“What a wild race”
Repsol Honda rider Nicky Hayden rode to a solid fifth place in today's extraordinary Australian Grand Prix.
In a race that was affected by rain and controversy, the American star demonstrated supreme skill and judgment in treacherous conditions, defending
his lead in the world championship, which now stands at 21 points over Valentino Rossi.
The first start was delayed when spots of rain began to fall on the warm-up lap causing the declaration of a wet race. This meant that, even though most of the grid started on slick tyres, the race would not be stopped if it began to rain harder.
Sure enough on lap six, with Hayden having fought his way up to 12th place, it began raining heavily and the Repsol Honda rider came into the pits to change onto his other bike fitted with Michelin wets. On wet tyres Hayden rode brilliantly, swapping places with Valentino Rossi as the pair climbed through the field.
On lap 18 there was a moment of controversy as Rossi passed Casey Stoner into Turn 4 with yellow flags waving for an incident involving Carlos Checa. Although Rossi retained the position ahead of Stoner into the next corner and gained valuable time on Hayden, Race Direction later ruled that no further action should be taken.
Hayden once again closed the gap to within 0.3s but was unable to re-pass Rossi, crossing the line in fifth position to take a valuable 11 points.
Dani Pedrosa made a demon start from tenth on the grid and was fifth into the first corner, despite riding with the injuries he sustained in Malaysia a week ago. But the 20- year-old lost out while changing bikes and was blocked as he tried to exit the pit-lane, losing many places.
Not able to retain his pace on a too-soft wet rear tyre, Pedrosa brought his RC211V home in fifteenth place to score a single world championship point.
The impressive rookie slips to fourth place in the riders' world championship on 193 points.
The Repsol Honda Team now flies to the Motegi circuit for the Grand Prix of Japan which takes place in one week's time on Sunday September 24.
Nicky Hayden :
“What a wild race. I had some problems getting off the line, which is clear, and in the first few laps it was just wet and it felt pretty sketch to me. I was using quite a hard tyre and I was just getting eaten up and losing positions at the beginning. Then it started to rain, we came in and switched bikes and it was actually really good fun – I enjoyed it. When it was really raining it felt pretty good and I was charging hard and getting past quite a few guys but as it dried out I struggled a bit in the half-wet half-dry conditions. I got Rossi, he got me back and we were catching some guys in front of us. It was looking ok until he got Sete in between us which was not great, but we're still holding on with three races to go and we'll just roll into Motegi and keep fighting.”
Dani Pedrosa :
“We were ready for the dry race and I was able to run near the front in the early laps. Everybody was careful for the first few laps because it was raining and the tyres were cold – except Nakano – right from the start he was already gone. After the weather changed and it started raining I more or less kept the rhythm of the riders in front. But when we came into the pit-lane to change bikes the pit-lane was full and there were plenty of people who didn't need to be there and I can't really understand why. I lost some time and after I changed bikes many of the riders who were behind me before were in front. The tyre choice for the second part of the race was too soft and after two laps it was destroyed so it was impossible for me to maintain the pace. The result is obviously not good in terms of points but Motegi is a track I like so I hope to have a better race there.”
Makoto Tanaka :
“What an unimaginable race! I am very disappointed that Race Control reached the decision they did regarding Valentino Rossi's overtake under the yellow flag. Anyway, unfortunately Nicky had a bad start and dropped many positions at the beginning of the race. After this he had some clutch issues which made it difficult for him to increase his pace. But then Nicky performed some wonderful overtaking on rain tyres after he changed bikes. It was the first race under the flag-to-flag wet race rule and it looked like and endurance race pit. I was worried about the narrow pit road here but our mechanics did a perfect job. Unfortunately Nicky couldn't overtake Valentino at the end of the race, but he got some important points. Dani made a good start but he couldn't improve his pace when the rain became stronger, but I'm very positive anyway because he gained some good experience in wet conditions. The championship is still ongoing and I believe we'll show our strong spirit in Motegi.”
Repsol Honda Team