After a rain-hit Mediterranean jaunt through Italy and Spain the Fiat Yamaha Team start a Northern-European triple-header this weekend, hoping that the British Grand Prix can be the unlikely purveyor of summer to the MotoGP World Championship paddock. Despite dry races at Mugello and Barcelona, mixed conditions during practice certainly haven’t helped with machine set-up and were a contributing factor to a series of crashes for Jorge Lorenzo that ultimately led to him missing the last race in Catalunya.
Thankfully Lorenzo is fit to return for a crucial run of three races in four weekends in England, Holland and Germany, followed immediately by his first ever race in the USA. The youngster has benefited from a week of complete rest since being ruled out of his home race with concussion, although he will ride at Donington Park through the discomfort of a f resh skin graft to the fourth and fifth fingers of his right hand. He will wear a special silk glove underneath a larger racing glove this weekend and will require treatment after each practice session. This weekend the Mallorcan and his crew will be focusing on recovery and regaining confidence, rather than results, although Lorenzo has had success at the Leicestershire circuit in the past, having won from pole position in the 250cc class in 2006.
His team-mate Valentino Rossi is the most successful Grand Prix rider ever at Donington, having won there on no fewer than seven occasions in all classes – including his first ever 500cc win back in 2000. This year the 29-year-old arrives on top form, on top of the World Championship and expecting the usual fanatical level of home support despite recently moving from London back to his native Italy. Rossi lived in the English capital from 1999 to last year and built up an army of local fans, but hasn’t had the opp o rtunity to celebrate with them since 2005 – a situation he will aim to remedy on Sunday as he defends a seven-point series lead from Dani Pedrosa.
Donington Park sits inside an amphitheatre style setting, with the spectators banked on the grass verges that surround the track. The prevalent off-camber nature of the circuit is one of the main factors at play, with a large tendency for the front tyre to push, making the right, left, right flick down the Craner Curve a critical but rewarding section of track. The stop-and-go nature of the final section, which features three hard braking zones, means the bike also has to be good under braking and makes set-up a quest for compromise between agility and stability.
“A FANTASTIC TRACK”
“Without doubt, Donington is one of my favourite race tracks in the world and I have some fantastic memories of it, including of course my first 500cc win in 2000, when I had a fantastic battle with Jeremy McWilliams and Kenny Roberts. It’s a track that has everything; it’s fast and flowing but also technical, although like most people I’m not so keen on the last section! Racing in the UK is also very special for me because for a long time I lived there and, even though now I live in Italy again, I would still like to think of it as a second home and I hope the fans will give me as much support as they always do. I was very disappointed to miss the podium last year because the Donington podium is something special, so I will be aiming to get back on it this year!”
The following is from Repsol Honda…
The Repsol Honda Team heads north for the British Grand Prix on June 22 after two southern European MotoGP events in Italy and Spain. Riders Dani Pedrosa and Nicky Hayden are both looking forward to the British round after a profitable weekend at the Catalan Grand Prix.
Pedrosa won the race at Catalunya in storming style to close to within seven points of the World Championship lead. Hayden had a tougher race but during post-race tests the American was able to try out Honda’s pneumatic-valve RC212V engine and came away impressed, though intermittent rain prevented the team from completing the full testing schedule. Hayden may use the engine at Donington Park, so long as HRC engineers are satisfied they obtained enough data from the tests to allow them to further fine-tune the electronics.
Pedrosa will continue with the conventional spring-valve engine at Donington. The Spaniard suffered a heavy fall on the first day of the tests and was thus unable to fully acquaint himself with the pneumatic-valve engine.
Pedrosa has already enjoyed success at Donington. He won the 2006 MotoGP race and the 2004 British 250 GP at the track. Hayden’s best result is a fourth-place finish in 2004, just over a second shy of the podium. Donington Park is one of Britain’s oldest race circuits. The first event was staged over a gravel course around the estate of the Donington Park stately home in 1931. The track was closed down during World War Two and only reopened in the late 1970s. Donington has two very contrasting sections. The first, from Redgate to Coppice, is fast and flowing. The second, from Foggy’s Esses to the final Goddard’s Hairpin (added in 1986), is tight and slow. These two sections require larger-than-usual compromises in machine set-up.
