Round 13 was held on the Misano Circuit in San Marino. Lying just inland from the Adriatic resort coastline of Rimini, it usually has fine weather for the MotoGP race, and Friday practice began under a clear, sunny sky. By Sunday, the sunlight had weakened a little and by the start of the MotoGP class race the conditions had become rather tricky, with slight spatters of rain. Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa did well on a surface that was constantly changing, hanging on to third place most of the race, and then with six laps to go, whipping past team mate Casey Stoner to secure a second place finish. Stoner came in third for his 11th consecutive podium finish. HRC Team Principal Shuhei Nakamoto talks to us about how the Honda riders managed under these difficult conditions, and discusses his hopes for the final races of the season.
Dani had some problems at the start with a slipping clutch which prevented him from using his trademark lightning getaway and subsequent strategy of leading from ahead. Times overall were slower than yesterday's, with winner Jorge Lorenzo being down 0.2s. However, Dani's time was down 0.3s, and as the laps piled up this put him further and further behind Lorenzo. Everyone was going slower on account of the track conditions, but unfortunately our bikes appeared to be a bit more sensitive to this than the Yamahas. I suppose it could have also been due to the riders, but whichever way you look at it the effect of the changing surface temperatures slowed Dani down more than it did Lorenzo.
Naturally, if we had been able to prepare the bike completely to our satisfaction then there would have been no problem with surface temperature fluctuation. But that's not the way it works in racing. You never get 100% or even 90% of what you want done in time. I'd say our setup was about 80% for this race, although it probably felt more like 70% to Dani on the bike.
Yes, we'd managed to set up Casey's bike perfectly over the course of the previous days. The bike was going great, but unfortunately Casey was hit badly by fatigue half way through.
Ever since he hurt his neck in that fall at Assen in Round 7, he hasn't been able to train properly. His doctor has even forbidden him to run because it causes too much shock to the neck, and he's still feeling some pain from the injury. And on top of not being able to physically train as he should, we've just come through a really punishing schedule due to the jetlag from the races in the US. When there's a gap between races, he can take a rest and gradually ramp up his training again but there was no chance this time and basically he went into this race already tired. He managed to fight it off until about halfway, but then the fatigue just got too much for him.
In his case we were trying various methods to keep fuel consumption down, and we weren't using 100% engine control. Normally we could control making effective use of things like firing at low speed, but those methods weren't possible either this time. In such a case, we rely on him controlling things with the clutch, but unfortunately that started to get rough early on. By the time it had settled down and Andrea was able to gain full control, too much of a gap had opened up for him to overcome.
Yes – each rider is very different on this point. Andrea and Marco always do poorly with fuel, while Casey has hardly any problems in this respect. For the Misano Circuit we used a lean setting rather than going for full power, and that might have been one of the reasons Andrea had such a hard time.
Yes, he looked pretty happy with his result. But there was a really big gap between the top three riders and the second three. I was really hoping that Marco, and Andrea too, would have been up there in the top group.
This race had quite a few breathtaking moments, but that was mostly due to the nature of the circuit – on this track there's no way to avoid some hair-raising overtaking. But even so, Marco did very well – he was overtaking very cleanly, not risking bumping other riders.
I was asked whether there was any chance that this year's Japanese GP might be moved to Suzuka, and I replied that there was no possibility of that happening. There are two reasons. First, Suzuka does not satisfy FIM homologation requirements for a world grand prix, so we couldn't hold the MotoGP there. In addition, the MotoGP schedule calls for that race to be held on October 2nd, just one week before Suzuka hosts the F1 GP. It takes two weeks to set up a course for an F1 race, and you can't do that while another event is being held. So my reply was that moving the MotoGP to Suzuka would be impossible on two counts: the regulations and to the schedule clash. Then I was asked which circuit I preferred, Suzuka or Motegi, and I stated my personal preference was for Suzuka. For me personally, it has the better layout, with lots of variation – high and low speed corners, S-bends and plenty of ups and downs. I've been there many times for the 8 Hours and F1, and I like the circuit. That was what I said in reply. For reasons I don't understand, my reply was mistranslated and some media started reporting that I was in favor of switching the race to Suzuka. This is not true. If you go back and get a proper translation of my words, it's quite clear that I said nothing of the kind.
Last year, Casey came first and Dani second in that round, and I'm sure they'll both put in a good showing again at Aragon. It's also a course with a very long straight that's perfect for our Honda bikes, so I think we have a good chance of a win.
With five races to go, a lead of 35 points is certainly not a safe position, but we are ahead. The important thing is to keep fighting every race and be aware that one mistake could cause us to lose it all. I hope everyone continues to support us as strongly as they have been doing all season.