HRC Press Release: HRC Boss Shuhei Nakamoto On The Season So Far

Not to be outdone by the Repsol colleagues, the good people at HRC have also been issuing press release interviews. Today, they issued an interview with HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto, who provides an interesting insight into the performance of the Repsol Honda team from the perspective of HRC management. In the interview, Nakamoto talks about how Honda changed Casey Stoner's bike to fix the problems he had been complaining of all weekend at Laguna Seca, allowing him to win the race; about how well Dani Pedrosa has performed despite his injury; and about what Honda expect from the second half of the season. What is also interesting in the interview is how little time Nakamoto spends talking about Andrea Dovizioso, and when he does, he has some firm criticism of the Italian.

Here is what Nakamoto had to say to the HRC press office:

Round 10 - Interview with Shuhei Nakamoto

Round 10. 7 wins out of 10. The second half will be the decider.

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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It's no secret Dovi is a third wheel in that team with HRC not wanting him at Repsol 2011. Nonetheless I didn't read of any criticism by Nakamoto within the article - unless there's some double speak I've missed. He talked of disappointment at Laguna in respect to Dovi and acknowledges what is plain for all to see - Lorenzo ,Stoner and Pedrosa are all at a very similair level and a class apart.

It must be incredibly frustrating for Dovi to be so damn close so consistently yet being unable to breach that gap. The first of the losers in such exalted company.

I have never heard Monterey described as a 'suburb of San Francisco'. I don't have first hand knowledge of how big the other GP-host cities are but Monterey is probably fairly provincial compared to most (all?) of them. Even so, it's a fair old hike to SF from there. SF must be the closest international city of renown, much to the chagrin of lame San Jose. Anyway, back to motorcycles...

Does anyone think Dovi will be back next year? If he does it will almost certainly be his last. If Repsol Honda wants to fund a 3 rider team I think they want two riders to be Spanish. Enter Mark Marquez (next year) or Maverick Vinales (2013) or some other young gun. They are required to have at least one Spanish rider and they have that covered right now with Pedrosa but for all his success he's proving brittle and/or unlucky. (Mostly unlucky IMO.) It's to Repsol's advantage if they can get Dovi-like results from a Spanish rider.

Alternatively, they could put a developing talent on the Gresini team after Simoncelli loses his ride. I still think that unless Super Sic starts collecting podiums he is at risk because of all the 'incidents', not least of which is the Pedrosa crash. I think that really got Honda corporate bent out of shape. Just my opinion.

I'd like to see Repsol Honda stay with a three rider team and I think Dovi deserves the third position. If Honda does drop the third ride, I'd like to see Simoncelli go to Ducati with Rossi and Nicky and Dovi ride together on the Gresini Honda team.

Ok here's how i see everything playing out for next year. (This is all in fun guys so don't take me seriously)

Stoner and Pedrosa remain as the only HRC factory riders. Rossi leaves Ducati and joins his buddy SIC at Gresini but he gets SIC's bike with the factory support!! Dovi winds up with Yamaha but he goes there on a new factory ride. Now that Yamaha have pulled out of WSBK they should have plenty of money for that!! Abraham goes to Ducati and gets Rossi's factory bike, and he rides with Nicky Hayden.

Everybody winds up happy, except for SIC, but he does get the Doctor's tutelage for a full year!! :)

I have heard rumors of Rossi and Sic at Gresini and Dovi at LCR. But Honda said earlier there will only be two factory bikes (Stoner and Pedrosa) and then two other 1000cc bikes (but probably not factory bikes) for Gresini. So does that mean the LCR bike will still be 800cc?? That stinks because Dovi has been better than Sic at every race this year and yet he is getting the boot.

Rossi to Gresini?! He's committed to Ducati through next season via contract, and he would never go to a satellite team.... bad rumours imo

... is that there are now fewer top teams than aliens. At least back in the Lawson/Schwantz/Doohan era Suzuki had a reasonably competitive bike, so three teams could go head to head.

Now there are two, but with 3 riders currently at alien level.
(Four strokes were going to fix this problem, remember?)
Repsol have 2/3.

So good as Dovi is, and as much as he's a nice guy with a sane perspective on life and racing, there's just no room at the inn.

Otoh, a traditional team has two riders with a clear pecking order: one is there to win, the other is to pick up scraps, get in the way of the opposition, collect data and make coffee. See Colin Edwards + Rossi for how it works, Or Lorenzo + Spies. Rossi was never going to accept that role at Yamaha. The big question is, will Puig/Pedrosa accept to be in that role at Repsol? Even when Danni has been on form, he's rarely been faster than Stoner except because of setting problems... so he's going to be no. 2 next year.

Don't know how long that can last.

I haven't seen any reason this season to rate a healthy Dani behind Casey. I think that he's firmly shown that he isn't the least of the aliens, as some people seemed to be rating him.

I don't think that's what Yamaha intends, either; it's just that Lorenzo has been faster than Spies so far. Not that Spies has been bad (you could make a strong argument for him being the fourth best rider this year) but before the season there was talk of him being the Lorenzo to Lorenzo's Rossi.

Interestingly the majority of reader speculation on this story on the Crash site revolved around whether HRC team orders will be invoked. As in ordering their riders to stay out of Casey's way and get in Lorenzo's. I'm a bit undecided on the whole prosepect. Sounds logical from a team point of view but not an attractive prospect for racing purists. Anybody got any deeper insight into this curly question?

Team orders are as much a prospect at HRC as they are within Yamaha at this stage.
If the title chase goes down to wire between Lorenzo and Stoner, team orders may come into play at the last two rounds in terms of Dani or Dovi giving up a place to Casey if the race/points situation demands.
As for some strategy to keep George at bay,no chance. Dani and Dovi can't keep him at bay 9 times out of 10.
This is something I love about GP 2011. Its really a straight fight between to straight riders. The only rider currently capable of holding George at bay is Casey and he and HRC acknowledge how tough that job is going to be over the remaining races.
The future, I fear does not bode well for Dovi as a factory Honda rider and much less so for Simmo.
Much speculation and rumour about Rossi/Ducati 2012. He may well have signed a 2 year deal with Ducati, but you can bet your last dollar he has a get out of jail free card written into his contract. If he doesn't get a legitimate podium within the next 3 races,I guess he'll invoke it.
Leaving the door open for, who knows, Dovi, another Italian on the D16.
Very hard front end rider he is. Such is the Ducati's eccentricities, it may just suit him.
Sure, I'm just contributing my 2 cents to a lacklustre silly season.
We had a bumper crop silly season last year, whilst the title race was lacklustre.
Look forward to next weekend and a few dummys being spat out. Abraham doing his home crowd and Ducati proud on the GP 10.8 will suit me just fine.
Here's hoping Hopper adds some relish.