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article details
Author Gerald Irish
Categories Motorsports
Create Date May 30, 2008 17:42
Last Update May 30, 2008 21:15
TOV-RR 2008.3

Formula 1 - Monaco Grand Prix

After the minor let down at Turkey Honda F1 looked to show more improvement at F1's most famous race on the streets Monaco.

In the first free practice Jenson Button posted the 8th fastest time but was only 1 tenth of second slower than Robert Kubica of BMW Sauber in 6th. In the second free practice Button dropped back but was still in 10th place.

Unfortunately qualifying ended in a small disaster for Honda F1 when in the closing moments of Q2 David Coulthard crashed his Red Bull RB3 which brought out a yellow flag. The local yellow ruined both Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello's final qualifying laps. With no time for another flying lap both Hondas failed to make it into the final qualifying session.

Qualifying poorly at Monaco is usually very costly because it is difficult to overtake on the tight street circuit. However, Monaco also tends to have a high attrition rate, which can make or break anyone's weekend in an instant. When 2:00 pm local time rolled around rain was falling on the streets of Monaco which would set the stage for a volatile and unpredictable grand prix. It was the first time the drivers would race Formula 1 cars in the rain without the benefit of traction control.

The treacherous conditions favored Jenson Button who is regarded as one of the best wet weather drivers on the grid. When the race started Button was able to make a few passes and slotted in behind Nick Heidfeld. Anxious to get by, Button made an aggressive move on Heidfeld when the BMW driver went a little bit wide on the exit of a turn. Button stuck his nose in but Heidfeld recovered and slammed the door on Button's nose, breaking his front wing. The front wing damage sent Button back into the pits, and out of a chance to score any points from the rain race. Later in the race while Button was making a bid to get into the top 10 he was shoved into a spin when he was hit from behind by Heikki Kovalainen's McLaren.

Rubens Barrichello on the other hand was able to take his biggest points haul since 2006 with a solid race to 6th place. He made steady progress through the pack by not making any mistakes nor taking any big risks to pass. His drive was much the same as the one he made at the season opener in Australia but this time he was not disqualified. The Brazilian was massively relieved to finally get a great finish after the nightmare of 2007:

"It feels great to be back in the points today and I'm really happy for myself and for the team. We had a good race, however it was unfortunate that I was held up by Trulli for so long early on, otherwise it could have been even better. I'm glad to get the monkey off my back in terms of scoring points as it has been quite a wait, but I never lost the faith. We are capable of good points results and I hope this is the start of a stronger period for us. We just need to keep our heads down and keep pushing forward."

Team principal Ross Brawn thought the weekend was a success despite the disappointment in qualifying and Button's multiple mishaps:

"Today's race was full of incident and attrition with Rubens doing a splendid job to keep clear of all the trouble and drive a very disciplined race into sixth place. Jenson's race had a setback when he collided with Heidfeld towards the end of the first lap, and as the race evolved, there was no opportunity for him to get back into the points despite showing great speed at times. It is satisfying to score points once again and our pace this weekend deserved it.

We had a relatively incident free weekend which is always welcome at Monaco and set the stage for a good performance. Throughout practice we made good progress with the car and were competitive in all conditions. The disappointment was obviously qualifying where neither car made the top ten because of the yellow flags which resulted from Coulthard's accident.

The wet race provided the drama we needed to get a car into the points and we are thankful for that. We now move on to Montreal which is a very different type of racetrack. We will have a new low downforce package and a number of new parts therefore we look forward to improving the car a little further."

Formula 1 Monaco GP Results

1. Lewis Hamilton Britain McLaren-Mercedes
2. Robert Kubica - BMW Sauber
3. Felipe Massa - Ferrari
4. Mark Webber - Red Bull Racing
5. Sebastian Vettel - Scuderia Toro Rosso
6. Rubens Barrichello - Honda
7. Kazuki Nakajima - Williams-Toyota
8. Heikki Kovalainen - McLaren-Mercedes
9. Kimi Raikkonen - Ferrari
10. Fernando Alonso - Renault
11. Jenson Button - Honda
12. Timo Glock - Toyota
13. Jarno Trulli - Toyota
14. Nick Heidfeld - BMW Sauber

With Rubens' 6th place finish Honda F1 has now equaled their points total from the whole of 2007. The team is 9th in the championship but they are only 3 points adrift of Toyota and Renault in 6th and 7th place and 6 points behind Williams and Red Bull in 4th and 5th. If Honda can continue to make progress, a top 5 in the constructor's championship could be the reward at the end of the season.

