should be well pleased with his podium finish. But I have to say that he probably wouldn't have got it if Dani hadn't fallen, or if Lorenzo had chosen to fit the extra hard tire. So he did well, but he has to keep on working to improve his performance if he is going to meet the hopes we have for his future.

From what you said about Stoner and Dovizioso, it seems this race was a struggle to find the right combination of cornering and grip?

Exactly. Our biggest problem was we weren't getting enough grip at the rear, if you include edge grip. That was a real headache. To solve that one we had to make sure the running temperature of the front tires matched the surface temperature of the track. We tried increasing the trail and adjusting the caster angle, but when we shifted the weight to the front we lost weighting on the rear, and then when we weighted the rear we lost control of the front. It was extremely difficult to find the right balance, to get the best trade-off between these factors. The reason Dani fell in the early part of the race was precisely because he lost control of his front end. That was a real pity.

Even so, you finally managed to achieve your pre-season goal, to get all three podium positions.

Yes, and I have to say that I am extremely happy about that. I was hoping to get there a bit earlier than the 11th round, but we have made it at last.

What's your next goal?

Naturally, our main objective is to take the championship. One of the reasons I kept mentioning I wanted a 1-2-3 finish was to motivate our riders. It also helps to decrease the motivation of our rivals. From that point of view, getting a 1-2-3 is strategically very important in the fight for the championship, and that's why I was pushing them to get it as soon as possible. And I'll keep on pushing them. In racing, you can't take anything for granted, but I really want us to repeat this success and I'm hopeful we can do it.

Finally, what are your ambitions for the next race, in Indianapolis?

That circuit is Dani's specialty, and we have two weeks before the next race, plenty of time for him to get over his setback here. I hope we'll see an excellent result from Dani in Indianapolis. Everyone else on the team will also be giving it their best effort, in the next race and in every race as we aim for the championship. I know we can count on the support of all our fans, too.

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