Czech MotoGP Preview: UPDATED

Press Release | August 11, 2008

The following is from Yamaha… The Fiat Yamaha Team resume their pursuit of the MotoGP World Championship title this weekend after a four-week summer holiday, with Valentino Rossi leading the series into what promises to be a thrilling seven-race climax. The Czech Republic hosts round twelve of eighteen, with the town of Brno staging a Grand Prix for the 39th time since the original 14km road circuit was first used back in 1965. Rossi heads to the motorcycling heartlands of eastern Europe with renewed energy and ready to resume battle at one of his most successful circuits, following a stunning maiden win at Laguna Seca before the break. The 29-year-old took his first ever Grand Prix win at Brno in the 125cc class and has since added to his tally there with a 250cc success and three wins in MotoGP, as well as three second places in the top class. His success in America, which came after a t hrilling tussle with Casey Stoner, means the Italian leads the Australian by 25 points at the top of the standings. Jorge Lorenzo was also in need of a rest after picking up the latest in a string of injuries at Laguna, where a first lap crash left him nursing three broken metatarsals in his left foot. However, intense physiotherapy during the well-timed summer break sees him nearing full fitness as he returns to action at a circuit where he has taken 250cc victory from pole position for the last two seasons, in addition to a 125cc win back in 2004. Whilst the riders have taken a well-earned rest, engineers at Yamaha’s factory headquarters in Japan have been working around the clock over the summer towards this weekend’s race, as well as for the two-day test that will take place afterwards. The well-balanced nature of the Brno circuit make it an ideal testing venue, with its winding chicanes and dramatic elevation changes retaining much of t h e character of the original road circuit, which wanders its way through the surrounding forests. “LOOKING FORWARD TO MORE RACING” Valentino Rossi “Last year we had a bad time at Brno; I could only finish seventh and it was quite disheartening. This year, however, we’re going there in a very different frame of mind: leading the championship, following a great win and with our bike and tyres working very well. I’ve had a good summer break, just relaxing with my friends and family, but now I am really looking forward to going racing again. I know that Brno is going to be hard and that Casey will be a formidable competitor once again, and we’re going to have to work at the maximum from the first practice in order not to lose any time in finding out the right set-up for our bike. We have seven races left and I am dreaming of them all being as fun as Laguna Seca!” “HIGH HOPES” Jorge Lorenzo “I am going to Brno with a high hopes and above all trying not to think about the disappointment of Laguna Seca; it’s behind me now. In the USA I was fast once again and I hope that I can carry on like this in the Czech Republic. I know that I can. Brno is a circuit that I like a lot, it’s one of my favourites. I’ve won there three times in 125cc and 250cc. It’s a good place for my riding style and the weather is normally perfect. Physically I feel very good after the crash and the injuries, I definitely feel as good as could be expected. It’s the first time this season that I’ve really had proper time to recover, thanks to the holidays, so I think I am in good shape. At the moment I am still using my crutches to walk but I have been able to do some training and I know that I won’t have a pro blem when I arrive in Brno on Thursday.” The following is from Kawasaki… KAWASAKI BACK ON TRACK AT BRNO After almost seven weeks away from the racetrack, John Hopkins will make his racing return aboard Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-RR at this weekend’s Czech Republic Grand Prix at Brno. The 25-year-old Anglo-American was forced to sit out the last three races, including his home Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, as a result of fractures to his left leg sustained in a high-speed qualifying crash ahead of the Dutch TT at Assen almost seven weeks ago. Hopkins has been working hard over the past month, embarking on a punishing rehabilitation and training schedule as soon as he was able to walk on his injured leg, in order to ensure he is back to full fitness for his return to racing in the Czech Republic. Kawasaki teammate, Anthony West, has also used the three-week summer break to work on his fitness back home on Australia’s Gold Coast, but he’s also used the time away from the pressures of the racetrack to regroup after a difficult first half of the season. The 27-year-old Australian has put the disappointment of earlier races behind him and he heads back to Europe determined to kick-start the second half of the season with a strong performance aboard his Kawasaki Ninja ZX-RR at Brno. But while Kawasaki’s MotoGP pilots have both enjoyed time away from the racetrack