Estoril MotoGP Insider 2011: Honda

May 2, 2011
Scott Mathews
Contributing Editor|Articles|Articles RSS

There are few people worthy of getting an audience with Mathews but he makes himself available on occasion to the racers of the Grand Prix paddock. If they’re lucky, he might even mention their name. He’s Scott Mathews, and he’s bringing you the inside scoop on MotoGP.

Dani Pedrosa
Honda’s Dani Pedrosa overcame a long-standing shoulder injury to steal the win from Jorge Lorenzo in the final laps.

Dani Pedrosa could barely contain his relief and delight after he claimed his first ever victory at the Estoril circuit to narrow Jorge Lorenzo’s MotoGP world championship lead to just four-points. Relief was etched all over the Spaniard’s face after he streaked away from factory Yamaha rider Lorenzo in the closing stages of a somewhat uninspiring Portuguese MotoGP encounter. Pedrosa had been content to shadow Lorenzo’s YZR-M1 for the opening 24 laps before he passed on Lap 25 to win with a comfortable three-second advantage at the end of the 28-lap race.

The win was even sweeter for Pedrosa given the recent trauma surrounding his long-standing left shoulder injury. Ever since the triple world champion broke his left collarbone in a practice crash for last October’s Japanese Grand Prix at the Twin Ring Motegi, he’s been dogged by a numbness issue with his left hand and arm. Pedrosa learned a compressed artery, which restricted blood flow to his left arm, was the cause of the issue and he underwent further surgery earlier this month to solve the problem.

Unsure of whether the surgery had been a success, Pedrosa was ecstatic to emerge from the Estoril race with no repeat of the numbness issue as he romped to his first win since the Misano round last September.

The Repsol Honda rider, who has finished on the podium in all three races in 2011 despite his physical woes, said: “I’m very happy for the win. But more than the win I’m very happy for my condition because it looks like the surgery was successful. I had a lot of pain here in the muscle and I was trying to rest sometimes the arm because it was cramping after 15 laps. I was behind Jorge and trying to be focused, but I was

Dani Pedrosa: Im very happy for the win. But more than the win Im very happy for my condition because it looks like the surgery was successful.
Dani Pedrosa: “I’m very happy for the win. But more than the win I’m very happy for my condition because it looks like the surgery was successful.”

waiting for the numbness and the loss of power. But it didn’t come and I was just so happy to see that the surgery was successful. It’s been six months with this problem and I could tell you at the end I didn’t know what else to do. It is a big relief. I just was riding at my best because Jorge at this track is amazing. He is always very fast and I was trying to follow him and stick with him. I had some problems with the front grip and the rear grip, but I still could follow him and at the end I try to make the move and I was successful on it, so it is amazing to win. I didn’t thought I could win this race in the beginning when we were riding in the first laps and then by the middle of the race he stepped up the rhythm and I could stick with him, so this was good for me. It feels even greater because I fight with Jorge. Here he’s amazingly fast and he put in 100% effort and he made me use much more effort than normal. If I was racing alone, maybe the race would not be so interesting or so great, so thanks to him for putting my level up.” 

Marco Simoncelli blew yet another chance to break his MotoGP victory duck in Estoril yesterday after he crashed out in spectacular fashion on the opening lap. Four weeks after he tumbled out of the lead in a rain-hit Spanish Grand Prix, the former 250GP world champion was third and looking to chase Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa when he high-sided at Turn 4. He escaped injury but the Italian couldn’t disguise his disappointment having fallen foul of a cold Bridgestone rear tire.

The San Carlo Gresini Honda rider said: “I am really disappointed for myself and for the team. I had a warning from the rear tire coming out of Turn 1. I also saw Pedrosa and Stoner have trouble so I tried to stay calm and decided to take Turn 3 in a higher gear to keep the engine sweet. I did the same in the next corner to make sure it wasn’t too aggressive but in the middle of the corner with the throttle closed I was thrown out of my seat and that was goodnight. I am really disappointed and I don’t know what else to say. For sure it was my mistake and I have to be more careful next time. It’s a shame because I was fast! We’ll try not to make any stupid mistakes at Le Mans.”

Marco Simoncelli fast in practice and qualifying - Estoril 2011
Another crash prevented Marco Simoncelli from grabbing his first MotoGP victory after he high-sided in Turn 4.

Casey Stoner’s hopes of returning to winning ways in Estoril were ended in painful fashion during yesterday’s Estoril MotoGP race in Portugal. Looking to bounce back from the crushing disappointment of his early exit in a controversial incident with Valentino Rossi in Jerez, the 2007 world champion was lying in third-place when he suddenly encountered an excruciating pain in his back. Believed to be a trapped nerve, the issue left Stoner in such discomfort that he contemplated pulling into the pits, but the intense pain eased and the Aussie was able to ride home to a distant third place.

