Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) and Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda) scored a double success for Honda in today’s British Grand Prix. It was a fitting achievement for the Japanese manufacturer which made its World Championship debut in Britain 50 years ago this summer.
This was Dovizioso’s first victory in the elite class, while Aoyama’s third win of the season extended his lead in the 250 World Championship.
Dovizioso won in treacherous conditions, with drizzle falling on and off throughout the 30 laps. The former 125 World Champion, who has previously ridden Hondas to 250 and 125 successes at Donington Park, exhibited enormous courage and inch-perfect riding to take a 1.3 second victory from Colin Edwards (Yamaha). His maiden MotoGP win was Repsol Honda’s second success in three races, following the US GP win of Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) earlier this month.
Honda satellite team riders Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) and Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) completed a great day for Honda in third and fourth, making it three RC212Vs in the top four. De Puniet’s third-place result, just two tenths of a second behind Edwards, was his first podium with Honda.
Dovizioso led for two laps early on, the slippery conditions claiming Toni Elias (San Carlo Gresini Honda) and Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) by one-third distance. When Lorenzo crashed out of the lead on lap nine, series leader Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) took over, chased by Dovizioso. The two Italians were inches apart as they felt their way in the risky conditions, their lap times slowing down and speeding up as rain showers hit various parts of the circuit. On lap 20 Rossi slid off at the Foggy Esses, handing an eight second lead to Dovizioso. But the last third of the race was anything but easy for the new leader. The intermittent rainfall caused the left side of his tyres to cool down too much, leaving him with very little grip at certain points of the track. And all the while de Puniet and Edwards were inching closer. Dovi kept his head and just enough of a lead to prevent the pair getting close enough to launch an attack. Today’s result, which followed three no-scores for Dovi, moves him to sixth in the World Championship.
Of course, de Puniet and Edwards were suffering the exact same problems as Dovizioso. The Frenchman and the American swapped positions several times in the closing laps, Edwards finally taking second place into the final turn. Nevertheless, de Puniet was delighted to give the Monaco-based LCR Honda team (run by former GP winner Lucio Cecchinello) its first MotoGP podium.
De Angelis was delighted to equal his best MotoGP result with a storming ride to fourth place, the same as he managed in last year’s Italian and German Grands Prix. Tenth at the end of the first lap, the San Marino rider moved steadily forward, taking fourth place from Pedrosa on lap 23. For a while it looked like he might make the podium, but like everyone he was struggling to ride the knife edge between going fast and going too fast.
Pedrosa ran with the leaders during the early stages of the race but the Spaniard’s tyres cooled down too much, leaving him without the grip he needed to maintain his pace. At one point he considered entering the pits to change to his second bike equipped with rain tyres (as did several rivals) but decided that would cost him too much time. At the end of the race he had netted seven valuable points, while two of his title rivals (Lorenzo and Rossi) crashed and Casey Stoner (Ducati) gambled on starting the race with rain tyres, finishing 14th.
Former 125 World Champion Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda), who only graduated to the premier category last month, came home in 12th place for his second and best MotoGP points haul.
Elias led the first two laps and was still with the leading group when he ran wide out of Schwantz Curve, touched a damp kerb and crashed in spectacular fashion. The Spaniard was unhurt in the high-speed fall.
HONDA MotoGP RIDER QUOTES
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda), race winner, said: “It’s a fantastic feeling to win my first MotoGP race because this is the top series in the world with the best riders and so to win is a fantastic emotion. I’m very pleased with my performance today as the conditions were so difficult. It was like three different races – riding hard at the start when it was nearly dry, following Valentino as it got wetter, and then judging the pace once I was in front. I rode well in every section and managed the very tricky situation, so it’s really satisfying. This is also important for my confidence after the last three races. In the first three laps I took a lot of risks to maintain my position with the leaders because the tyres need two or three laps to get up to temperature. Once I was following Valentino it was quite easy because it’s not so difficult to follow someone in these conditions since the leader has to judge where it’s wet and where it’s dry. But when he fell it was clear from his crash that the tyres were very cold and this was scary because now I had to set the pace. Colin and Randy closed the gap quickly in the last five laps and at this point I was being careful and wasn’t pushing to the limit, but in the final two laps I pushed as hard as I could and they weren’t able to get close enough to try and pass. I’m so happy with this win, and we’ll use it to move forward. The important thing is to fight with the best riders in normal dry conditions, so me and the team will work really hard to repeat this victory in the dry.”
Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda), third-place finisher, said: “It’s like a dream for me and the team! It was a very stressful race and I was very nervous on the grid as the conditions were pretty bad. I took a good start on slick tyres and was very aggressive in the first laps. I got into sixth place but the gap on the front riders was too wide and I thought to keep my pace without taking any risks. Elias crashed in front of me and Pedrosa did not seem very confident on his machine. When he started to lose time I took my chance to pass him and we battled for several laps. I could overtake him because my machine was working well and I suddenly realised that I was holding third position. After Rossi’s crash I took second place and tried to remain focused because the surface was very slippery. Then Edwards came up quickly, giving me the chance to reduce the gap on Dovizioso, but it was too late and too dangerous, so I kept my position and we battled for the second place until the last corner. I am so happy for this result and want to thank everybody especially Lucio. We are sharing an amazing moment together!”
Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini), fourth-place finisher, said: “I am absolutely delighted. That was one of the most difficult races in my whole career because when you’re on a bike with so much power in those conditions, on a circuit like Donington, which everybody knows is particularly slippery, it’s tough! The hardest thing was finding a compromise between attacking for a good position and defending it by staying upright. I could see I had a good pace and I was closing the gap to the guys in front of me but the most important thing was to finish and get a good result. I think that shows how much I have matured because it is the kind of mistake I made last year. I hope that is a good sign for the future and I think it proves the way myself and my chief mechanic have kept working and kept trying to improve without losing faith.”
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda), ninth-place finisher, said: “First I have to congratulate Andrea on his win because he rode a great race from beginning to end in very difficult conditions. For me, the result today is obviously disappointing because I have been fast all weekend and I couldn’t keep that up during the race. At the beginning I was feeling good on the Bridgestone slicks and was able to judge my pace well according to the conditions. As the rain came, however, I couldn’t maintain the temperature in the tyres and when this happens the grip really goes away and I wasn’t able to control the bike as I wanted. On the grid I was sure my tyre choice was correct, but with 10 laps to go I thought that maybe I should go into the pits and change to wets, but it wasn’t worth losing 20 seconds for the bike change because the lap times of the riders on the wet tyres were the same as the times on slicks. It was a frustrating race in strange conditions, but we’ll still have confidence going into the next race in Brno because we’ve been making progress recently and I’m feeling strong on the bike.”
Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda), 12th-place finisher, said: “I’m really happy. I’m happy because of the race, for the result we got and because we chose the best strategy. At the beginning, I was not sure about what tyres to ask for: the weather was changing second by second. We decided for slicks and that was the right choice. A key point in the race was when I decided to stay out and not to come into the pits to change bikes, in spite of the increasing rain. I calculated that it would not gain time, so I decided to continue on rain tyres, and this too was a good move.”
Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini), DNF, said: “The crash was a real shame because I felt we were capable of a good result today. I’m really disappointed for everybody in the team. I got a great start and my pace was really strong, but unfortunately my rear wheel ran slightly onto the white line and it was so slippery that I crashed. It was nice to at least run at the front for a while and even lead the race, and when I was behind Rossi I was comfortably able to follow his pace. That’s what makes me so convinced I could have kept it up to the end. I don’t want to think about the negatives or what might have been because the good news today was that we ran with the front guys and we know we can do it. That gives a great confidence boost for the future.”