American Le Mans - Miller Motorsports Park

Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah is the 4th stop in the 2008 American Le Mans championship and was the first opportunity for the Acura LMP2 program to back up their first win of the season. It was also the debut race for Gil de Ferran's new Acura LMP2 team. Gil de Ferran was a two-time CART champion and Indy 500 winner for Honda , and served as Honda F1's sporting director in 2005 and 2006. De Ferran is not only the owner of the new ALMS team, he is also one of the drivers. This race was his first since he retired from the Indy Racing League in 2003.

Although pole position eluded them, qualifying went very well for the Acura ARX-01b's with Gil de Ferran's team missing out by less than a tenth of a second on pole. The Lowe's Fernandez and Patron Highcroft cars filled out 3rd and 4th on the grid, with the Andretti Green car in 8th.

The Acuras did not take the lead at the start but a full course caution a few laps into the race gave them a second chance. On the run to turn 1 after the restart Scott Sharp of Patron Highcroft attempted to pass the lead Dyson Porsche but spun out. To add insult to injury the spinning Highcroft car got hit by the Andretti Green Acura. The impact broke the Highcroft car's left rear suspension and sent the Andretti Green car into a spin. That restart was almost the end of Acura's chances for a good result but in the chaos Luis Diaz went through to take the overall race lead in his Fernandez Lowe's Acura. Diaz held the lead for a portion of the race but eventually had to surrender it to one of the Audi R10's.

Meanwhile, during a trackside race interview Gil De Ferran jokingly told the SPEED Channel reporter that 'his secret weapon was in the car right now'. He was referring to his driver, ALMS newcomer, Simon Pagenaud. The 24 year-old Frenchman did not fail to live up to De Ferran's praise as he set the fastest lap of the race and backed it up with a string of other very fast laps. During his stint he dusted off 3 of the Porsche RS Spyders. Unfortunately his pit strategy did not allow him to stay ahead of the Penske Racing Porsches in the end but his speed was incredibly impressive.

The race at Miller was one Acura easily could have won if not for the collision between two of the cars and some inopportune full course cautions. The Acura ARX-01b's are now faster than the Penske RS Spyders in a straight line and are every bit as fast in the corners, so barring more misfortune the next race at Lime Rock Park in July will be another shot at the overall win.

ALMS Miller Motorsports Park Results (Top 10)

1. Penske Racing #7 - Porsche RS Spyder
2. Penske Racing #6 - Porsche RS Spyder
3. De Ferran Motorsports #66 - Acura ARX-01b
4. Dyson Racing #20 - Porsche RS Spyder
5. Lowe's Fernandez Racing #15 - Acura ARX-01b
6. Dyson Racing #16- Porsche RS Spyder
7. Audi Sport NA #2 - Audi R10 TDI
8. Andretti Green Racing #26 - Acura ARX-01b
9. B-K Motorsports #8 - Lola B07/46-Mazda MZR-R
10. Corvette Racing #3 - Corvette C6.R

Moto GP - French GP

The Moto GP race at Le Mans last season was a dramatic dry-to-wet affair that saw a lot of crashes and several different race leaders. This year rain loomed over the track again as the riders lined up on the grid.

Pedrosa started from pole for the second time this year. In what is becoming a pattern, Dani rocketing off the line to lead the race. But just as it happened in the previous round in China, Valentino Rossi skulked his way to the front and took the race lead away from Dani on the eighth lap. But unlike China, Rossi proceeded to pull out a gap that ballooned to 10 seconds at one point.

It looked like Pedrosa would at least be able to take second place but when rain started to fall in the last third of the race Pedrosa dropped slightly off pace. Seemingly out of nowhere Jorge Lorenzo stormed through to snatch 2nd place. It was a tremendous surprise considering that the Yamaha rider had broken both of his ankles at China and was getting around the paddock in a wheelchair. After the first lap Lorenzo was in tenth place so he had to make up a tremendous amount of ground to get onto the podium.

Third place would have been a decent result for Pedrosa and would have preserved his perfect record of podiums this year, but Tech3 Yamaha's Colin Edwards passed Pedrosa to round out Yamaha's first podium sweep since 2001. Pedrosa's fourth place puts him in a tie for second in the championship with Jorge Lorenzo. Rossi's decisive win could be a ominous sign for the races to come because he hasn't won a race by such a large margin for several years. On the other hand the track was damp and the Bridgestone tires currently hold an advantage over the Michelins in the wet.

