The Fiat Yamaha Team contest their second ‘home’ race of the season this weekend, with the San Marino Grand Prix taking place on Italian soil at the Misano circuit on the Adriatic coast. The trip is a short one for the team, whose base is just 300km away in Milan, but even shorter for Valentino Rossi, with his hometown of Tavullia located a mere 15km down the road.
The multi-World Champion heads to the thirteenth round of the current MotoGP series with his sights firmly set on a sixth premier-class title after extending his advantage over Casey Stoner to 50 points in the last round at Brno. Having missed out on the title for the past two seasons following a five-year winning streak, Rossi’s improvement is outlined by the fact that a fifth-place finish this Sunday will see him outscore his tally for either of those campaigns.
The 29 -year-old’s army of local supporters are sure to be in party mood at the lively seaside resort as he looks to make up for the disappointment of a mechanical breakdown in this race last year and score three consecutive wins for the second time this season. Also within Rossi’s range is the all-time record for premier-class victories, set at 68 by Giacomo Agostini back in 1976.
Jorge Lorenzo continues his Grand Prix education at full fitness after a troublesome period of injury and tyre woes. The rookie from Mallorca won the 250cc race at Misano last year after having qualified on pole and he will be looking to support Rossi in the quest to improve on Yamaha’s total of 283 points in last year’s Constructors’ World Championship, which will be secured if any of the factory’s riders finish in the top two.
“OUT TO MAKE UP FOR LAST YEAR”
“I’m really excited to be going to Misano in such good shape and leading the championship. Last year the race was a huge disappointment for us, a very low point of the season and especially sad because it happened in front of my home fans. But this time things are very different; we’ve had two fantastic races in a row and we are feeling very strong and very confident. We are out to make up for 2007! Misano is so close to my home town of Tavullia that I know there will be an army of Italian fans there, and I hope it’s going to be a great party for all of them. Last year there was some terrible weather before the race as well so I really hope that this year we have sunshine and we can enjoy a fantastic race by the sea!”
“After the disaster of Brno I’m going to Misano with the belief and the will that everything goes much better and that we’re able to score a positive result in my team’s second home Grand Prix. I’m riding well at the moment and in the post-race test in the Czech Republic we were able to shave off a few tenths that will be vital for the next GP. Misano is a small track for MotoGP but it is safe. Last year I won in 250cc so my only memories of it are good ones!”
The following is from Kawasaki…
Kawasaki’s Anthony West and John Hopkins head for the Republic of San Marino and the Misano circuit for round 13 of the MotoGP World Championship in confident mood, after improvements to the Ninja ZX-RR led to a strong showing by both riders last time out at Brno.
Anthony West secured a career best finish with fifth place in the Czech Republic Grand Prix, and after making further steps forward with the set-up of his Ninja ZX-RR during the post race test at the Brno circuit, the 27-year-old Kawasaki pilot heads for Misano determined to continue his run of form into this weekend’s Grand Prix Di San Marino E Della Riviera Di Rimini.
Although not one of his favourite circuits, the Misano track has proved a happy hunting ground for West in the past. In 2007 the Australian took victory in the first World Supersport race at the revamped circuit, before joining the Kawasaki Racing Team and returning to the Republic of San Marino to take a hard fought eighth place finish in last year’s MotoGP race. West returns to Misano this year determined to finish top ten once again.
John Hopkins looked like a likely candidate for a podium finish after qualifying on the front row and then making a strong start in the Czech Republic Grand Prix less than one week ago. Unfortunately for the Anglo-American, a gamble on tyres didn’t pay off and, after running at the front up to the halfway point, Hopkins was forced to drop back to finish 11th at the flag after struggling with rear traction.
The 25-year-old Kawasaki pilot sat out the two-day, post race test at Brno due to a minor, but painful, rib injury sustained in a practice crash. Now fully fit once again, Hopkins is confident that the upgrades to his Ninja ZX-RR made ahead of the Brno race will give him the competitive package he needs to fight for his, so far elusive, first podium finish for Kawasaki this weekend in San Marino.
The Misano circuit features many fast-flowing sections along with slower combinations that test machine and rider skill to the maximum. The track is incredibly bumpy in places, and with the sometimes stifling heat of the Adriatic coast, a good tyre choice for durability throughout the race will be an essential factor. The MotoGP weekend always has an electric atmosphere, generated by the passionate Italian fans that venture to see the racing action in their thousands.