during the annual summer break, the same is not true of Kawasaki’s race engineers in Japan. Kawasaki’s race department have worked through the break to continue the development of an evolution version of the Ninja ZX-RR engine that both Hopkins and West will ride for the first time at Brno. John Hopkins Kawasaki MotoGP Pilot #21 “I’m feeling pretty good now, and I’m anxious to get back on track. I’ve now got full movement back in the injured knee and it’s been fine during my training regime up to now. I don’t think it’s going to cause me any problems on the bike, but it’s been almost seven weeks since I’ve thrown a leg over the Ninja ZX-RR, so I won’t know for sure until we start free practice on Friday. Brno is a track I like a lot, and I believe it’s the MotoGP track I’ve ridden most frequently in my career, which means I know the place like the back of my hand. Also, our Bridgestone tyres work well at this track, and this combined with the new parts that Kawasaki are bringing to the Czech Grand Prix means we’ve got some positive things to work with. Even though the rehab at home with family and friends has been enjoyable, I am really looking forward to seeing the team, getting back on the bike and finding again the total mental focus necessary for the best possible result this weekend.” Anthony West Kawasaki MotoGP Pilot #13 “After a difficult first half of the season, it’s been good to have the chance to get home to the family in Australia and just kick back for a bit. The schedule during the first half of the year has been hectic and it’s been difficult to step back and assess where we’re at with the bike and to look objectively at some of the problems we’ve been having. This time away from the pressures of the racetrack has been pretty short, but it has allowed me to think things through and the conclusion is that the results during the first half of the year are well below what I’m capable of. I know that I can finish higher up the order on the Ninja ZX-RR, and we’ve seen this a couple of times already, but I need to be finishing in the top ten more consistently during the second half of the season. The break has been an ideal opportunity to recharge the batteries, and I’m heading back to Europe determined to finish the second part of the season with better results, starting this weekend in Brno.” The following is from Repsol Honda… Repsol Honda RC212V riders Dani Pedrosa and Nicky Hayden roar back into action at Brno following MotoGP’s traditional three-weekend summer break. The Czech Grand Prix commences the crucial second part of the MotoGP season, with just seven of 18 races remaining, three in Europe and four outside Europe. The sport’s 25 day recess between the US and Czech GPs is no real holiday for the riders – Pedrosa, Hayden and their rivals have all been working through much of the break. Pedrosa has been recuperating from the fractured left wrist and fractured left index finger he suffered at last month’s German GP which prevented him from competing in the US GP. Hayden meanwhile has been training back home in Kentucky, USA, working to keep in prime physical condition. The 2006 MotoGP champ also took part in the Supermoto event at the X Games in Los Angeles. Hayden hurt his right heel when he made a heavy landing during practice for the event on Friday August 1 but is hopeful the injury won’t prevent him from riding at Brno. Further details will be released as soon as they are available. Brno has been part of the World Championship calendar since the mid 1960s, when the nation’s grand prix was staged around a 10.92km/6.785 mile street circuit on the outskirts of the city. Mike Hailwood won the 1966 and 1967 500 GPs there on his Honda RC181 four, but eventually the circuit was deemed too dangerous and hosted its last premier-class GP in 1977. It took a decade before the current Brno circuit was completed. Honda has enjoyed great success at this fast, undulating circuit which features many tricky downhill corners that require a perfect chassis set-up. Wayne Gardner, Mick Doohan, Tadayuki Okada, Valentino Rossi and Sete Gibernau have all won races with Honda at the modern Brno venue. The Repsol Honda Team will remain at Brno for crucial post-race tests, during which Pedrosa is likely to try the pneumatic-valve RC212V engine that Hayden been using since June’s British GP. Dani Pedrosa “The holiday period gave me a good chance to relax and recover, so I hope I will be fine for Brno. When I returned from Laguna Seca my doctor told me I needed a week and a half of complete rest. I couldn’t train so I spent an enjoyable few days in Mallorca, disconnecting from everything and resting both my hand and foot. I had the stitches removed from my hand in Barcelona and then I started rehabilitation. The hand still hurts but the wrist has good mobility and the fingers are no longer swollen. The foot is still taped, just to avoid rough movements. I started training last week, mostly on my bicycle. I hope I can have a good race at Brno to start the second