Shuhei Nakamoto Track Report

Round 7Steadily racking up the points

Round 7 was held at the Assen Circuit in Holland, the oldest of all the world road race championship circuits, which has hosted Grand Prix races every year since 1949. It's also famous for the fickle Dutch weather, which was a problem again this year as riders struggled to cope with conditions that kept changing all the time. Repsol Honda's Casey Stoner proved a match for the weather though, his cool head carrying him home to a safe second place finish that further cemented his lead in the points ranking. Team mate Andrea Dovizioso also rode a fast but calculated race to take third place. For the background story of how the Honda riders and teams made it through the harsh conditions at Assen, let's hear from HRC Team Principal Shuhei Nakamoto.

Casey was in third position on the grid, and didn't get off to a very good start. After that he had to focus on warming up his tires for the cold surface, and by the second lap Ben Spies had established a commanding lead of more than three seconds. However much he tried Casey couldn't close that gap, so he settled for a strategy of finishing safely for points.

Seeing Marco and Jorge crash in the first lap at the 5th corner convinced Casey that safety was his only plan, and he was very happy to get second place. I thought it was a good result too. Ben Spies rode amazingly in the first half and brilliantly maintained his pace right to the end. I don't think anyone could have beaten Ben today.

The notorious Dutch weather certainly made things hard for the riders this time, and this morning's warm up was interrupted by rain. After qualifying yesterday, Casey said he had things he wanted to try out during the morning session. Did he manage that?

With rain stopping the session like that, it was pretty difficult to really test the bike the way we wanted. Still, we made some changes from qualifying, and both Casey and the team thought we had the settings about right for the race. To tell the truth, we really wanted to be a bit more adventurous, but in the end our most important priority must be the championship. And the only way to get there is to make absolutely sure we rack up points in each and every race.

From that point of view, securing second place under such difficult conditions looks extremely good.

Very true. Of course it isn't as good as actually winning, but thinking about the season as a whole I was very pleased with this race.

After keeping up with Stoner much of the race, Dovizioso fell back but still finished third.

For the first half, Andrea stuck close to Casey and kept up a fine pace, but then his bike developed a worrying vibration. However, he'd built up a good lead over the next riders by then, so he was able to ease off a bit for safety and still come in third.
It was a hard race for tires. Cal Crutchlow was forced to make a pit stop for a tire change, and when I checked Andrea's bike after the race, his front right side was seriously worn down.

Dovizioso fell and hurt himself during yesterday's practice session. Did that affect his race at all?

No, he was fine. It wasn't a problem in the race. The rider who was suffering in this race was Hiroshi Aoyama. As soon as he came back to the pit after the race, I could see he'd been fighting a lot of pain.

For someone in pain throughout the race, he certainly put up a good fight.

Yes, he bore it well. And considering he was riding a bike with a different set up, for a different team, he did really well. If only he had been in good condition for this race.... But there's no point in speculating.

Will Pedrosa be rejoining the team for the Italian GP?

Yes, he'll be back. He's been in rehab ever since his operation on the 16th. Dani himself has said that there'll be no problem riding at Mugello, and we're all looking forward to seeing him back in the saddle soon.

How do you think he'll do?

Well, it's true that he hasn't raced for a few weeks now, but he no longer has the kind of pain that will interfere with his riding. He's aiming to be on that podium, and I don't see why not.

The Mugello circuit in Italy is another high speed course like Catalunya. So I expect you'll be hoping to make good use of the Honda bikes' power?

We're aiming to win as always. Of course, you never know what will happen until the actual day. Racing isn't as simple as that. Winning is never a sure thing.

Casey Stoner has opened up a bit more of a lead in the points ranking now.

Yes. That's always been our goal, to keep on building up the points, gradually drawing ahead and securing the championship as soon as we can. And Andrea is also doing well, steadily closing the gap to pose a serious challenge for second place. We're all on fire now and have our sights set on the big goal. The next step is Italy, and I think it's going to be an exciting one.

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