MotoGP – Round 10 Interview With Shuhei Nakamoto

August 4, 2011


Rounding out the first half of 2011 season, the US GP was held at Laguna Seca circuit in Monterey, in the suburbs of San Francisco. It was a hot contest this year too under sunny Californian skies, attracting 136,285 fans over the three-day weekend. They saw a brilliant performance by Repsol Honda‘s Casey Stoner, who turned the race around in the final laps to take his fifth win of the season. Casey’s team mate Dani Pedrosa kept up with the top two right from the start to take a well-deserved third place. His second consecutive podium place since he returned to the race after collarbone surgery bears witness that Dani is well on the way to recovering his full abilities. HRC Team Principal Shuhei Nakamoto takes us behind the scenes at the track and sums up the events of the season’s first half.

Whatever we tried, in qualifying at Laguna we never managed to get the bike up to the level Casey wanted, so in the warm up on Sunday morning we were still making big changes. Casey felt good about the result and started the race full of confidence. He rode a superb and highly focused race all the way to the end.

Casey had been having problems with weight transfer. Did the changes you made Sunday morning fix that too?

We had fixed most of the weight transfer problem by the second day. It wasn’t much of an issue after that. What was happening was that we weren’t getting enough grip in the rear. Finding the way to get the balance right, that was what allowed us to win today.

The win in Laguna showed a powerful combination of daring riding and tactical brilliance.

The bike was set up perfectly, all he needed was an opening and he had a good chance of a win. When he overtook Lorenzo at turn one on the 27th lap, Casey showed he had the edge for speed. Once he finally broke away he was racking up a consistent lap time of 1:21, while Lorenzo was only managing around 1:22. That let Casey pull ahead strongly over those final laps.

Dani’s bike was also in great balance and he had a good race, watching his timing and going ahead at the right moments. But the thing about this circuit is that all the turns require hard braking, and with Dani’s arm still not fully up to strength after his collarbone surgery he was getting arm pump. That’s why he couldn’t maintain his good times all the way to the end.

The Laguna track has quite a bumpy surface. Did that affect his injured right shoulder?

No, that wasn’t a problem. It was all the continuous hard braking that was the cause of his arm pump. Fortunately, we now have the summer break so he can use this time to train and get in good shape for the second half of the season. This two-week break will be extremely valuable for him, and we’re very grateful for it.

What did you think of Andrea Dovizioso‘s race?

In the first half, Andrea used up all his energy keeping up with the lead group, and that cost him in the later laps.

Watching him during the morning warm up, it seemed his riding had improved a lot.

Andrea was the only rider to choose hard tires for Sunday morning’s warm up session. He made such good time that we were very hopeful for his chances in the race, so it was a bit of a disappointment. His average time was within one or two tenths of the lead group but he never managed to improve on it and the gap kept widening.

After the two week summer break, the second half of the season kicks off with Round 11 in the Czech Republic. Sum up the first half for us.

Honda has won seven out of ten races so far. Considering we only won four in the whole of the last season, you’d think we have it in the bag. But Lorenzo is a very tough competitor. He’s not going to give up, and I think we will continue to see a pattern of wins and losses for the rest of the season. A single slip could upset the whole championship battle. We’re going to be treating every race with the utmost seriousness, concentrating on avoiding any mistakes that could cost us points.

Casey Stoner, the points leader, has maintained a very high level, being on the podium every race except Spain where he had to retire after an accident.

Actually, Casey still has physical problems remaining from his crash in practice at Assen, and he still feels pain when he rides. So the two week break will be an excellent chance for him to get himself back into perfect condition. It’s good timing.

Since Dani Pedrosa returned after his injury, he’s managed a podium place in every race except for Italy.

With the chance afforded by the summer break for more physical training, I think we’ll see Dani soon return to his original form. If that happens, the coming races will all be fought between Dani, Casey and Jorge. All three riders are quite capable of winning.

Is an all-Honda podium on the cards in the second half of the season?

Well, we are facing some pretty strong competition so I can’t say it will be easy to pull it off. On the other hand, it’s a dream we’ve been chasing for some time and we’ll be going all out in the remaining races, to try and realize that dream as soon as we can, and also of course to take the Championship. I hope you all will keep following our progress and helping us with your support.


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