part of the championship in the best possible way. Brno is a good circuit, with some interesting uphill and downhill sections, very much in the style of the classic circuits. The track is medium speed to very high speed with some good corners and fast straights. It’s the kind of circuit that demands a gentle, fine riding style, you don’t need to be aggressive when taking the corners. It has just been resurfaced, so we will have to wait and see what the grip is like. The atmosphere is always great, with a big and enthusiastic crowd on race day. Getting the set-up right for this track is always a delicate operation, aiming to get the best compromise between cornering ability and braking stability.” Nicky Hayden “Hopefully I’ll be fit for Brno. I didn’t crash, I just landed wrong. I’m not sure if my foot came off the ‘peg or what, but it feels pretty fragile. I’m pretty bummed out about it because I want to get out there and finish this season strong. Also, I can’t wait to try out the new surface at Brno. The last couple of years the surface has gotten quite old, not really bumpy but just so abrasive and cracked, so I think with a brand new surface the track is going to be awesome. I heard they didn’t just reseal it, or just put something on top, they did it the right way and started over. That’s going to be crucial for tyre wear, so we’ll probably have a bigger range of tyres than we normally do, both front and rear, to make sure we’ve got something. Brno is quite fast and open. It’ll be the first time we’ve taken this new bike – with the pneumatic valves – to any place where we can really stretch its legs and see what she’s really got. Brno’s got a little bit of everything, it’s not the kind of track where you can just set up the bike for just one thing. Good traction is certainly important to get off those corners good because there’s a few big straightaways, especially the uphill run to the final left and right. You also need something that’s stable on the brakes, because there’s a lot of hard braking.” The following is from Honda… The Repsol Honda Team will be without the services of Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC212V) this weekend after the American former World Champion injured his foot riding for fun in the Los Angeles X Games last weekend. On a more encouraging note, Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) has recovered from injuries sustained at the German Grand Prix. This is an unwelcome hiccup for the squad as Hayden was spearheading development of the latest pneumatic-valve RCV engine and progress was encouraging. Dani is scheduled to test the new power-plant here at Brno on Monday after the Grand Prix. Hayden has damaged his right heel. The Kentucky Kid sustained the injury landing off a jump while riding a Supermoto specification Honda CR450. He didn’t crash – but he did enough damage to his foot to make riding this weekend a step too far too soon. Dani, however, has emerged refreshed from the summer break having enjoyed complete rest and a then a gentle reintroduction to training. This recent regime has revitalised the Spanish ace and Brno offers him a good chance to gradually lever himself back into the title hunt. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) heads the points table after twelve of 18 rounds. The Italian has amassed 212, second-placed Casey Stoner (Ducati) has 187 and Dani lies third with 171 after missing one of this season’s American rounds at Laguna Seca in July. With seven rounds to go the 41-point gap between Rossi and Dani is substantial, but greater points lead than this have been squandered as riders have either succumbed to pressure, or watched helplessly as luck deserted them in the final, crucial races. Dani will be chasing hard and, with the best efforts of his fellow Honda riders sure to relieve both Stoner and Rossi of points at races to come, his 2008 World Championship chase is by no means as long a shot as his rivals might like to imagine. Consistency from now until the final round is key and it is no surprise that neither Rossi nor Stoner has failed to finish a race so far. The only other rider to boast this record is this season is Shinya Nakano (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V). Dani has dropped points at two rounds and it is by no means inconceivable that the same might yet happen to Rossi and Stoner. Andrea Dovizioso (JiR Scot Honda RC212V) has much to be proud of in his rookie season. He lies fifth overall ahead of such seasoned campaigners as Colin Edwards (Yamaha), Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) and even Nicky Hayden. It has been one of the more remarkable 2008 debuts. Following a disappointing mid-season run of results Frenchman Randy De Puniet (LCR Honda RC212V) has shown his true mettle in the last two races and aims to continue in the same vein at Brno, where he won the 250cc Grand Prix in 2003. Randy finished eighth in Germany before racing to his best result of the season at the US GP, a superb sixth place, scored in extremely difficult circumstances, has reinforced his confidence for the second half of the season. Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) spent the summer break recovering from injuries sustained at Laguna Seca. The San Marinese’s fractured thumb and badly bruised back have now healed giving him every chance of repeating the fourth place successes recorded in Italy and Germany earlier this season. His team-mate Nakano has now been entrusted with the satellite team development RC212V from this race on and the evergreen Nakano’s considerable skills will be vital in ensuring the factory gets dependable feedback on the undoubted potential of this machine. HRC and Gresini Honda have strong links where machine development is concerned and Nakano and his technicians will concentrate on chassis work for the 2009 RC212V. Brno is a track where no rider can afford to make a mistake at this stage of the season. This imposing circuit lies 200km south-east of Prague and the area is steeped in the rich history of Grand Prix racing. Races were run on a fearsome closed roads course before the dedicated circuit was built in 1987. The 5.403km track is a spectacular environment for motorcycle racing and its plunging turns and a power-sapping climb demand a maximum from riders and machines. The track drops 74m from its highest to its lowest point and this gradient is felt chiefly by way of downhill corner entries that make huge demands on the front tyre. Some of these tricky entries are compounded by negative camber that further increases the need for dependable front-end grip. And from turn four to turn 11 – it’s all downhill. There are fast chicanes requiring a chassis set up for rapid changes of direction. Precise steering is a must here even though the track is exceptionally wide at 15m. Without accurate turn-in at the high, sustained speeds achieved here, not even this super-wide circuit can accommodate wayward exits resulting from inaccurate turn-in. The track has been fully resurfaced for 2008, and not just in sections or even patches. The entire circuit now represents an unknown quantity for all riders and teams and instant appraisal of the tyre requirements this weekend will be paramount. The Czechs love their motorcycle racing and tens of thousands flock to Brno where the viewing facilities are excellent. The event won’t quite attract the crowds of 250,000 who used to watch in the 1970s, but Brno, like the best tracks, always has a charged atmosphere. Dani said: “The hand still hurts but the wrist has good mobility and the fingers are no longer swollen. The foot is still taped, just to avoid rough movements. I started training last week, mostly on my bicycle. I hope I can have a good race at Brno to start the second part of the Championship in the best possible way. Brno is a good circuit, with some interesting uphill and downhill sections, very much in the style of the classic circuits. The atmosphere is always great, with a big and enthusiastic crowd on race day. Getting the set-up right for this track is always a delicate operation, aiming to get the best compromise between cornering ability and braking stability.” Nicky said: “My doctor and other specialists say that if I rode this week I might have to fight the injury for the rest of the year. As hard a decision as it is, and as bad as I feel about it, I think I’m better off staying home doing rehab and physio, then come back fit at Misano and try to finish the season strong. There’s been a lot of guys this year trying to ride less than a hundred per cent and actually making their problems worse. I certainly feel bad about it for my team and I apologise. I had the permission of HRC to do the Supermoto thing. I just wanted to do some riding during the break, have some fun and I thought that maybe it’d give me a little spark for the rest of the season, but it backfired on me.” Dovi said: “This year on the Brno circuit we will have another unknown factor as the Tarmac on the circuit has been re-laid so we will have to see how it affects the degradation of our tyres. It is a technical circuit with a wide variety of curves and turns: the circuit is challenging to go fast on but it’s enjoyable. Over the past two years, with the 250cc machine, I’ve got two second places but with the MotoGP bike it is difficult to make a prediction. I enjoy the track, but it is not one of my favourites.” Nakano said: “My crew and myself have been given a great challenge this weekend, taking a completely new bike to the track. At the start of the season you have all the time you need to set a bike up and adapt it to your riding style whereas now we’ll have to do it against the clock. From the first free practice we’ll have to work flat-out and hope the weather is on our side because we’ll need all four sessions to fully understand the bike. In any case, the chance to ride it at Brno makes me optimistic. On paper the new bike is more powerful than the one we’ve been using so far, which is an important factor at this track.” Alex de Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) said: “Brno is a track I like a lot because it’s so varied, with some fast and winding sections. I stayed at home over the break, training hard to get over the various problems I picked up in the race at Laguna Seca, paying particular attention to the fractured left thumb and sore back. I don’t think they’ll cause me any problems at Brno and I’ll be 100% fit. I’m not worried about the new surface because I’m sure Bridgestone will have worked hard to find the right solution for the tyres.” Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda RC212V) said: “Brno is one of my favourites and in 2003 I won the 250 race. After the race in Laguna I feel very confident for the rest of the season. I think we found the right set-up to develop the bike on each racetrack. The good place we gained in the US gave us more incentives to be more competitive. in the last weeks I enojoyed my vacation but I also trained a lot to be physically fit for the heat at Brno and at Misano. After the race we will also have two days of testing.” The following is from Suzuki… Rizla Suzuki MotoGP travels to Eastern Europe next weekend fully refreshed from the mid-season break and with all the team ready to attack the second half of the season with confidence. Chris Vermeulen heads to the 5,403m Brno circuit in the Czech Republic as very much one of the in-form riders in the MotoGP paddock. Vermeulen went into the break with back-to-back podiums in Germany and America and will be giving his all to get a hat-trick at a circuit where he performed well last year. Vermeulen finished fifth at Brno in 2007 following a race-long battle for that position with present team-mate Loris Capirossi and current World Championship leader Valentino Rossi. Capirossi will equal the record for racing at Grand Prix events – currently held by Alex Barros – when he starts Sunday’s race. It will be his 276th start since his debut in 1990. The vastly experienced Italian has an incredible record at the Brno circuit during his career with five podiums, including a win in 2006 and 10 front-row starts including three pole positions. Capirossi has only finished a race at Brno outside the top-six on one occasion from his 17 races there, and is currently the lap-record holder. Although he is still feeling the after-effects of the injury he sustained at Assen in June, he is 100% focussed and prepared to give it all he has got next weekend to add to the impressive results he has already achieved at Brno. Brno is situated in the south-east of the Czech Republic, in close proximity to Austria, Hungary and Poland, and it is this location that enables Brno to be one of the best attended races of the season. Up to – and possibly in excess of – a quarter-of-a-million fans are expected to pass through the gates over the weekend and if recent races there are anything to go by they will be treated to a great spectacle. Rizla Suzuki MotoGP takes to the track on Friday 15th August for the first two free practice sessions, with another hour of practice on the following morning. Saturday afternoon will see the all-important qualifying session where grid places will be decided for Sunday’s 22-lap race. Round 12 of the 2008 MotoGP World Championship gets underway at 14.00hrs local time (12.00hrs GMT) on Sunday 17th August. Chris Vermeulen: “I have had a good break and am now ready to get back into the saddle and start riding again. We finished the first-half of the season with good rewards from our efforts and I am sure we can continue that momentum at Brno. I got a good result there last year after a hard battle with Loris, and the Suzuki GSV-R was on the podium as well with John on board, so it all looks good for a strong performance from the whole garage. We also have a test after the race when we have a new bike featuring chassis and engine developments, we have a lot of confidence and high hopes for the changes, and I’m looking forward to see how all our thoughts and ideas will translate on the track, but the main thing is the race and I am fully focused on keeping my podium run going!” Loris Capirossi: “Brno has been a successful track for me and one I really like to race at. I won there in 2006 and would really like to do that again. I think the GSV-R will be well suited to the track and we will be very competitive there. My arm is still very sore and it is not 100% perfect, but it is getting stronger every day and I really hope that it will not trouble me too much during the weekend. I didn’t know I was that close to equalling the record of racing at GP events! I think there are a few guys from the old days that might have done more races, as they used to race two or three different bikes at every meeting, but it is a great achievement for me to have raced at as many as anyone else. My next target will be to make 300 – but the only important thing to me is that I am competitive and fighting with the best guys!”

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