The race moved to Europe for round two in Spain, for three days of highly uncertain weather, raining a lot. This was a hard fought round, and technically very difficult too. Free practice was wet on both Friday and Saturday. Conditions for Saturday's qualifying were on the edge, changing from half wet to dry. Then Sunday opened with a wet track again for the warm up. The race itself began dry, but with many wet patches remaining and the riders set off with no one really knowing how the weather would go. It was a race that tested teams and riders to their limit on all fronts, calling for very fine judgment by the riders in selecting their tires and a posing all kinds of problems for the engineers who had to set up the bikes to handle the variable track conditions. After qualifying in a disappointing fifth position, Casey Stoner fought his way to the front to take his first win of the season. Dani Pedrosa, riding on home ground and spurred on by the cheers of his fellow Spaniards, went from second on the grid to finish third, giving the Repsol Honda team two podium places for the second GP running. Shuhei Nakamoto, HRC Team Principal, looking back on the three days of the Spanish GP, commented "This was a race where we couldn't relax for a second. I really breathed a sigh of relief when we made it to the end and took first place."
It's true, the outcome of this race was anybody's guess right up to the finish line. Casey and Jorge were neck and neck all the way through and Jorge was very close behind as Casey crossed the finish line. In the last two laps Casey did manage to up his pace and pull away. It was Casey's edge in strength and speed that gave him this race, and he did a magnificent job for us this time. Even so, I felt a bit down after the race – I'd really been hoping for a one-two finish. That was probably a bit greedy though, since during this really difficult race it often seemed the final result might be quite different. A repeat of Qatar was very possible at some points, with Lorenzo finishing first and our riders second and third. So I'm very pleased indeed with a win under such tough conditions.
Looking just at the results, certainly qualifying wasn't so great for us. But since we were expecting the wet conditions to continue, it was basic sense to save the limited number of rain tires we had. Casey's always confident about riding in the wet, and he didn't want to take needless risks trying for a better time in qualifying. Doing only one lap in the pre-race warm up session was also part of his strategy for saving the rain tires in view of the unpredictable race weather coming up. That said, it was a big miscalculation on our part that left him fifth in qualifying. Essentially, we hadn't set up his bike properly to handle the track surface as it dried. We knew what the problem was and had it fixed ready for the race, but setting off from the second row left Casey stuck in the pack for the first few laps. Watching him having trouble trying to break through had me worrying that he had some other problem too. After he broke away and established a good lead I started relaxing, but then Jorge started creeping up on him. Two things were now keeping me on edge: Casey might get arm pump, like he did in Qatar, and also there was a big danger from tire wear. In that situation, it was really great that he pulled it off. He was also facing Jorge and Dani, both more motivated than usual since they were racing on their home turf. I really take my hat off to Casey for this one. With strength and speed, he delivered a very gratifying result.
Essentially, they are exactly the same as in Qatar. If we had dry conditions, we could use the data from Qatar to tweak the bikes in various ways, but there's basically nothing more we could do in the wet. We did make a lot of use this time of the data and results from the Jerez test in March. Dani's superb speed in the wet and Casey's ride in the race itself – these were both greatly helped by our data from March. Once again, we see how important it is to approach the tests very seriously. This time, the outcome was largely determined by the choice of front tire. Lorenzo switched from his original hard tire to soft to cope with the dicey conditions. We had decided to go with soft from the beginning, and I think if Lorenzo had stuck with hard he might well have beaten us like he did in Qatar. We still have a lot of hard work ahead to be confident of beating him. We have to improve the bike much more, especially getting a better balance between tires and frame. As I've said before, we owe this result entirely to the efforts and skill of the rider.
After analyzing the reasons we lost in Qatar we prepared various components to try out. But we couldn't make a comparison without trying them in dry conditions, so really this race wasn't the time for them. Like I think I mentioned before, last year there were many races when I felt we set off with a distinct advantage over our rivals. This year, we're still nowhere near the point where I can talk about us having an advantage. We still haven't cured the chattering problem, and that makes it a lot harder on the riders. Casey had to fight against arm pump again this race. It wasn't nearly as bad for him as in Qatar, but you can't get away from it – keeping chattering under control places a heavy strain on a rider's arms. I really hope we can fix this for him as soon as possible.
In today's race, Dani was also in there with a chance of winning. We could make use of the data from the March test, and his bike was coping well with both wet and dry conditions. For the race, the track surface was very tricky, still only partly dried, and this prevented him from setting a good pace in the early laps. My overall impression was that everything was going right for Dani in this race, and he just missed a chance at first place. Next time may be different – Estoril is a circuit where Dani usually shines. No question that Lorenzo remains an extremely dangerous threat, but we're all going to be giving it our best trying for a second win. I don't mind whether it's Casey or Dani on top of the podium, but I'm really hoping for a one-two finish. There's also Bautista and Brandl, who are improving steadily, coming in sixth and seventh here in Spain. Next time I hope those two will set their sights even higher. All of us on the Honda team will be trying our best for a win at Estoril, and I hope all the fans out there will be cheering us on.