Pneumatic Valves at Last!

Former Repsol Honda GP500 rider Tadayuki Okada is being taken out of mothballs to race a 2008 RC212V equipped with Honda's long overdue pneumatic valve engine at Mugello for the Italian Grand Prix. Why isn't one of the regular Repsol Honda riders going to race the bike? Apparently the new Repsol Team Manager Kazuhiko Yamano is in somewhat of a disagreement with the Honda Motor Sports Development group over whether the pneumatic valve engine is ready to race. Yamano-san reputedly wants to be sure the new engine is faster propels the 2008 RC212V around the racetrack before putting it into service.

The high speed Mugello circuit will be a great track to test the high speed potential of the new engine, but it would be unusual for a test rider like Okada-san to finish high in the points. Instead, the story will be told by looking at the speed charts.

Moto GP Le Mans Results

1. Valentino Rossi - Fiat Yamaha
2. Jorge Lorenzo - Fiat Yamaha
3. Colin Edwards - Tech 3 Yamaha
4. Dani Pedrosa - Repsol Honda
5. Chris Vermeulen - Rizla Suzuki
6. Andrea Dovizioso - JiR Team Scot Honda
7. Loris Capirossi - Rizla Suzuki
8. Nicky Hayden - Repsol Honda
9. Randy de Puniet - LCR Honda
10. Shinya Nakano - San Carlo Honda Gresini
11. Toni Elias - Alice Ducati
12. Alex de Angelis - San Carlo Honda Gresini
13. Sylvain Guintoli - Alice Ducati
14. Anthony West - Monster Kawasaki
15. Marco Melandri - Ducati Marlboro
16. Casey Stoner - Ducati Marlboro

AMA Superbike

Infineon Raceway (formerly known as Sears Point) is probably the most technically difficult track on calendar, with little straightaway to speak of and lots of elevation change throughout its 14 turns. The tightness of the track should have favored American Honda's CBR1000RR's but the results did not materialize. Perhaps combination of the extremely technical nature and the relative newness of the bike caught the team out. Neil Hodgson wasn't able to really challenge for the podium in race 1, and race 2 only yielded a one position improvement in results. The bright side is that with his steady results Neil Hodgson is third in points and Miguel Duhamel's results are starting to come back.

From the middling results at Infineon, the American Honda team heads on to Miller Motorsports Park in Utah, where they recorded their last win in 2006. A victory at Miller is probably not in reach this time around but look for the American Honda team to make a strong bid for their first podium of the season.

AMA Superbike Infineon Race 1 Results (Top 10)

1. Ben Spies - Rockstar Makita Suzuki
2. Mat Mladin - Rockstar Makita Suzuki
3. Jamie Hacking - Monster Kawasaki
4. Eric Bostrom - Yamaha USA
5. Aaron Yates - Jordan Suzuki
6. Neil Hodgson - American Honda
7. Jason DiSalvo - Yamaha USA
8. Matt Lynn - Corona Honda
9. Geoff May - Jordan Suzuki
10. Miguel Duhamel - American Honda

AMA Superbike Infineon Race 2 Results (Top 10)

1. Ben Spies - Rockstar Makita Suzuki
2. Mat Mladin - Rockstar Makita Suzuki
3. Jamie Hacking - Monster Kawasaki
4. Aaron Yates - Jordan Suzuki
5. Neil Hodgson - American Honda
6. Eric Bostrom - Yamaha USA
7. Miguel Duhamel - American Honda 8. Geoff May - Jordan Suzuki
9. Chris Peris - Team ESP
10 Ryan Elleby*

British Superbike

The drama for the Donington Park round of the British Superbike championship began not on Saturday during the first practice, but in the previous week while all of the teams were still at their respective HQ's. The British Superbike sanctioning body released a surprise edict that saddled the Ducati 1098R's in the championship with 10 Kg of ballast. The reason for this penalty was that this was the first year of the 1200 cc displacement for V-twin engines. BSB allowed the bike with the proviso that there could be restricitions placed on the bike to equalize its performance.

The Airwaves Ducati team responded that they would be forced to withdraw from the race weekend due to safety concerns. With less than a week to fit the ballast the team was worried about whether they could safely mount the ballast on the bike, and whether it could dangerously affect the handling.

In the end the BSB rules makers relented and postponed the penalty until after the race weekend.

