Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) recovered from a harrowing second turn crash in qualifying to garner his ninth podium of the season in the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island. By finishing third, the Spaniard was Honda’s top performer in the race, with Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) equaling his second best finish of the year in fourth place, while Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) took sixth.
Pedrosa got his customary holeshot from third on the grid and led across the stripe for the first lap. But on lap two he was consumed by the battle between Casey Stoner (Ducati) and Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) and fell in line. Today Pedrosa didn’t have the pace of the leaders and settled into a lonely third place, where he would finish. Stoner and Rossi carried their battle to the end, with the Australian Stoner winning his home race for the third year in a row, this time by 1.935s over Rossi.
By winning the race, Stoner took third in the championship from Pedrosa by six points. With two races remaining, in Malaysia and Valencia, Pedrosa is determined to claim back the spot and finish on the championship podium.
De Angelis settled into fourth on the first lap and stayed with the leaders for the first four laps before they were able to break away. Once that happened, he secured his fourth place to the end of the 27-lap race, held under mostly sunny conditions, with scattered clouds before a crowd of over 50,000.
Dovizioso overcame a slow start-he was ninth as late as the seventh lap-to move up three spots and finish sixth. by the ninth lap there was a pack of six riders battling over sixth, but the order sorted itself out with Dovizioso moving into sixth on the 16th lap. Within a few laps he left the pack behind and rode mostly alone to the end.
Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) was engulfed in the most entertaining battle behind the leaders. The Frenchman sparred with Marco Melandri (Kawasaki) and Mika Kallio (Ducati) for much of the race, and with Melandri to the very end. Melandri made the pass for eighth five laps from the end, but De Puniet kept the pressure on to the stripe, finishing behind the Italian by less than half a second.
Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda) was in line to equal a career best finish when he was passed on lap 20 of 27. That put him 13th on a high speed track where he struggled with changes of direction.
HONDA MotoGP RIDER QUOTES
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 3rd. “It’s good to be on the podium again, especially after the crash in qualifying yesterday, so I’m happy about that. I pushed myself to the maximum in the race and we led for a short while from the start. Actually it’s a shame they don’t award points for getting the holeshot! Casey and Valentino were going superfast today and I just couldn’t keep pace with them once they came past. From then on I just tried to keep my rhythm going and tried not to make any mistakes. It’s a little frustrating of course not to be able to fight at the front, but considering the crash yesterday this result was OK and I’d like to say thanks to the team because they worked hard this weekend. The next race is in Malaysia and it’s a track that I like, so I’m looking forward to next weekend and I hope we can get another strong result.”
Alex De Angelis, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 4th.“It has been a fantastic weekend all round and I really enjoyed myself in that race – especially the first four or five laps when I was running with the top guys in the championship. It was a good feeling but their pace was incredible and for me it was just an achievement to stick with them for a while and open up a gap over the guys behind me. From then on it was a case of staying consistent and holding my position, which is a great result for us. Despite not scoring points in the last two races we have been on an excellent run of form since Germany – I’ve finished in the top five in four of the races since then, and I think I’ve proved that I deserve to be seventh in the championship and I deserve to be here again next year. It is a credit to my team as well because we have worked fantastically well together recently and I want to thank them too.”
Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda: 6th. “In the second half of the race my feeling on the machine improved and this was probably the highlight of my weekend here. Once I was clear of the battle for sixth I was able to ride at a good pace and realistically I think I could have fought with De Angelis and Edwards in this race. It’s just a shame that I lost time starting from tenth and then fighting with Kallio, De Puniet and Elias – which is what I feared might happen. I cannot be happy with the 6th position but I have to consider the whole weekend and the set-up issues we experienced in the practice sessions and also my physical condition which wasn’t perfect this weekend. Still, I felt good at the end of the race, so I’m looking forward to Malaysia with confidence.”
Randy de Puniet, LCR Honda: 8th. “We could finish in a better position but I took a bad start and got stuck behind Elias for 4 laps. After that I started to set my pace and was pretty fast. I had fun battling with Dovizioso, Kallio and Melandri but in the middle of the race the rear tyre dropped and had too much spinning. With 8 laps to go I was not comfortable on the front and decided to keep my position to score important points for the world classification. Honestly I aimed to finish sixth today but I still feel very confident for the next races.”
Toni Elias, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 10th. “We have made the bike a lot better as the weekend progressed but we never managed to find any consistency from the tyres. We had them working well for six or seven laps and after that they were gone. That is exactly that happened in the race: I got a great start and kept pace with the front guys for the first few laps but then the tyres went and I was dead. I went from setting high 1’31s to struggling around in the 1’33s – losing two seconds a lap is just ridiculous. Anyway, considering all the problems we’ve had we’ve rescued a few points and we’re within five points of seventh place, which is now occupied by my team-mate. That is our goal over the next two races and I’m sure we won’t suffer the same problems in Malaysia.”
Gabor Talmacsi, Scot Honda: 13th.“The engine was OK, and the bike was OK in the very fast last corner. That was important. I have still problems going into the corners and in braking. But probably the main issue is the fact that I struggle when changing direction rapidly. I’m confident that if we can fix this problem, everything, including braking, will be by far better. Anyway, I can say we got the right direction. It’s OK.”