At the end of the sixth round at Silverstone, both Repsol Honda riders were on the podium, Casey Stoner in second place and Dani Pedrosa third. Throughout Friday and Saturday's practice and qualifying, they had fought against strong winds and constant rain, but Stoner overcame the fierce weather to take top time in practice. Alvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda Gresini) took pole position, but Stoner and Pedrosa missed their chance to attack in the rain at session end, placing third and fifth respectively on the grid in a fairly decent result for the Hondas. Stoner led the race for a while, but grip problems eventually cost him his lead. Pedrosa made a fine comeback from a poor seventh position in the opening lap, but front tire issues kept him from climbing higher than third. He was followed over the line by Bautista, whose fourth place finish was a personal best and a bright spot for Honda in an otherwise disappointing race. We asked HRC Team Principal Shuhei Nakamoto to look back over the British GP for us.
You'll have heard Casey talk about this, but yes, from about lap three he suddenly lost grip on the rear and couldn't keep up his pace. That was the major reason he didn't win. This time, almost all the riders chose to go with softer rear tires. I don't think that was a mistake, but it meant that our Honda riders weren't getting grip either when laying the bike over or opening the throttle. In the early laps Casey was easily making 2'2", but this race was especially hard on the left side, and his lap times slowed into the three and then four second range. That was really why he lost.
No. In the tests after the Catalunya GP we found a way to fix the chatter and you could say that we are pretty much able to eliminate that problem. However, there were race endurance problems with the parts we used to solve the chatter, so for this GP we modified them to cope with this. For that reason, we still had about 40% of the chatter symptoms this time left but now we know how to fix it and it's just a matter of fine tuning. Anyway, the measures we took to fix the chatter had nothing to do with the slow lap times, or with the sudden loss of grip.
Well, we still have a number of issues with this new construction, and I think it is one of the reasons why Casey lost rear grip this time. During practice, he kept telling us he was getting chatter on the front. However, our analysis showed a different frequency than chattering, and we think the cause was skipping because the tire itself wasn't rigid enough. The symptoms it produced are the same as chatter and to suppress them we couldn't race using our normal setup. That was partly responsible for the reduced rear grip. Since we had no trouble previously when using the previous construction tire on the front, I think we could have won this race if we'd been using the old tire. Anyway, the new tires have brought with them many different problems, and we have to figure out a better way to set up the front in response. We're trying out a number of solutions, and we'll have to make a lot of progress in other areas too from now on.
True. Part of it is to do with Dani's riding style, which is different to Casey's, but he was the most affected by the new construction front tire. Dani found the ride to be mushy and uncomfortable, even though we did everything possible to fix that before the race. We got the bike set up so he could ride it, but I couldn't say we had fixed the basic problems. In the end stage of the race when the tire was getting worn these negative factors kicked in and Dani wasn't able to up his pace. This is a serious issue, both for us and for Dani. We're coming up to three races without a break – Netherlands, Germany and Italy – so we won't have much time, but we'll be putting all our efforts into finding a solution to our problems with the new front tire construction.
Well, the weather is impartial, it affects all teams the same so we can't really complain. That doesn't mean we simply sit back and accept it though – I feel we do everything we can to cope with the changing conditions. We continue to work on fixing the chatter problem, and we're also still adapting to the pre-season 4kg raise in minimum weight. Certainly, better race week weather would let us make faster progress with these issues. Last time at Catalunya it was mostly our wrong choice of tire that cost us the race, and I've already discussed why we failed this time. It's hard to lose three times in a row, but I really have confidence in our machine – I see very definite improvements. By next time I hope we will have adapted to the new front tire and if only we have decent weather in race week we'll be able to do what we've been needing to and I'm seriously expecting a good result.
We always thought this would be a tough year, and that's the way it's playing out so far. Still, we're only six races into the season, the fight for the championship is just getting under way and we'll be doing whatever it takes to recover our position. Bautista did very well this time, getting pole under very difficult conditions and then finishing fourth with a personal best. This makes me happy of course, but I have to be honest and say it's not on the cards to have races where our satellite riders threaten to knock the factory team of the podium. So, sorry to Alvaro, but I'll be pouring all my efforts into getting the Repsol Honda machines back racing again at full strength as soon as we can. My goal is to have our machines running so well that, at the end of the next three races, Casey, Dani, Alvaro and Stefan will all be saying these are the ultimate MotoGP bikes. I owe it to all our fans too, who have supported us so well.