Shuhei Nakamoto Track Report

Round 2In Round Two, we start to see results

Jerez is a course that always produces one of the season's most exciting races, and although this year's Spanish Grand Prix was held in heavy rain, 123,750 fans braved the bad weather to cheer on their fellow Spaniard Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) who put in a fine performance despite his injured shoulder. Hiroshi Aoyama, the sole Japanese MotoGP rider, scored a personal best to finish fourth. HRC Team Principal Shuhei Nakamoto spoke with us about the results of this close-fought Second Round, and how they have affected his goals for the races to come.

In this race, Dani was still struggling with the same arm problem that had hampered him at Qatar, while Casey and Andrea were still unsure of themselves on the Jerez Circuit. So this weekend posed an extra challenge for all three Repsol Honda Team riders. Dani was extremely pleased to make it to the number two podium position, since his big fear had been that he might not even be able to finish the race. Casey took pole position in qualifying and got off to a good start in the race, but then unfortunately had to retire after a fall. Such accidents are an inevitable part of racing though, and Marco Simoncelli was in lead position when he fell too. Hiroshi almost made it to a podium place, but in the event declared himself quite pleased to have finished fourth.

Looking at how Casey Stoner led from pole for the first part of the race, can we say that he finally feels comfortable with this circuit?

I think so. Leaving the final result to one side, he put in a fast, consistent time, so I think we can say that he now feels at home and fully competitive at Jerez.

Did Dani Pedrosa's shoulder injury affect his race this time?

Jerez was held in wet conditions, which are much less physically stressful for riders. He was surely feeling pain from the injury, but he still made it right through to the end. It wasn't anything like Qatar, where he really thought he wouldn't be able to finish, but towards the end of this race he was having problems and missed his clutch several times. The final ten laps looked pretty tough for him.

Why did he drop back soon after the start?

He slowed down at that point to preserve his tires. The data shows that he never used full throttle early in the race. He made the decision that if he kept pushing things at that pace, he wouldn't last till the final lap. If he had gone faster at first, the wear would have made his tires too slippery later and he wouldn't have enough strength to keep control due to his injured arm. So he adopted the strategy of taking it slowly at first to preserve his tires for the end.

Andrea Dovizioso has never been happy at Jerez. This time, after falling during Friday free practice, he couldn't seem to regain his rhythm.

Yes, that's so. After his fall, starting from Friday afternoon he changed to a bike with a different set up, but I don't think he ever really got into his groove.

In the race, he slowed his pace dramatically and made a pit stop. What was that all about?

He had worn out his tires. They had overheated and he was no longer getting any grip. This led to an unfortunate result in this race, but I think it taught him a lesson and I hope he'll do better in future rounds.

Hiroshi Aoyama injured his leg in Saturday's qualifying, but would you say that overall he benefited from the wet conditions? We had the impression that he was disappointed, since he looked so competitive and came close to a podium place.

This was Hiroshi's first MotoGP race in wet conditions. Last year he did experience one session in the wet but it was quite short, and this was the first full race he's ridden in these conditions. I think he did very well for his first real wet race, although I was a little disappointed by the way he didn't establish a better pace early on. On the other hand, holding back at the beginning had the lucky effect of conserving his tires so he could ride more aggressively toward the end. He was trying really hard in this race and I think with just one more lap he could have moved up to third place. From that angle, you could say it was a disappointing race, I guess.

There's about a month's gap until the next round in Estoril. Tell us about your schedule during that period.

Dani will be having an operation on his shoulder right after this race, tomorrow. The operation will remove the plate and fixing bolt inserted after his collarbone injury in last year's Japanese Grand Prix. His doctor tells me that this would be no problem in normal daily life, but the stress of taking right corners on the bike causes the bolt to press on a vein and stop the blood flowing. That's what's causing his present trouble. Once those things are out he won't have this problem with his arm going numb. I'm sure that this operation will completely fix him up. The gap between races will give him time to concentrate on healing and recovering, and I'm looking forward to seeing him in perfect condition for Estoril.

What about the bikes? With this race, you've now tried them out in both wet and dry conditions. How competitive are they now?

My feeling is that we now have bikes that are fully able to take on any of our rivals. That said, there are many things that we still have to do. New issues emerged in this race and our plan is to focus fully on eradicating them in time for the third round.

Before the opening round, you said it would be a difficult season, the way things were. Can we say that you have made progress since then?

The other teams are all very strong, so I think every race is still going to be a formidable challenge for us. The Estoril Circuit is a favorite of Lorenzo's and he is the prime candidate for first place. But Rossi is also a definite challenger if his shoulder heals properly, and Spies has a strong chance too. I think we will see Casey, Dani and Andrea battling it out with these three over the coming races.

Marco has shown remarkable progress, and I have great hopes for both Hiroshi and Toni Elias. All of us on the team will be working together to press our challenge in the coming races, and I look forward to the support of all our Honda fans.

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