“This was a disappointing day for us”
The Repsol Honda Team endured a disappointing Grand Prix of Japan on Sunday as wet, unpredictable track conditions prevented Dani Pedrosa and Nicky Hayden from capitalising on their excellent qualifying display yesterday.
24-lap race began with a wet track and Pedrosa made a lightning start from pole position, stretching a useful gap in the first few corners at the 4.801km (2.981-mile) Motegi circuit. As the track began to dry and with surface conditions changing constantly Pedrosa initially slipped to fourth before once again clawing back time on the front three.
With a dry line emerging, the MotoGP riders began diving for the pits to change to machines fitted with tyres more suited to the increased levels of grip. However before making the switch to dry-weather tyres and while lying in second place, Pedrosa was unfortunate to highside his RC212V in the final chicane on lap 15, and his race was finished. It was a disappointing end to a weekend during which the 21-year-old Spaniard had been fastest in every dry session.
Unfortunately for the factory Honda squad, Hayden also had a tough race today. From third on the grid, the World Champion made a decent start and was battling with the leaders when he began to detect a problem with the feeling from his RC212V. Without the confidence to fully commit in the tricky conditions, Hayden slipped through the field before deciding to enter the pits early and swap to his second RC212V fitted with cut slick tyres – the first time in his career that he has ridden on this type of rubber. The 26-year-old American rejoined the race in 17th place before working his way up to ninth at the chequered flag.
Today's race was won by Loris Capirossi, with his team-mate Casey Stoner finishing in sixth position to seal the 21-year-old Australian's first World Championship.
Despite the home race disappointment the hard working Repsol Honda Team remains at Motegi for testing, though after his heavy crash Pedrosa will miss the test and return home where he will have further scans to determine if he has a fractured bone in his left foot.
“After the weekend we were having and how we felt after qualifying yesterday, it was a shame to see it rain this morning, but the weather is what it is. I went out in the warm-up this morning and it didn't feel too bad – I was fifth fastest in really wet conditions. But as soon as we started the race, basically after one lap we're not sure what happened – whether it was the tyre or something electronic – but the bike became very difficult to ride and I just went backwards. I think I was the first one to come in and the track was still pretty wet but I needed to come in and switch bikes. Luckily for me the track started to dry pretty fast and after a few slow laps I was able to get rolling. Really I think we're lucky to salvage some kind of result out of the day – if it had stayed wet we could have been in even more trouble. But ninth position for Honda's home race is not the result we'd hoped for. It's the first time in my life I've ever been on cut slicks – I've been in rain tyres or intermediates before – so I did get some useful experience. We've still got three more races and we'll keep fighting. Lastly, congratulations to Casey. There's a new World Champion today and so congratulations to him and his whole team – they truly deserve it.”
“Well this is obviously a very disappointing finish to what had been a promising weekend until this morning. In the dry we seemed to have a very good package, but the drying track for the race turned things into a bit of a lottery. Still, I made a good start and felt reasonably comfortable in the early laps of the race. I was able to catch back up to the leaders but then fell in the last chicane. I don't really know what happened, the back just snapped around even before I had given any throttle. With hindsight, perhaps I should have come into the pits a little earlier, but that's an easier call to make now than at the time. We can certainly take some positives from this race even though the result is disappointing for me and the team. I think we had a good chance of winning if it had stayed dry so we must just continue trying for the final races. The more worrying thing for me right now is that it feels like I have broken a bone in my left foot. I will have more x-rays and really hope I'm fit for the next race in Australia. Congratulations to Casey on the championship. He has been very strong all season and really deserves the title today.”
“Well yesterday was very good but today was a bit of a disaster for us. The race started wet and I was very surprised with how fast the track dried. Dani was able to ride with a good pace from the start but Nicky had some problems and had to come into the pits and the timing of this was not bad. He changed to a cut slick tyre and the machine settings were not perfect for the conditions. Before the race it was decided with Dani that the timing of the bike change would be the rider's choice. It was unfortunate that he crashed just before coming in and I think in the same circumstances we would bring him in earlier next time. So this was a disappointing day for us but the team will continue to fight in the final three races of the year.”