Hayden takes fourth
The Repsol Honda Team put in a strong performance at the Grand Prix of Portugal on Sunday with Dani Pedrosa finishing second to Valentino Rossi after a tremendous fight, and Nicky Hayden bringing home his RC212V in fourth.
Pedrosa was in contention
for the win for the entire race and crossed the line a mere 0.175s behind Rossi, having led the race for more laps than any other rider. The Spaniard made a flying start from fifth on the grid and was second into the first corner behind Casey Stoner. The 21-year-old Repsol Honda ace then tracked Stoner for the first six laps before making a decisive move for the lead, outbraking his former 250cc rival into Turn 1 at the start of lap seven.
Two laps later Rossi went past Pedrosa and for the next seven laps the pair stretched the gap to Stoner. Wary that Stoner was closing back up, Pedrosa retook Rossi on lap 17 and led until the pair traded places twice on lap 24, with Pedrosa running wide in Turn 1 and Rossi making the same mistake half a lap later.
The protagonists exchanged the lead yet again at the beginning of the penultimate lap with Rossi lunging up the inside, only to run wide with Pedrosa retaking first place. On the same lap Rossi finally made it stick, and try as he might Pedrosa was unable to make another pass, crossing the line an agonisingly close 0.175s behind Rossi. This was Pedrosa's 14th MotoGP podium finish, his sixth of 2007 and his 55th in all classes of Grand Prix racing.
The result means Pedrosa remains in third place in the World Championship, 23 points behind Rossi in second.
Hayden also rode with combative style and recorded the fastest lap of the race on his way to fourth place. From pole position the World Champion slipped to third at the first corner and then battled with Rossi and Melandri in the early stages. After getting the better of Melandri's Honda it appeared the World Champion had lost too much ground on the leaders, but a series of scorching laps, including the fastest of the race which was a new lap record of 1m 37.493s, put Hayden was back on Stoner's tail.
Unfortunately a mistake with seven laps to go dropped Hayden crucial tenths behind and he brought his RC212V across the line in fourth place to collect 13 world championship points.
The MotoGP entourage now flies immediately to the Grand Prix of Japan which takes place in one week's time at the Twin Ring Motegi.
“I'm happy to fight for the win and the pace we could run today was very quick. We were lapping very fast right until the end and this is good progress for us because there have been races where this was not possible. I made a good start and pushed very hard at the beginning, got into a strong rhythm and the pace was very high. I was able to pass Stoner but when Rossi came past me and was in front I knew that he was not pushing at 100%. With Stoner and Hayden catching this was risky so I went for the overtake to try to up the pace because I didn't want them to catch up. This allowed Rossi to watch me for a while which I think was useful for him in the closing laps. I knew my pace was very similar to Rossi's because we had both been in the front of the race. When he came past at the end I tried my maximum but did not have the speed to take the lead on the last lap. Still, this was a good race for us and I'd like to thank my team and everyone at Honda because they've been working really hard. Now we're going to Motegi which is a track I like and I hope we can put on another good performance there.”
“There are a lot of positives from this weekend and pole position was one of them, though certainly fourth wasn't quite the result we hoped for. We knew it was going to be tough today and the first lap wasn't so kind to me – but actually I was just happy to get through the first lap after what happened at the last race. In the beginning I wasn't quite able to get into a rhythm, I was really struggling out of Turn six and some riders were able to get up the inside of me into Turn seven. I was duking it out with Melandri which lost me some time and then I found a rhythm, got down into the 1m 37s laps and caught up to Stoner. I was riding right on the edge and used up a lot of my tyres to try to catch the leaders, and then I made one big mistake which cost me a lot of time. My bike ran really well today. The engine was good and the Michelin tyres worked well so I really don't have a lot of excuses – those guys were just a little bit quicker and I give them credit. This was my first pole position of the year and I had the fastest lap of the race which is definitely positive. We're way better off than we were a few months ago so things feel like they're back on track and I'm enjoying riding the bike again. So, we'll go to Motegi and try to keep it rolling. We've got four more cracks at it!”
“From the outside this was a fantastic race, though on the inside of course we are a little disappointed that we did not win. Dani made a good start and he was setting a consistently fast pace, first with Stoner and then with Rossi. It was a great battle between Dani and Rossi and shows that this was a good race for us and for Michelin. Nicky's start was not perfect but he was able to catch Stoner in the middle of the race and set the fastest lap too to follow his pole position from yesterday so he had quite a positive weekend too. The next race is Honda's home event at Motegi so we'll be attacking to the maximum to get the best possible result there.”