After the two-week summer break, the MotoGP moved from the west coast east to Indianapolis Speedway for Round 11 (August 17 to 19). After Casey Stoner's win at Laguna Seca, Dani Pedrosa's victory in the Indianapolis GP gives Repsol Honda Team their third back-to-back win of the year as we enter the back half of the MotoGP season. Pedrosa went from his third pole of 2012 to dominate the race and gain his second win of this season. Stoner, with four victories under his belt since the US GP, had top time in practice but a bad fall in qualifying knocked him back to sixth place on the grid. The injury to his right ankle from that fall made it uncertain whether he would race or not, but in the end Stoner's innate toughness pulled him through and he put in a fine performance fighting through the pack to finish fourth. Repsol Honda have now won at Indianapolis for three years in a row. The overall championship points ranking stands unchanged, with Pedrosa second and Stoner third, but this result marks another step toward Repsol Honda's goal of taking the title again this year. After winning both rounds in the US, Repsol Honda are now six wins out of 11 races. We asked HRC Team Principal Shuhei Nakamoto for his comments.
The bad weather at Laguna Seca made it hard for us to progress with the set up, and Dani was still getting a feel for the bike so coming third was pretty good. We didn't win, but I was pleased that we got lots of useful data. This time we had fine weather and setup went smoothly through practice and qualifying. Dani was now more used to the new bike as well, and could put in some high level riding. In fact, he beat all the track records set here by Casey last year. Circuit best time, race fastest lap, and a total time for the race that was over 13 seconds faster than in 2011. Considering that the slippery condition of the track took down several riders, this was a superb result. There are a number of small points where he can improve, but Dani is obviously able to squeeze the extra performance out of the new machine. I'm very satisfied by this race.
What parts have changed? Well, we don't have a magic wand that can make dramatic improvements. It's really just an accumulation of many small modifications. The engine is now very easy to ride with, and both Dani and Casey rate it very highly. They have different preferences regarding the chassis, though. Dani loves it, and I think that's one reason for today's result. Mainly, the improved flex is letting him use more of the performance this engine is capable of. Casey stayed with the same combination of old chassis and new engine he used at the previous GP. Until he fell in qualifying, Casey was looking confident, talking of taking pole and the race. I'm sure it we'd have seen a close-fought race between him and Dani if only he hadn't got injured.
Yes, we all thought the same. The initial diagnosis at the infield emergency room was subluxation. That would be bad enough, but he was in such intense pain that we sent him to a hospital in the city for an MRI scan and this showed some broken bone in his ankle area with a badly torn ligament. He was in a bad state, and we decided to leave a final decision until after warm up. By the time the scan and treatment were finished and he could leave the hospital it was the middle of the night and Casey hardly got any sleep. Despite all that, the warm up session went well and he decided to race. In the early stages, Casey kept his pace slow but still led Alvaro, Stefan and Andrea in the battle for third place. He ran out of energy toward the end, but even so he finished fourth. I have to say all respect to Casey for his performance today – he really showed us the quality of his fighting spirit.
"If" is not a word we use in racing, but certainly I think that if he hadn't been slowed by Ben's smoke Casey would have been able to reserve more energy for the later part of the race and the result might well have been different. Ben's mishap slowed the second group by about five seconds. With his injury, Casey wasn't physically up to handling any extra stress and he took the prudent course of falling back in the group. He'd used up all his strength getting to that position, and the painkillers were starting to wear off too. Basically, he didn't have any stamina left to fight through the pain and do more than he did. Without that setback, I think he might even have taken Lorenzo. When they told me how badly he'd been injured on Saturday I was in two minds – I thought it would be impossible for him to ride today, but then again I knew what Casey is capable of. He rode a magnificent race. Once again, I was startled by just how good a rider this man is. Looking ahead to the next race, I think it's going to be tough, though. Brno is a much harder circuit on the body and he'll need all his strength. We'll be trying to give him as much support as we can.
Throughout the first half of the season we had to spend a lot of time responding to the changed weight and front tire specifications. We're still working on that, but Dani is now at last in good condition to fight for the championship. In the previous race too, he showed us clearly how different things are now and I have good hopes that this rally will continue. With Casey, we've been getting ready to respond to his requests and I think it's time to start introducing new parts on his bike. We'll be watching how he recovers from his injury of course. The Repsol Honda Team is still committed to winning every race, with the objective of taking this season's championship title. Alvaro of San Carlo Honda Gresini has gone back to the setup he used when he took pole position in England and is looking confident. LCR's Stefan was having some slight difficulties with his front setting both here and at Laguna Seca, but I feel he has improved greatly. We'll be doing out very best to support the Honda riders through the remaining seven races and I hope all our fans will be out there backing us up.