Dani Pedrosa was on a roll and looking good for his third win in a row after Indianapolis and Brno when he was hit by a run of bad luck right at the start of the San Marino GP. First, the race had to be restarted after a grid stall by Karel Abraham (Ducati). Then, when the bikes were lined up again, Dani's machine developed problems with the front wheel. The mechanics had to push his bike off the grid to work in the pit lane, and according to the rules this meant a start from the back row instead of the pole position he had won in qualifying (his fourth pole of the season). Dani still had his sights on winning though, and rocketing away from the start he was powering his way through the pack when everything went bad for the Honda rider. Hit from behind on the eight bend of the opening lap by Hector Barbera (Ducati), he crashed out and lost the chance of gaining any points at all in this race. A deep disappointment for Dani Pedrosa, still second in championship points but now with the fight for the title suddenly vastly more difficult. Jonathan Rea, substituting for the injured Casey Stoner, delivered a creditable eighth. Alvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda Gresini) came third, his first MotoGP podium, while Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda) finished sixth.
We don't really know what caused it, but the brake somehow got stuck and so his front wheel wouldn't turn. We decided the only thing to do was to swap the bike for our spare machine. We rushed to move it off the grid into the pit lane with the tire warmer still in place and the bike still on its stand, and as we were doing that the front wheel suddenly freed itself. So we got the bike back on the grid in time for Dani to set off for the warm up lap. Moving a bike into the pit lane incurs an automatic penalty, sending Dani back to last position on the grid. Even so, Dani has been in such good form that I was very confident of a podium finish until Barbera bumped into him and dashed all our hopes. It was one thing after another: the confusion of the restart, a mechanical problem with the bike, starting in last position and then crashing. A massive dose of bad luck all round.
Yes, it was just as Dani said. Under the rules, tire warmers wouldn't be allowed for a restart. But then the Ducati team started fitting their warmers, and so everyone else just followed. The procedures for the start were very unclear, and everything was in chaos. Then the one minute warning came and we found our front wheel was locked and wouldn't move. We still don't know what caused that – the data tells us that brake pressure was OK and there was no physical problem with the brakes. We checked the disk and the pad, but nothing wrong there either. No problem with the tire warmer, and there seemed to be no damage anywhere. Perhaps there was some tire shredding and that was jamming the wheel? Whatever it was, the wheel freed itself as we were moving the bike off the grid, and we haven't been able to recreate this problem. Naturally, we really don't want this to happen again, so we'll be making a very serious effort to find out what caused it.
Of course this is pure speculation, but thinking about the pace he showed himself capable of, I guess second place would have been fairly sure. Could he have won? Well, without the need to fight off Dani, Jorge was able to set himself a much more comfortable pace. Looking at just Jorge's time, sure, I see why you might think Dani could have won, but it isn't as simple as that. It was bad luck every step of the way, from mechanical trouble to getting hit by Barbera, and it certainly makes his chance of taking the championship a lot slimmer. I doubt if Dani can take the title now unless Jorge also suffers some kind of setback, but as we've just seen, anything can happen in these races and nothing is certain until the very end. We certainly aren't going to stop doing our very best to win every race. We want that title.
Oh, it's been getting better every race since we debuted it at Laguna Seca. We saw proof of this at Brno, where Dani won on a circuit that usually gives him problems. This time too, he took pole in qualifying despite riding in the first dry conditions of the weekend. At the Aragon test, Dani was incredibly pleased with this bike and its setup, and believes it gives him a much bigger advantage. This no point race widens the gap between Jorge and Dani from 13 to 38, but we believe our machine has tremendous potential, and we're still hoping to reverse that in the five races left.
Due to the changeable weather, the three practice sessions weren't much use in getting him ready for the race. Despite that, this was a very solid MotoGP debut by Johnny. He's still riding as it like a superbike, so he's not yet getting the full power out of this MotoGP machine. But he's quickly getting used to it, and since we have two days of tests coming up at Aragon, I'm sure we'll soon see him finishing higher up the table.
Alvaro was under pressure since this is his team's home ground, and I think that helped give him the strength to make it onto his first podium. This will have really boosted his confidence, and I can see him showing us even better things in the remaining five races. I'm truly pleased to see how much Stefan has developed. It was only because he lost pressure in his front tire that he didn't come in second this time, I believe. This rider is just going to get better, and I'm sure we'll see him on the podium before the end of the season.
I think it's a beautiful thing that the name of such a wonderful rider will live on in the new name of this circuit. I'll be going to visit his family on Monday to pay my respects. Did you see all the fans today wearing Marco's number 58? There's no doubt in my mind that if he were still with us, he'd be right there in the fight for the title.