HONDA SQUAD READY FOR SEPANG2011-10-19 09:23
Repsol Honda riders delivered the 2011 MotoGP Riders and Constructors World Championship last weekend at Phillip Island. Now they aim for the Teams Championship, while also increasing Honda’s dominance in a season in which Honda riders have won 11 of 15 races, and taken 32 of 48 podium positions. The Repsol Honda team leads Yamaha Factory Racing 492 to 416 in the Teams Championship and are certain to add that crown to the two earned last weekend in Australia.
Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC212V) will never forget his 26th birthday, and neither will anyone who witnessed him claiming his second MotoGP World Championship in front of his fellow countrymen on his home track of Phillip Island. The win was well-earned, with blustery winds throughout and on-and-off rains near the end of the race. But Stoner maintained his composure and sped to victory, his ninth of a dream season that still has two races to run. Regardless of how those races turn out, Stoner will go down in history as the winner of the first and final championships of the 800cc era, as well as one of only five riders to win premier class championships on two different makes. The others are Giacomo Agostini, Valentino Rossi, Eddie Lawson, and Geoff Duke.
Now Stoner goes to the tropical climate of Sepang, Malaysia, where the weather forecast rarely changes; temperatures north of 32C and occasional showers. In the past that hasn’t affected Stoner, whose Sepang scorecard includes two MotoGP wins, 2007 and 2009, as well as two 250cc wins, 2004 and 2005. That number should increase if he continues on form, which includes podium finishes in every race he’s finished this season.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) missed last year’s race through injury, but he’s anxious to return. The Spaniard has an impressive record in the lower categories, winning both the 125cc and 250cc GPs. His record in the premier class is almost as good, with a pair of seconds in his last two races and two thirds before that.
Pedrosa is looking forward to returning to Sepang, where the team has a wealth of data gathered during the winter testing season. And he’s also anxious to get back on track to put his fourth place finish in the Australian Grand Prix behind him. Pedrosa is locked in a championship battle with team-mate Andrea Dovizioso for third overall, with Dovi four points ahead, 212 to 208, with two races remaining.
Andrea Dovizioso, the third member of the Repsol Honda team, has almost as impressive a record as his team-mates. Sepang has a special place in Dovi’s heart; it was here that he earned his first MotoGP podium on a satellite Honda in 2008. He finished a fighting second last year and also earned a second in the 125cc race in 2004 a result that confirmed him as 125cc World Champion that year. He also fought for second last weekend in Australia, but couldn’t fend off the persistent Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V).
“Super Sic” was ecstatic at finishing a career best second in Australia after yet another battle with Dovizioso. Simoncelli used a final lap pass to beat his longtime rival and claim the runner-up spot, his second podium of the season.
Simoncelli was on the podium for the final two years of the 250cc class. Simoncelli’s speed in the Sepang winter tests was an omen of greater things to come and he is now becoming a consistent podium threat.
Team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) has two more races in MotoGP before starting his World Superbike career on a Honda, and he’s determined to leave an impression before he leaves. The Sepang race was the best of last season for the Japanese rider-he finished seventh-which wasn’t surprising. He won two of the final three 250cc races, finishing second in the other one.
The Sepang Circuit was where Toni Elias (LCR Honda MotoGP) was crowned the inaugural Moto2 champion in 2010. The Spaniard finished a measured fourth, which gave him the title without taking undue risks. Having finished eighth at Phillip Island, tying a season best, Elias is hopeful of carrying that form to Sepang.
The championship he left behind will almost certainly go down to the final race in Valencia on the first weekend in November after an unpredictable and exciting Moto2 race at Phillip Island. Marc Marquez (Team CaixaCatalunya Repsol-Suter) started the weekend with a single point lead on Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing-Kalex) with three races to go. But he denied himself any chance of stretching that lead by crashing into another rider in Saturday morning practice. The action cost Marquez a one minute qualifying penalty, which put him last on the 38-rider grid.
Bradl tried to make the most of his opportunity, fighting Alex de Angelis (JiR Moto2-MotoBI) to the final lap. The German tried to sneak under de Angelis early on the final lap, but de Angelis had the proper line and held his ground. Bradl struck De Angelis’s machine, though neither one crashed. Bradl got the worst of it and wasn’t able to recover soon enough to take a final shot at winning his first race since the British GP back in June. Instead he had to settle for second, and only one spot in front of Marquez, who made short work of the field and denied Claudio Corti (Italtrans Racing Team-Suter) his first podium with an aggressive final lap.
By finishing second, Bradl returned to the top of the points standing after a one race hiatus and heads into Sepang leading Marquez by three points, 254 to 251.
Bradl finished seventh in last year’s Moto2 debut in Sepang. Marquez won the 125cc race from the pole, one of four wins in a row.
Andrea Iannone (Speed Master-Suter) finished an off-form eighth in Australia, giving hope to de Angelis in their battle for third overall. Iannone has an eight point margin, 165 to 157, which de Angelis is hopeful of erasing.
