Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa stormed to a flag-to-flag victory in the U.S. Grand Prix before a sun-drenched crowd of nearly of over 46,000 on the challenging Laguna Seca circuit within sight of the Pacific Ocean in Monterey, California.
Starting fourth on the grid, the Spaniard jetted into the lead over the turn one crest and into the turn two left hand hairpin. Then he was gone. Pedrosa set one fast lap after another to pull away to what seemed a certain victory. But on the final lap Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) made a robust challenge to Pedrosa, closing onto his rear tire in the final turn. Pedrosa, however, was resolute, and used the power of the Honda RC212V to cross the line with a gap of .344s. Rossi was second and his teammate Jorge Lorenzo was third.
The victory, Pedrosa’s seventh in MotoGP and 30th career, was his first since the Catalunya Grand Prix on June 8, 2008. He was also able to solidify fourth in the championship after eight of 17 rounds.
What made the victory especially sweet, was that it showed he’d reverted to the form that can take him to victory after a very difficult set of races. Pedrosa injured his right hip in a crash in Mugello and for the following two races he couldn’t ride as he wanted. Today he was under no physical restrictions and showed what a powerful package he and the Honda RC212V can be.
Attrition took its toll on the field as they tried to complete 32 laps of the demanding 3.61k track. Only 12 made it to the finish, but four of the top eleven were Honda-mounted. San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Toni Elias finished a season best sixth and within .4 secs. of fifth placed Nicky Hayden (Ducati), who he chased to the checkered flag.
Randy De Puniet (LCR Honda) finished ninth, two spots in front of Alex De Angelis on the second San Carlo Honda Gresini machine. De Puniet had difficulty with traffic in the early laps before breaking clear. His fastest lap was the 18th of 32, by which time he was securely in ninth. De Angelis also found the early part of the race more difficult than the latter part. His fast lap was also on the 18th. And though he pressured Marco Melandri (Kawasaki), he couldn’t find a way past and was frustrated to miss out on a top ten finish by under a second.
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) was among the unlucky. The Italian was in a secure fifth place and on the tail of the lead quartet when his front end slid away in the left hand turn five on the seventh lap. Earlier he’d had problems with engine braking after inadvertently hitting his clutch lever on one of the plastic stanchions separating the pit lane exit from the track. But he took full responsibility for the crash, which happened after repeated warnings.
Earlier, Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda) had crashed out on the fourth lap. It was his first race crash in his third MotoGP race, and on his first visit to Laguna Seca.
HONDA MotoGP RIDER QUOTES
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 1st, said: “This is a fantastic win for us and it’s a great feeling after such a long time without a victory. The start to the season has been really difficult and actually it’s been tough since Sachsenring last year because I’ve had a lot of injuries and I haven’t been able to ride at 100 per cent for a long time, or train properly. But my team and Honda never gave up and I’d like to thank everyone who’s been working really hard to help me get back to this position. I’d also like to thank the doctors who have treated me because there have been quite a few of them! I got a good start, I was able to get into a good rhythm straight away and my pace was a little better than in practice. Perhaps my only mistake here was to slow down too much on the last lap because I didn’t realize how close Valentino was. Anyway, it was a great race, a great day and it’s a great feeling. Now I just want to focus on each race and get the best results possible. There’s a long way to go in the championship but there’s also a big gap to the leaders so I’m just going to take it one race at a time.”
Toni Elias, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 6th, said: “It is not a bad result and we couldn’t have done much more than that because my race pace was exactly the same as in practice. I was able to go quicker for a lap or two in practice but generally we knew this was what we would be capable of today in terms of my own performance. To be honest I was hoping the front guys would be a little slower than that and allow us to challenge them but the pace was very quick so compliments to them. In general this weekend has been much better than previous races and so was the result, but we always want more.”
Randy De Puniet, LCR Honda: 9th, said: : “I am quite satisfied as it was hard to expect a better result starting from the fourth row on this “up-and-down” track. I struggled with grip problems since Friday and we tried to adjust our issues but at the end the bike was not at 100%. My start was not brilliant and found some traffic in the first laps but after that my rhythm was good enough to pass a few riders. We decided to go for a softer rear tyre which was a good choice for the beginning of the race but grip from the rear tyre dropped at ten laps to go. This is another productive result for me and the Team as I am holding the 9th place in the championship”
Alex De Angelis, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 11th, said: “We made some changes to the bike for today but with the conditions being so much cooler for the warm-up this morning than they were for the race in the afternoon, we hadn’t really tested them. I was really struggling over the first few laps and the bike was moving around a lot but the problem eased in the second half of the race and I was able to push harder. I honestly thought I could run with Vermeulen today and that would have been a battle for eighth place so it’s a shame we suffered this setback. Anyway, at least we picked up a few points.”
Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda: DNF, said: “We were in good shape, I’d got into a fast rhythm and I’m sure we could have had good result today, so I’m very disappointed. Unfortunately I made a mistake and I have spoiled this opportunity. During the first laps, I was behind Valentino, I wanted to overtake him and I was very close at the end of the straight. It’s a blind point and I was so close that I didn’t see the plastic poles that separate the track from the pit lane. I hit a few of them and in the impact the clutch lever bent, and from that moment on I couldn’t control the engine braking. It was my mistake as my line was too far to the left but after that it was tough to ride and change gear properly. Nevertheless, I tried to stay up with the leaders. Then I lost the front and crashed after having had a couple of warnings. I’m really disappointed because we are getting closer to front-running pace at every race and here we could have done well. Still, I believe in myself, in the machine and in my team, and I really hope to get a good result soon.”
Gabor Talmacsi, Scot Honda: DNF said: “I had a very good feeling with the bike, and a good start. Then suddenly, when I was 15th, I lost the front. I cannot say why. I’m fine, but it is really a pity because I was in a condition to get a good result. I stay confident for the next race.”