Shuhei Nakamoto Track Report

Round 8Adapting to changing conditions is key

The Italian GP, Round 8 of the season, was held at Mugello. On this up and down circuit surrounded by the wooded Tuscan hills, the riders faced a nerve-racking high-speed battle watched by a passionate local crowd. Repsol Honda's Andrea Dovizioso produced a superb performance, exhibiting all his famous dogged determination and skill under the eyes of his fellow Italians. Racking up his third second place of the season under the sunny Tuscan skies, Dovizioso fully deserved the thunderous applause he got from the fans. In third place, team mate Casey Stoner held onto his lead in the points ranking and on to his unbroken run of podium appearances this season. It was a race weekend plagued by changeable weather that took some serious effort by the teams to cope with the tricky conditions. As usual, HRC Team Principal Shuhei Nakamoto gives us the inside story.

Casey got off to an excellent start from pole, maintaining a lead of over two seconds for several laps. In the mid part of the race however, his times began slipping. He fought back but couldn't regain his earlier pace and, wisely not attempting the impossible, settled for third place at the checkered flag. When I checked his tires after the race, there was quite a bit of chunking. That must have been what slowed him down. Track temperatures were much higher today for the race than on the previous two days, and I see now we really should have used rather lower tire pressure.

The tarmac was over 20°C higher for the race than on Friday and Saturday.

The official figures at the race start were 29°C air temperature and 54°C for the track surface. That compares with 21 and 28°C for the previous days, so the tarmac today had heated up by 26 degrees. These changing conditions made us choose to go with the harder compound for the rear tires.

Casey Stoner suggested high tire pressure was a cause of his failure to win today.

The higher the pressure, the hotter the tire gets, and that's what gave him such good grip in the early laps. But it also means the tires wear faster, and high surface temperatures make this worse. Looking back, I see that what we should have done this afternoon was to start with somewhat lower tire pressures.

He still secured a podium place, important to keep his lead in the ranking.

Yes. The result this time wasn't so much that the other team was faster but rather that we slipped up in our choices. All we can do from now on is to try to make certain to avoid similar mistakes and do our utmost to win every race as it comes.

What do you think about Dovizioso taking second place here on his home turf?

Andrea really showed how good a rider he is today. When Lorenzo overtook him, everyone in the pit was praying for Andrea to quickly get back ahead.

As you've so often said, this is what he's best at: sticking in there right to the finish. This race was typical Dovizioso.

Yes, this time he did very well in both qualifying and race. Andrea has shown himself to be a consistently fast competitor. With just a bit more effort, and a race with the right conditions, I'm hoping to see him win.

Everyone was anxiously watching Dani Pedrosa's return to the track.

Dani had clutch problems at the start which slowed him down for the first lap or so. That lost him position, and kept him back throughout the race. It's a great shame, because I really think he could have finished maybe sixth or so if this hadn't happened to him.

Rain cut short the Friday and Saturday afternoon sessions. This was lost time for the other riders, but perhaps helped Dani to conserve his strength.

That's certainly one way of looking at it. Dani commented after the race that the pain was bearable, but riding again after a month and a half of no bike training used up all his strength and left him exhausted.

Did he have to use painkillers to ride?

He was definitely feeling some pain, but not badly enough to require medication. It's nothing like as bad as after he broke his left collarbone, when he started losing all sensation in his arm. But when you don't use your body for a while, naturally your physical strength starts to fall off. That's why he finished so exhausted this time. He will have time to train properly before the German GP, and I'm expecting to see a good race from him next time.

Simoncelli, the other Honda Italian, never let up in his attack for fourth place, but in the end had to settle for fifth.

As the temperature of the tarmac rose, Marco found he wasn't getting enough grip and his times fell off. His tires also suffered from chunking toward the end. When his bike is set up right for the conditions, Marco is an extremely capable rider, able to fully exploit those conditions and ride very fast indeed. But conditions can change in any race, and then you need to be able to control your time to allow you to stay in the running until the finish. That's the level I'm waiting for Marco to reach. He is now as fast as anyone, so if he can just consistently make it through the race we should see him ending in good positions.
His team mate Hiroshi Aoyama seemed to be struggling to achieve a good pace. We met last night to discuss the bike set up, referring to works riders' data and riding techniques. Our direction is now starting to become clear, and the result this time was a race where he did fairly well for position and time. I can see him getting better, and I'm confident he'll do well next time.

Next up is the German GP at Sachsenring, where Pedroso won last year.

I really hope we can take it this year too. I don't mind who wins, as long as it's one of my Honda boys.

As we enter mid-season, the battles are going to keep getting tougher.

That's why at tomorrow's test I'll be looking for anything I can find to push our performance even further. We'll be putting in our best effort again to win this next race. And I have to thank the fans for their support - it's a huge encouragement to the riders. I hope you'll be there cheering us on in Germany.

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