The Repsol Honda rider said: “My back just seemed to pinch a nerve and then I just had searing pain all up my back and I couldn’t move for probably half a lap. It just was agony to go from left to right and I couldn’t breathe. And then it sort of loosened up just a little bit and I was able to ride around for the next three or four laps with it still pinching, but not bad. It was just sore so I could finish the race and I’m happy to gain some more points, especially after the last race. But to be honest, it was a bit of a frustrating start to the race. I got a good start and Dani (Pedrosa) was there and coming across and I had to close the gas. Then I was there with Marco (Simoncelli) going into the first corner, he cut me off so I wasn’t too happy with that. And then he crashed in Turn 4. I lost the tow to Jorge and Dani and from that point it was pretty much it. I was struggling a little bit with rear grip in the early parts of the race on the left side and just couldn’t quite get the good feeling. So during that time, they were both running some pretty good lap times, they just opened the advantage and that was it. I was trying to catch and I was running a reasonably consistent pace, but just wasn’t quite fast enough in the early stages of the race. The lap times started to come down and then my back just went. I don’t know whether I really could’ve caught them. I was just trying to keep them honest at the same time, keep them under pressure to see what happens. We weren’t too far away, but I think it was going to be tough to beat either of them today, they both rode a fantastic race.”

Casey Stoner
Casey Stoner secured a podium following his crash in Jerez despite a trapped nerve which caused pain in his lower back.

Stoner also confirmed at Estoril that Honda has modified the clutch on its factory Honda RC212V machine after he was unable to re-join the recent Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez. Stoner battled in vain to restart his V-Four motor after Ducati rival Valentino Rossi wiped him out while the pair were attempting to chase down early leader Simoncelli in a rain-hit Jerez encounter.

The Aussie was critical at the lack of help he received from trackside marshals in the aftermath of the incident and unable to re-join the race. But he said Honda had modified the clutch to make it easier for him to bump start the bike if a similar situation to Jerez occurred in the future.

Burgess Says 2011 a Must Win for Honda
Honda will never have a better chance of winning the MotoGP world championship than in 2011, according to Valentino Rossi’s legendary crew chief Jerry Burgess. The winter addition of Aussie Casey Stoner has injected fresh impetus and belief into HRC as the Japanese giant seeks to end its barren run of winning only one MotoGP title since 2003.
With a four-pronged factory assault in 2011 including Stoner, Dani Pedrosa and Italian duo Andrea Dovizioso and Marco Simoncelli, Honda has its most formidable line-up since Rossi quit at the end of 2003.

And Burgess said it was obvious that Honda was going all guns blazing to try and win the final 800cc world title. “Honda is making a very big push, no question about that. They haven’t won seriously since 2003. I know they won in 2006 but I know the mentality of the people at Honda and if you don’t dominate the races through the year it is not the same feeling. They couldn’t go out every Monday and put an ad in the paper and says Honda wins. They could put an advert saying they were world champions after Valencia but that’s a lot less advertising than pounding it into the paper every Monday morning. They’ve been trying for a number of years but the big expectation is that this has got to be the year,” said Burgess.

Andrea Dovizioso
Italian Andrea Dovizioso extended Honda’s presence in the top-five by finishing fourth in Portugal.

Burgess also expects in-form Stoner to be Honda’s best hope of dethroning Jorge Lorenzo in 2011, despite the setback of being taken out of the last race in Jerez by Rossi. Stoner was in brilliant form to win on his HRC debut in Qatar but didn’t score points in Jerez after the controversial incident with Rossi.

Burgess added: “The Honda group has bounced well off each other. If one rider is having a bad day he’s got all the information of the others to say ‘why am I having a bad day? It must be me rather than the bike.’ Casey is clearly the fastest rider at Honda. Dani will say history shows that he’s more consistent than Casey and less likely to make a mistake but Casey is now on a bike where he doesn’t have to doubt his own judgment. He’s not the leader of the team, he’s just guiding himself and that will give him an enormous amount of confidence to the point where it might take away from Dani.”

The 2007 world champion said: “It looks like we have fixed the problem for this weekend so we should have no dramas. It was disappointing because if I crashed and it was my fault then I perhaps don’t deserve to restart the bike but in that situation where the bike had no damage it was disappointing to lose so many points. You can get it started but it is hard work and pushing it uphill with one person on a wet track you are not going to get the amount of grip you need.”