“Winning in Catalunya was great but there are still many races to go, we have to keep pushing. I crashed on the day after the race, hurting my back and shoulders, but I will be okay for the next race. Donington is quite a strange circuit, quite smooth but not so grippy, and it often rains there. My favourite part of the track is the uphill section all the way to Coppice. I don’t like the last part, it’s very slow and tight. You need a set-up similar to Le Mans, so the bike accelerates hard and brakes well too. You also need as much grip as you can get because the surface is quite slippery. The two different parts of the circuit require different riding styles: the first requires a smooth style, the second a very aggressive style. The atmosphere at Donington is different, not as Latin as the last two races. The crowd seems to be much more enthusiastic about motorcycling in general rather than just supporting individual riders.”
“I’m quite excited about Donington. I hope I’ll be able to use the pneumatic-valve engine but we’ll see what the decision is, we’ll go with what the team says. Going into a race weekend with new parts is never easy, so if we use the engine we’ll just try to learn as the weekend goes on and get it dialled in. The weather can be a big issue at Donington – it can do anything. The track itself is almost like two tracks. The first bit is awesome – you’ve got to be brave through Craner, you need some guts, because it’s pretty exciting down through there, I quite like it if the bike is working good. The last bit of the track is a lot of hard braking. No matter how good you hit the first part of the track, if you can’t get through the two little hairpins at the end of the lap it kills your lap times. The two sections are completely different so it’s a compromise with the set-up. What works through the first part can be a bit different to what works through the last part, so it’s not an easy track for the suspension guys and the chassis guys.”
The following is from Kawasaki…
Kawasaki’s John Hopkins and Anthony West head across the English Channel for this weekend’s British Grand Prix at Donington Park in confident mood, following successful test sessions aboard their Ninja ZX-RR machines in Spain and Japan.
For Anglo-American Hopkins, the British Grand Prix is like a second home race, and the 25-year-old Kawasaki pilot heads for Donington determined to put on a virtuoso performance in front of the enthusiastic British crowd. Hopkins is recovering well from the fractured vertebrae he sustained in a practice crash last time out in Catalunya. Although the injury is still causing him some discomfort, he remains confident that he’ll be able to secure a strong result this weekend in front of his family, many of whom have made the trip over from California for the British Grand Prix.
Anthony West made his competitive MotoGP debut with the Kawasaki Racing Team in a wet race at Donington Park last season, and the 26-year-old Australian is looking forward to making his return to the United Kingdom this weekend.
Catalunya proved something of a turning point for West this season, and following a positive testing trip to Japan after the last race, the Kawasaki pilot arrives at Donington determined to battle his way back into the top ten. The Donington Park circuit is one that punishes mistakes. The fast and flowing nature of the first part of the track, where all the corners run together, means that it’s difficult to make up the time lost to a mistake, as the wrong line through one corner invariably upsets a rider’s rhythm through the next series of turns. Accuracy and consistency are both key to a good result in the British Grand Prix.
Kawasaki MotoGP Pilot #21
“Following the Catalunya race we had a one day test where I rode as many laps as I could with the back injury I sustained in practice. This brought a few positive results before I headed over to England where I’ve spent time visiting family and friends with Ashleigh. In the lead up to the last two races I had been training very hard so thankfully I haven’t lost any fitness, which is always a problem when carrying injuries, and I’ve had the chance to rest to help the healing process. I’m still very stiff and sore, but Donington Park is like a home away from home, and it’s a track I definitely enjoy. For me the British Grand Prix is one of the biggest races of the season, with many members of my family coming to support me, and regardless of my injury I’ll be looking to gain a strong result aboard the Kawasaki.”
Kawasaki MotoGP Pilot #13
“After Catalunya I flew to Japan to complete two days intensive testing. Unfortunately the first day was rained off, but we managed to get quite a few laps in on day two and the results were positive. We focussed particularly on changing the engine settings to improve the overall handling of the machine and we found a set-up direction that’s very different from what I’m used to. The bike felt really good, but the track had a lot more grip in comparison to those we race on in MotoGP, so the real test for the changes we’ve made will be this weekend at Donington Park. Last year we gained a strong result during my first outing on the Ninja ZX-RR and I hope that with the work we’ve done in the last week, we can be back where we belong in the top ten.”