Kawasaki MotoGP Pilot #13
“I am looking forward to going to Misano following my best ever result in MotoGP last time out at Brno. We had a positive post-race test there, and we managed to make further improvements to the bike, which has certainly made it easier to ride. I hope that we can continue with our development this weekend because I am determined for us to be fighting for more strong results in the dry. I have spent the last few days in Italy, where I’ve been out cycling, so I feel relaxed and ready to take on the challenge. There’s a good atmosphere at this circuit, but after last year’s washout on the opening practice day, the weather could play a really big part in proceedings.”
Kawasaki MotoGP Pilot #21
“We had a positive weekend in Brno following my return to the track after a long absence through injury and we managed to put the Kawasaki on the front row. Although I didn’t quite achieve the result we were hoping for, Anthony got into the top five, which just shows that the Kawasaki is improving all of the time and is capable of gaining good results. I really enjoy the Misano circuit, I managed to get on the podium there last year so it’s certainly a track I like. I’ve spent the last week in Miami resting and training just to give the injuries that I am still carrying the best possible time to recuperate, so I’m feeling stronger and ready to achieve the results we are more than capable of.”
The following is from Honda…
The Repsol Honda Team will be back to full strength for the San Marino Grand Prix, with Nicky Hayden coming back from injury to rejoin team-mate Dani Pedrosa.
Hayden missed the recent Czech GP due to a foot injury sustained during an X Games Supermoto event in Los Angeles on August 1. Doctors told the 2006 MotoGP World Champion that a hasty return to racing might complicate the right-heel injury, advising him to delay his comeback until Misano.
Pedrosa and Hayden will race their usual RC212V machines at Italy’s second MotoGP event of the year, the Spaniard using his valve-spring engine, while the American rides the pneumatic-valve machine he first raced at June’s British GP. Pedrosa is hoping that the grip issues that consigned him to a 15th place finish at Brno will have been resolved for the San Marino event. The team will stay on to test at Misano, when it’s likely that Pedrosa will try the pneumatic-valve engine.
Misano hosted its first Grand Prix event in 1980 and staged the Italian world round (then called the Grand Prix of Nations) on and off throughout the decade. Last year the circuit returned to the World Championship calendar after an absence of 14 years, having undergone major changes, most importantly a change of direction that transformed the circuit from anti-clockwise to clockwise. Misano, situated just inland from Italy’s Adriatic holiday coast, is mostly dominated by tight, slow-speed turns that give MotoGP riders a tough time on their 220 horsepower machines. Last year the Repsol Honda team had an unlucky race at the venue. Pedrosa and Hayden were the innocent victims of a turn-one melee which took out Pedrosa and left Hayden to battle back from last position.
“I am hoping that we can have a better weekend at Misano, though I had bad luck there last year, another rider knocked me off at the very first corner. The Misano circuit is quite fast but it feels tight and narrow. The grip level is okay; last year we used medium-compound tyres because it was quite hot. The track was also very bumpy last year, which was probably its worst feature. From a set-up point of view the most important thing at Misano is having good braking power and good stability when accelerating out of the corners. It’s the kind of track that requires you to ride aggressively. My favourite section is the final part, though the most important section for good lap times is the first. The atmosphere is great and it can get quite intense. You get a lot of Valentino Rossi fans there because his hometown is nearby.”
“I’m certainly excited to be getting back out there with the boys, because I hated missing Brno. I’ve been doing all the old ‘voodoo’ stuff they tell you to do: bone stimulators, lasers, ultrasound, all that stuff, I’m doing everything possible to get back. I had hoped my progress would be quicker. I still need crutches at this stage, but unless something goes south I definitely plan on trying to ride. I’ve been seeing doctors, and I’m going to get something moulded to wear in my boot. I’ve been doing some training in the pool and a few things at the gym, nothing too crazy. Misano is almost a Laguna without the hills, it’s a tight little scrappy track where you need a bike you can be aggressive with. I enjoyed it last year but I’d just as soon they flipped it back around and go the old direction for those big lefts that used to go on to the back straightaway, I remember seeing the old 500s guys riding those on TV.”