Shuhei Nakamoto Track Report

Round 9Dani makes an impressive return to form

With Round 9 at Sachsenring, we reach the mid point of the 18-race season. The three day German GP race weekend drew over 230,000 fans to this undulating, technical circuit, making this one of the most highly attended races of the year so far. The crowds witnessed a thrilling performance from Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa, making a stunning comeback in his second race after time off for a broken collarbone. With this repeat of his Sachsenring victory last year, Dani definitively proved that he is back in top form. Team mate Casey Stoner came in third to retain his lead in the points ranking, racking up his eighth podium finish out of nine races this year. HRC Team Principal Shuhei Nakamoto tells us about the riders after the race and how hard it is to maintain such high performance over this grueling 30-lap circuit.

In Dani's second race after returning from injury time out he proved without question that he's back on his old form. It's a big relief for us and we're all really happy about this win. One look at their tires after the race told me that Dani had ridden the most skillful race of the three riders on the podium. His were in the best condition by far. I have to admit that we weren't completely satisfied with the set-up of the bikes, which makes Dani's win today even more of a triumph.

From second on the grid to first past the line. A win in the second race after his comeback surely proves Dani is completely recovered?

Well, his injury was to his right collarbone, and this circuit is heavy on left corners which was a great help to him. The pain in his bones is now completely gone, but he hasn't trained enough yet to return to 100% condition and you could see his fatigue showing in the second half of the race. That was what was worrying me most, but Dani did a great job of staying focused right to the end to carry off this victory.

Did you get the results you wanted from using the new swing arm?

The swing arm is one of the components we use to adjust the set-up. In the case of this course, rear grip is an issue so we used the new swing arm. When we need more stability, we'll use the old arm. Basically, we play it by ear each time.

Dani's stamina is still a worry, and the next race at Laguna Seca is very physically demanding with many laps and changes of elevation.

True, but I think it will be OK. Dani won there last year, and it's a circuit that he's very happy with. I'm sure he'll show us some superb riding.

Casey took third place. Is it true his tires took a lot of punishment in the closing stages?

Casey was losing grip on his right side, and this made it hard to accelerate out of the right-hander at turn 11, before the back straight. That corner was a major issue for him in this race.

On the last lap, before the final corner, he seemed to be hugging the inside a little too closely.

Yes. Going that tight means problems when accelerating back up to speed. That was how Lorenzo was able to take him on the last turn. Casey coming third for 16 points while Jorge takes 20 for second means Casey is still ahead in the ranking, but his lead has now been cut by four points. It's still wide open at this stage: coming races could see him pulling away, or the contest getting even tighter. Naturally I'm hoping he can increase that gap in the next race.

What do you think of Andrea Dovizioso's performance this time?

Andrea was doing very well for the first several laps, but from the middle of the race he gradually fell back from the lead group. He had been keeping up a good pace of 1 minute 22 seconds, but being overtaken by Marco knocked him back for a while and that increased the gap.

That was what separated him from the top group?

I think seeing the size of the gap probably caused him to lose some motivation. He did a fine job battling with the rest of his group to finally finish in fourth place, but I was hoping for more from this rider. Andrea shouldn't have been fighting for fourth place, he should have been aiming for a podium finish, even for top place. That's the target he has to set from now on.

What about Marco, and his on-going fight with Andrea?

As I've said before, Marco can show an extremely fast turn of speed when he needs to. When I checked his tires after this race, there were some very serious blisters. That was why he had to let Ben Spies take him in the last lap. But tires don't destroy themselves, it's the rider who destroys his tires. At the moment, Marco is still just relying on his tires to give him the grip he needs. Instead he has to learn to manage his tires so they will perform well until the end of the race.

You've often pointed out the importance of tire management.

That's right. Compared to last year, he has improved enormously but we think he has the potential to become a much greater rider.

Hiroshi Aoyama has had problems throughout race week.

Last year he had to miss the German GP because of an injury, so it was his first time on this course in MotoGP. He was suffering even during set up, due to the fractured vertebra that he hurt again two races ago in Holland. If he fell again here we were worried it might become a really major injury, and that's what made him ride cautiously and not get great times.

The US GP coming up next will be the last race before the summer break. What are your goals?

To win, of course! Jorge won this race last year, but Dani took it the year before. And Casey rode to an incredibly fast victory here in 2007, the year he became champion. So we can expect an exciting race as these three battle it out for top place.

And even more exciting if Andrea is also in with a chance?

Oh yes. If Andrea and Marco too can take on the leaders, you never know, but we might even get a 1-2-3 result. I certainly wouldn't complain. But in the world of racing, nothing's certain. Jorge is reigning champion, he is a very dogged fighter, and I don't see him letting anyone past him if he can possibly help it. That's why we need everyone to keep on showing their support.

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