The Sepang International Circuit is the most familiar of all tracks for most riders. The consistently hot and tropical conditions make it the ideal winter testing venue, with the MotoGP riders visiting the southern Asia circuit twice, for three days each time. That gives team engineers familiarity with their settings and saves the riders time getting up to speed on race weekend.
At 5548m, Sepang is the second longest in the championship-only Silverstone is longer-with two sixth gear straights that end in first gear hairpins. Front tyre stability is essential, and not just in the two hairpins. The clockwise circuit has ten right-handers and five rights, and a longest straight of 920m.
Like Phillip Island, weather is the wild card, though in a completely different way. Sepang is hot and humid, with showers reliably hitting in mid-afternoon.
Sepang is the last of three fly-aways over a four week period, with the paddock returning to more familiar working conditions when they fly back to Europe for the traditional season finale in Valencia, Spain on November 6th.
HONDA MotoGP RIDER QUOTES
Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner says:
“After clinching the title in the last race at Phillip Island we go to Malaysia with a lot less pressure and we can just look forward to the race. It's disappointing to hear that Jorge (Lorenzo) is unlikely to be there. We had hoped that his recovery from the operation would mean he could race there, but we'll miss him there again. After pre-season testing in Sepang we proved to be competitive, so we will arrive there positive and look to enjoy the weekend. We're also testing the 1000cc bike on Monday after the race; with the championship now wrapped up, we can concentrate on the development of next years machine, so I'm also looking forward to that.”
Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa says:
“We now have a couple of days to rest and recover from the race in Australia and I'm looking forward to arriving in Malaysia. Sepang is a circuit I like and where we have had good results in the past. I won in 125cc and 250cc, but not yet in MotoGP and this is a very good motivation for me. The winter test in Sepang was good and we have some interesting data to start working with. I really want to do two very good races and finish the season the best way possible.”
Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso says:
“Malaysia is one of my favourite tracks, so I really want to get there and push 100% to try to win this race. We arrive very motivated after the race we had in Australia, a circuit which has always been difficult for me. The last two races are very important; I will fight to retain third position in the championship even though I know Dani and some other riders will be also hard to beat.”
San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Marco Simoncelli says:
“I left Phillip Island, a circuit and place I really love, feeling very happy. I had another good grand prix and finished second after another wonderful battle with Dovizioso, which gave me a lot of satisfaction. I had been second for the whole race, so to see Andrea standing on the second step of the podium would have been hard to take. I celebrated it with my team in Pino’s restaurant with the lovely owner Rosa, a Phillip Island legend, but I already had my mind on Malaysia. I never managed to win at Sepang in 250, but I was on the podium there for my last two seasons in the intermediate class and in testing there last winter I was really on the pace, so I am sure I can do a good job this weekend. There is no reason why we can't be fighting for the podium and it would be great to be up there again. The top step would be even better of course and that is what we will be striving for in the Malaysian Grand Prix.”
San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Hiroshi Aoyama says:
“The weekend in Australia didn't start badly and after the first couple of sessions I was looking forward to a positive grand prix at a place where the atmosphere is always really special. Unfortunately the weather turned and it caused me a few problems, including a heavy crash on Saturday which ended my session early and then again on Sunday when I was caught out by the rain. It was a shame, because I had promised myself I would make the most of my last few races in MotoGP and unfortunately the first of the three ended in disaster. Anyway, now we go to Sepang, where I won twice in 250 and finished seventh in MotoGP last year. I like the track and I always get a good feeling there from the place and from the people.”
Moto2 RIDER QUOTES
Viessmann Kiefer Racing – Kalex rider Stefan Bradl says:
For Phillip Island we went back to the Barcelona set-up, which proved to be the perfect solution from the word go on Friday. We are also going to use this set-up including the old swingarm at Sepang. I am looking forward to this race because I feel I have a good chance to take some more points away from Marquez. Of course I was not entirely happy with Australia, because I only expected Marquez to catch up to 5th or 9th place. But he is a great rider with a bright future ahead of him. On the other hand I fought hard to win and pulled four pints back which puts me into the lead of the world championship with only two races to go. I have finished on the podium in ten races and a have seen at Motegi and Phillip Island that Marquez is making mistakes... I have definitely not given up! I have nothing to lose at this stage. We have a great team and a good bike. And agreeing with the Kiefer team for another Moto2 season has taken some pressure of me.”
Team CaixaCatalunya – Suter rider Marc Marquez says:
"After that intensive weekend we start over again in Malaysia. With the 125cc, Sepang went very well, so I hope that I can have fun also with the Moto2. It is a Grand Prix where you need to be very well prepared physically and although I still have some bruises, I hope I will be at 100%. The physical preparation is good, so during the practice and the race it will be important to be careful with hydration. The last sector has very long straights, so it will also very important to have a very good engine set-up. Another thing to take into account are the sudden and frequent rains, that can change the conditions of the track in a moment".
JiR Moto2-MotoBI rider Alex De Angelis says.
”Before the Phillip Island race, the target was to win the race. I did it, now the other target is to try, also to overtake Iannone in the championship. But apart from (Phillip Island), the past part of the season Iannone is very, very fast. It will be so difficult at Sepang, but I never give up.”
Source: Honda Pro Image
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