Hayden fast but out of luck
Dani Pedrosa rode his Repsol Honda RC212V to a gritty fourth place in the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island on Sunday.
Starting from the pole position Pedrosa achieved with a brilliant lap yesterday, the 22-year-old Spaniard was
in third place after the first corner and began an on-off duel with Marco Melandri that lasted for 16 laps. The pair traded places many times as they circulated the 4.448km (2.764-mile) circuit, with Pedrosa eventually making a decisive break. By lap 18 he had climbed to second place and looked on course for a strong podium finish.
In a display of committed riding Pedrosa fought another intense battle, this time with Valentino Rossi. But with fading grip in the final ten laps he could do nothing to prevent first Rossi and then Loris Capirossi from coming past. Pedrosa brought his Repsol Honda home in fourth place, 11.663s behind today's winner, home hero and new World Champion Casey Stoner. The result sees Pedrosa retain his third place in the MotoGP World Championship with two rounds remaining.
Nicky Hayden had a frustrating end to his Australian Grand Prix after matching Stoner's pace in the early laps. The American made a fast start from fourth on the grid and immediately latched onto the Australian's tail, never allowing him to get away. Riding with aggression and confidence Hayden remained with Stoner for the first 12 laps, comfortably keeping the gap to under half a second.
Then came the heartbreaking moment as a mechanical problem saw the 26-year-old 2006 World Champion slow suddenly and he was forced to retire from the race. Naturally bitterly disappointed, Hayden at least took some comfort that this had been the closest he had come to race-winning pace all season.
From Australia the MotoGP paddock now flies to the Sepang circuit for the Malaysian Grand Prix which takes place next weekend.
“This weekend I actually felt very comfortable at this circuit which is positive because in the past it hasn't been one of my favourite tracks. So having taken pole position yesterday of course this is not really the result we wanted here. We had an issue with the machine on my practice start in the warm-up this morning and so I was racing my second bike today. The feeling was not perfect but still I was able to push hard and fight for positions for most of the race. However in the last ten laps the grip from the tyres began to fall away quite quickly and I had a lot wheelspin and the machine was sliding when I tried to open the throttle. Casey was very fast again here and I don't think we could have stayed with him today but it's a shame not to be on the podium today. We've had two pole positions in a row and haven't converted them into very good results so hopefully we can change this for the next race in Malaysia next weekend.”
“That's a tough one to swallow. That hurts because we were having a really good race and the bike was feeling by far the best it has all season without a doubt. Stoner was setting a hot pace – he was a little bit quicker in some places and I was quicker than him in a few places. I was trying to hang in there and rider smoothly and try not to preserve the tyres and not get too crazy too quickly. It's easy to speculate on what would have happened at the end of the race… After a few laps I was still right on him but all of a sudden the engine started to get tight and started slowing down. I was nervous but it kept running and I wasn't going to pull over so I kept one hand on the clutch. Eventually she tied up and that was it – another goose egg in the points column. It's really frustrating – it seems like the deck's stacked against us at the moment, but we'll hang in there and hopefully get a bit of luck going our way soon. We've got two more tries.”
“Nicky made a good start and at the beginning of the race he looked very fast and confident and was able to chase Casey Stoner. However an engine problem forced him out of the race which is a real pity for him and the team. Dani had big wheelie on his practice start in warm-up but still his start in the race was not bad and he recovered his position well. Unfortunately he began to lose grip from his tyres in the final laps and wasn't able to battle for the podium at the end. So it's been a frustrating race for us. Our rivals were strong again so we must continue to concentrate hard for the final two races of the season.”