BSB Donington Race 1

Championship leader Shakey Byrne wasted no time in capitalizing on the reprieve and took the top spot in qualifying. At the start it was James Ellison on his privateer Hydrex Bike Animal Honda who took the lead. Ellison was visible impressive as he slid the rear tire into the corners, not unlike Nicky Hayden in his AMA Superbike days. It was not to last however as Byrne slipped by to take the lead. Cal Crutchlow got ahead of Byrne for a few corners couldn't keep the position. The rest of the race was a tussle between positions 2 through 5, with Leon Haslam eventually emerging as the race runner up. But Haslam wasn't able to challenge Byrne to stop him from taking his fifth win of the season.

BSB Donington Park Race 1 Results (Top 10)

1. Shane Byrne - Airwaves Ducati
2. Leon Haslam - HM Plant Honda
3. Tom Sykes - Rizla Suzuki
4. James Ellison - Hydrex Bike Animal Honda
5. Leon Camier - Airwaves Ducati
6. Cal Crutchlow - HM Plant Honda
7. Karl Harris - Team Yamaha
8. Michael Rutter - NorthWest 200 Ducati
9. Michael Laverty - Relentess Suzuki by TAS
10. Simon Andrews - Jentin Racing Yamaha

BSB Donington Race 2

In race 2 Leon Haslam bolted out to lead a Honda 1-2-3 with Cal Crutchlow and James Ellison in tow. Both Airwaves Ducatis looked as if they were not going to be a factor as they loped around 4th and 5th place for much of the race. But, as the laps wound down Shakey Byrne's Ducati steadily got faster as his choice of a hard rear tire began to pay dividends. With three laps to go he squeezed by Leon Haslam for first place. Haslam gave chase but couldn't get close enough to mount a counter attack.

Getting beat out in both races by Shakey Byrne must have been a bitter pill to swallow for Haslam who helps run a race school at Donington with his father former GP rider 'Rocket' Ron Haslam. The irony is that Leon took the double win at Donington last year on the Airwaves Ducati that Shakey Byrne is now riding.

While both HM Plant Honda riders have shown the speed to win races Shakey Byrne has managed to collect 6 race wins and now holds a 68 point lead over Cal Crutchlow. It is a large lead to surmount but there are 16 races left in the season and a momentum shift can put the Hondas right back in contention.

BSB Donington Park Race 2 Results (Top 10)

1. Shane Byrne - Airwaves Ducati
2. Leon Haslam - HM Plant Honda
3. Cal Crutchlow - HM Plant Honda
4. Leon Camier - Airwaves Ducati
5. James Ellison - Hydrex Bike Animal Honda
6. Tom Sykes - Rizla Suzuki
7. Karl Harris - Team Yamaha
8. Michael Rutter - NorthWest 200 Ducati
9. Simon Andrews - Jentin Racing/Lloyds British Yamaha
10. Gary Mason - Quay Garage Honda

Honda Racing Master Chart

Below is a chart of all the top performers across many of Honda's road racing efforts. In the future, charts, graphs, and statistics will regularly appear in TOV-RR's.

Honda Racing on TV

Sunday, June 1

2:00PM ET FIM World Superbike - Miller Motorsports Park - Race 1 (SPEED)
3:00PM ET AMA Supersport - Miller Motorsports Park (SPEED)
4:00PM ET AMA Superbike - Miller Motorsports Park - Race 2 (SPEED)
5:30PM ET FIM World Superbike - Miller Motorsports Park - Race 2 (SPEED)
10:00PM ET Moto GP - Italian Grand Prix (SPEED)

Tuesday, June 3

12:00PM ET AMA Formula Xtreme - Miller Motorsports Park (SPEED)
1:00PM ET Moto GP (250cc) - Italian Grand Prix (SPEED)

Wednesday, June 4

12:00PM ET SPEED Touring Car Championship - Lime Rock Park (SPEED)

Friday, June 5

2:00PM ET Formula One Practice - Canadian Grand Prix (SPEED)

Saturday, June 6

1:00PM ET Formula One Qualifying - Canadian Grand Prix (SPEED)

Sunday, June 7

1:00PM ET Formula One - Canadian Grand Prix (Fox)
3:00PM ET Moto GP - Catalunya Grand Prix (SPEED)
4:00PM ET AMA Superbike - Road America Race 1 (SPEED)
5:00PM ET AMA Superbike - Road America Race 2 (SPEED)

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