Honda Racing PR:
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) scored a hard-fought fourth-place finish at rainy Mugello this afternoon, just five hundredths of a second off a podium place and just 2.1 seconds behind race winner Casey Stoner (Ducati). Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) was the next Honda rider home in eighth place.
Conditions were very similar to the previous Grand Prix at Le Mans, the race getting underway on a damp track, with all riders starting on rain tyres and then switching to their slick-equipped machines as the circuit dried out. Once again, the changing conditions made for a thrilling race, with frequent changes of position, both on the track and in the pits. All three practice and qualifying sessions were held in warm, sunny conditions, though riders did get the chance to work on wet set-up during this morning’s rain-hit warm-up.
Dovizioso made a storming start to the race, several riders smoking their tyres as they roared away from the damp grid, and took the lead from Stoner on lap four. The Italian led for four laps and pitted earlier than most, switching bikes at the end of lap nine. Conditions were still treacherous, however. Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini), Yuki Takahashi (Scot Honda) and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) all fell victim to damp tarmac during the next few laps.
Pedrosa, who had already injured his right hip while fighting to control a slide during Saturday practice, fell at the fast Savelli left-hander during his third lap on slick tyres. The Spaniard had been in severe pain following yesterday’s incident and underwent painkilling injections before warm-up and the race. Pedrosa’s lap 13 tumble ended a run of three brilliant podium finishes and left him battered and bruised.
Dovizioso retook the lead from Marco Melandri (Kawasaki) on lap 11 and stayed there for another three laps until Stoner came past once again. The Honda RC212V rider was in the hunt for a podium finish all the way to the flag, slipstreaming reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) across the finish line.
De Puniet enjoyed a similarly hectic afternoon. The Frenchman struggled in the early laps on rain tyres but got right into the groove once he had swapped bikes and his slicks had got up to temperature. He battled with James Toseland (Yamaha) for sixth position for the remainder of the race, though both were passed by Colin Edwards (Yamaha) during the final laps, de Puniet crossing the line in eighth spot, just 1.6 seconds behind Edwards.
Honda’s other finishers had a more difficult Italian Grand Prix. De Angelis remounted after his tumble to take the final point in 15th, one place behind team-mate Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini) who on the last lap just failed to get the better of Mika Kallio (Ducati) for 13th place.
Elias ran well on wets and was confident he could improve his position on slicks. The Spaniard was fifth after he changed bikes on lap ten but struggled to get heat into his rear slick and was unable to maintain position. It was a disappointment for Elias who felt he had made real progress with his RC212V during the two days of practice here.
De Angelis ran off the track at turn two during his out lap on slick tyres. He managed to stay on board as he rode through the gravel trap but had to lay his bike down before he ran into the safety air fence.
Takahashi’s crash was a great disappointment for the MotoGP rookie who yesterday scored his best grid slot, qualifying tenth fastest after making crucial rear-end improvements to his RC212V. He was thus confident of a great race but slid off soon after switching to slicks.
The MotoGP circus now heads back to Spain for the second of the season’s three races on Spanish tarmac, the Catalan Grand Prix at Catalunya on June 12/13/14.
HONDA MotoGP RIDER QUOTES
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda), fourth finisher, said: “The sensation of leading the race in front of my home crowd was incredible and I think overall we had a good race today – I’m satisfied. I fought like hell to take third and we were so close – only 53 thousandths from the podium! I think our race strategy was good, we changed the bike at the right moment and I pushed as hard as possible to maintain my position. With three laps to go I tried to keep in contact with the others and when Rossi overtook me, I managed to stay with him. Then I tried to slipstream him out of the last corner but I couldn’t make it. Anyway, all in all it was an exciting race and a positive result. We are getting closer, but still not close enough to win. We need to keep on working because we are still not as competitive as the fastest riders, especially in dry conditions. I want to say thanks to the team because they did a great job today, and we’ll use this result to give us an extra boost of motivation.”
Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda), eighth finisher, said: “Unfortunately the conditions were the same as they were at Le Mans, though our result here was a bit better. I got a very good start but I did not feel very confident in the wet, so I was slower than some of the other guys. I was probably being too cautious. I changed bikes at the right moment, but for the first two laps on slicks I struggled to find a good rhythm, especially on the damp parts of the track. Anyway I had fun battling with Toseland. I tried many times to leave him behind but finally it was impossible. With two laps to go Edwards caught us and I pushed really hard to get sixth place but it was too late. Eighth position is not so bad in these conditions but we could have got sixth.
Thanks once again to the team for their good work.”
Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini), 14th finisher, said: “I’m disappointed and angry because in racing you have to be ready to tackle any situation and today we weren’t. The most frustrating thing is that I was expecting the first six or seven laps in the wet to be the hard part for us today and we actually did a good job, so I was confident we could kick on for a top result in the dry. I came out on slick tyres right behind Valentino and Casey, just two seconds behind them, but it took me four laps to get the rear tyre up to temperature and even then we were losing three or four seconds a lap, which I cannot understand. It’s a disaster and something clearly wasn’t working right. We’re going to analyse the data, find out what went wrong and make sure we’re better prepared next time. There are positives to take out of this weekend because in general we have stepped up our pace but right now that just makes me even more disappointed that we haven’t come away with a good result.”
Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini), 15th finisher, said: “I think we went with the right race strategy and chose the correct moment to change bikes. I went back out pretty fast but went a little bit too hard into turn two and was heading straight for the air fence, so I had to jump off. It was a real shame because it has probably cost us a handful of points but the reality is that we didn’t have a good set-up with the bike for the dry and I honestly don’t think we’d have been capable of great things anyway today.”
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda), DNF, said: “What can I say? It’s obviously been a pretty bad weekend for us and the crash in the race just about summed it all up. After the problem with my right leg yesterday I had a pain-killing injection this morning for the warm-up and it allowed me to ride the bike, but to be honest there was still a lot of pain and I couldn’t ride at full speed. The rain didn’t help either because all the practice sessions were dry so the wet settings were a bit of a gamble. Anyway, I want to thank Doctor Costa and his assistants for all his help that allowed me to be on the grid today. I had another injection before the race but the conditions were very hard to read and it was difficult for me to gain confidence or find a rhythm – also the bike change wasn’t easy for me because of my leg. On the dry bike I didn’t really have time to get used to the settings and track conditions because I lost the rear on my third lap out and crashed. It’s quite hard to find anything very positive to say right now, but I’m glad that I didn’t do any more damage when I crashed – that’s something. I want to check it again with my doctors and have a bit of rest – I feel really tired now. Despite this setback we’ll keep working. It’s my home Grand Prix next and I just hope I can go there and be in contention.”
Yuki Takahashi (Scot Honda), DNF, said: “Yesterday in the dry we had an excellent set-up for this track. Today in the wet we struggled a bit. I came in to change bikes when the team signalled me to come in, then I went out again with slick. Maybe the tyres were too cold or maybe I pushed too hard, anyway, I crashed. I’m really sorry for my crew and for the team. But we have learned a lot here and I am confident that we can get a good result at the next race.”