Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) established a new Estoril lap record during a typically determined ride to third place in today’s Portuguese Grand Prix. The Spaniard was Honda’s top performer in the race, while Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini) and Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) provided the best entertainment as they battled for sixth place all the way to the chequered flag. Elias won the duel by just 0.014 seconds.
Pedrosa stormed into the lead from fourth on the grid but then found himself unable to match the pace of winner Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) and runner-up Casey Stoner (Ducati), the Australian making an impressive return from illness. But once Pedrosa was settled into third place he ran a consistently fast race, securing a new lap record on lap 11 of 28. Today’s result was his eighth podium of the year so far. He goes into the final three races of 2009 holding third place in the points chase, just three points ahead of Stoner.
Elias, who won the 2006 MotoGP race at Estoril, enjoyed a frantic ride through the pack from the fifth row of the grid. The Spaniard struggled during yesterday’s qualifying session, ending up 13th quickest. Down in 12th after the first lap of the race, he made impressive forward progress and passed Dovizioso in the final few laps.
Dovizioso fought back in fine style, drafting Elias towards the finish line, but missed out by a fraction of a second. Dovi fought well in the race, coming through from ninth on the first lap. This was only the Italian’s second race using Öhlins suspension, so he still has plenty to learn about finding the best settings for this new kit.
Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) had high expectations of another good result after setting an impressive pace in qualifying. But the Frenchman suffered some cruel luck immediately after the start – he caught his right foot in the fairing of his RCV and the boot unzipped. De Puniet had to slow down to close the zip and that put him in last position. After that he fought back as best he could to cross the line in 11th.
Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda) finished the race in 14th position. Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) was challenging for a top-ten result when he was forced out of the race with a suspected electrical problem.
HONDA MotoGP RIDER QUOTES
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 3rd. “I made a very good start today and held the lead until the third corner where I ran a little wide and Jorge came by. He was pushing really hard in the first few laps and even though I was too, I couldn’t match his rhythm as he opened up a gap. When Casey came past I tried to stay with him and was able to put some pressure on and maintain a good pace. I had a moment though where the bike was snaking as I braked, I ran wide and I nearly crashed – that cost me some time and opened up the gap to Casey. So I’m reasonably happy with a podium and it definitely it will now be an interesting fight for third place in the championship with Casey. He is the reference in Australia and so the next race is going to be hard fought – I’m looking forward to it. I definitely want to win at least one of the three races left and maybe the next one is the most important.”
Toni Elias, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 6th. “I made a mistake yesterday in qualifying and had to start from 13th, and even though I didn’t get off the line as well as I would have liked I soon got into my rhythm and was able to produce a good fightback. The hardest part was getting past Hayden and Dovizioso but I was able to make a move on Andrea four laps from the end and I am delighted to have held on to sixth place, which is a position we deserve. We finished ahead of one of the factory team bikes and that is important. Today we moved up into the championship top ten. In two weeks time we go to a circuit where we know it will be tough for us but where we hope to get the points that will help us towards our objective of seventh in the championship. Of course I owe a big thank you to all the guys in my team who have done a fantastic job once again.”
Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda: 7th. “It was a really close finish on the line and I just missed out on sixth place – which isn’t the result we wanted, obviously. I started from the third row and was ninth in the early laps before getting past Capirossi, Elias and Hayden which took me up to sixth. I was able to hold the gap to Elias behind me but then I lost time on one lap and he came past. I closed again and it was really close on the last lap – I thought I had a chance of taking the place out of the last corner but it didn’t happen. We’ve had a few issues finding good grip and finding the best settings this weekend which has made it quite difficult to get the best out of the machine. I’m disappointed today but we have plenty of potential to move forward and we’ll continue to improve our understanding with the new suspension for the next races.”
Randy de Puniet, LCR Honda: 11th. “I am speechless! We could easily have finished in the top eight today but bad luck picked on me. I caught my right foot in the fairing at the very first corner which unzipped the boot. I couldn’t ride with boot open, so I tried to close it for a couple of laps, losing valuable positions. Then I pushed hard to overtake Vermeulen but I had a big highside moment which knocked my injured left ankle against the fairing. The last four laps were a bit painful. This result is not what we expected considering the good rhythm we had during practice and qualifying.”
Gabor Talmacsi, Scot Honda: 14th. “We are working hard but during practice, qualifying and the race we always had the same lap times. I am not getting the feeling I would like from the bike. For five or six laps I can stay with the others, but then I struggle. And when I lose contact with the others, my lap times drop. We must find a way to prepare a bike that gives me a better feeling.”
Alex De Angelis, San Carlo Honda Gresini: DNF. “It is a tough day for us because it’s always frustrating to be forced out of a race by a bike problem but we know these things can happen, and for us it was the first time this season. It is disappointing that it happened in the race and not in practice because it would have given us a warning – it was clearly an electrical problem though. This week the Honda engineers will run all the tests they need to do and they’ll tell us exactly what the problem is and I’m sure it won’t happen again. Obviously I’m disappointed because this was an important race for me and I really wanted to challenge for the top ten in the championship. Either way I’m confident because I love the next two tracks coming up and I’ll be giving it my all again.”