Shuhei Nakamoto Track Report

Round 15The championship fight remains close

The 15th Round at Twin Ring Motegi was a stormy event, with a startling number of upsets. Casey Stoner of Repsol Honda led from pole in the early laps, ran off the track in the fifth lap, and then made a miraculous recovery, clawing his way back through the pack to cross the line in 3rd place. Stoner's team mate Andrea Dovizioso took the lead after Stoner's mishap, but then race officials decided to award a ride through penalty to both Dovizioso and Marco Simoncelli of team San Carlo Honda Gresini for jumping the start. These two riders would also make an amazing comeback from their setback, incredibly finishing fourth and fifth after a tremendous battle that saw Simoncelli pass Dovizioso in the last lap. The race was won comfortably by Dani Pedroso, who took his third victory of the season after a race week in which he never rode less than magnificently. HRC Team Principal Shuhei Nakamoto discusses this dramatic race, and fills us in on his plans for the remaining few races of the season.

Dani really gave it his all this race. It's the first time the Honda factory team has won at Motegi in MotoGP, and in fact we have had no winners here on Hondas since Makoto Tamada in 2004. It's especially satisfying for Dani to win at Motegi, after last year's disappointment due to injury. So right now I'm feeling relieved for quite a number of reasons.

Pedrosa chose the harder rear tire today. Was that a difficult choice to make, since conditions today are colder than yesterday?

If the actual temperature for the race had been lower, we might have had to consider using the soft tires, but basically using the harder was our plan all along and we didn't change it.

Pedrosa's lap times were very fast – around 1'46" right through to the end.

He had fast times in all three free practice sessions and this carried on into the race itself, since the bike was set up just right. And Dani showed us every last bit of his potential, with a very high level ride. Any way you look at it, this was simply a great race by Dani.

Stoner ran off the track in the fifth lap at a 90 degree bend. It really looked like he was going to fall for a second, but he made it safely back into the race.

Yes, nobody would have been surprised if he'd crashed at that point. It was quite something to stay on, make it back into the race and then finish third.
In qualifying yesterday, he tried a couple of attacks on soft tires near the end but what he found was that he was getting chattering on the front, caused by the rear tire. We used the hard tire today to avoid that, but in fact after the race Casey told me he had an even harder time controlling the bike than he had when trying to attack yesterday. It was a disappointing result for Casey today, but this is the kind of thing that happens in racing.

Dovizioso slipped up with his start.

Yes. If only he hadn't jumped the start, who knows how this race would have ended? Andrea was riding brilliantly, so it's a great shame that had to happen. The same applies to his battle with Marco. Still, it's a fact that they both jump started. It's tough, but these things happen in racing. We can always say "what if?" but looking at his lap times, he would have been faster than Lorenzo if he hadn't been penalized with a ride through.

Until now we thought that the championship would be decided for Stoner in Australia, but his third place finish here means the battle isn't nearly finished yet.

To be sure of the championship, he needs to be 10 points ahead of Lorenzo after the next round. At present he's 40 ahead, but if Lorenzo just keeps battling the way he has been, I don't think Casey can be certain of pulling off that 10 point lead in Australia.

How enthusiastic are you about the next round?

Today's race clearly showed us how you can never depend on anything going the way you expect in this game. We'll keep trying to make sure of the championship as quickly as possible, but in any case we'll keep fighting right to the end, focused on avoiding mistakes both with the bike and on the track. Frankly, in racing you just don't know what will happen, so you simply keep giving it your best. Phillip Island is Casey's home ground and he won there last year with a pole-to-finish, but today he had a good chance to win and yet that didn't happen. If all it took to win were the fastest lap times, then qualifying would be enough and there'd be no need for the actual race. That's why we'll be even more focused and trying harder than ever in this next round. I hope our fans out there will all be supporting us.

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