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Jun 30, 2011

Simoncelli Expresses Regret Over Assen Performance, Sense Of Pressure Heading Into Mugello Weekend

2011 FIM ROAD RACING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP GRAND PRIX
ROUND 08 JULY 1/2/3, 2011 MUGELLO, ITALY
PREVIEW MOTOGP AND MOTO2


HONDA AT FULL STRENGTH FOR ITALIAN GRAND PRIX

The Repsol Honda team heads to one of the most
anticipated events on the MotoGP calendar in
command of the championship and at full strength
for the first time in four races, while the San
Carlo Honda Gresini team arrives for the first of
its home races hoping for a change in fortune.

Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC212V) arrives at the
Mugello circuit for the Italian Grand Prix
leading the MotoGP World Championship after seven
of 18 races. Last week, on a perilous cold track
in the Dutch TT, Stoner came second, which
continued his string of podium appearances for
every race he's finished this season. Stoner has
a class-leading four wins, along with a second
and a third, in the quest for his second MotoGP
World Championship. The 25-year-old Australian
won his first championship in 2007. Though he has
a 28 point lead, the season is just over a third
complete and Stoner will be looking to maximize
his points take in Mugello, where his record is
encouraging. Stoner won here in 2009, finished
second in 2008, and was fourth in 2010 and 2007,
his title-winning season. The track is the third
fastest on the calendar, after Phillip Island and
Assen, and a rider and fan favorite.

The crowds that line the hills of the Sieve
Valley in the Apennine watershed will be pulling
for Stoner's team-mate Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol
Honda RC212V), who lives just two hours away in
Forlimpopoli. Dovi arrives home third in the
world championship while enjoying one of his most
consistent stretches in the premier class. Over
the past four races, Dovi hasn't finished worse
than fourth, including third behind Stoner last
weekend in Assen. Last year Dovi produced his
best premier class finish at Mugello, finishing
third to race winner Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V).

Pedrosa rejoins his team-mates for the first time
since being injured at the French Grand Prix at
Le Mans, four races ago. Since then, he's
undergone two operations for collarbone injuries.
The Spaniard is looking forward to returning to
action at Mugello, a track where he's held up
Honda's record of excellence. Pedrosa won here
last year, and finished third and second in 2009
and 2007, respectively. He also won at Mugello in
his 2005 250cc World Championship-winning
campaign. The year before that he was second, and
the year before that second on a 125.

Mugello is a track that's favoured Hondas for
much of the past two decades. Honda riders have
won 14 of the past 18 races, beginning with Mick
Doohan's first victory at the circuit in the
Tuscan countryside north of Florence in 1993.
That began a string of 10 consecutive Honda wins,
with Doohan taking five in a row and Valentino
Rossi winning the last two. Even before that
stretch, Honda had won twice in the early 1980s, with Freddie Spencer.

Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) is
hopeful of reversing his recent string of bad
luck with home country support. Simoncelli has
been one of the fastest riders this season, but
that speed isn't reflected in his results. For
the past five races he hasn't qualified worse
than second, including two poles. But come race
time, he hasn't been able to translate his
qualifying excellence into podium finishes. Last
week he got caught out on the cold left hand side
of the tyre in the first left-hander of the
Circuit van Drenthe and crashed. Simoncelli
re-mounted and rode to a ninth place finish on a
less than pristine San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V.

Simoncelli won the 250cc GP at Mugello in 2008,
the year he won the championship. He also
finished second in a tight race in 2009 before
graduating to the MotoGP class. Misano, near his
home in Cattolica, is more of a home track, but
Italians are passionate about motorcycles and
their riders and the personable Italian can expect a great welcome.

Team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama returns to the San Carlo
Honda Gresini team after riding the Repsol Honda
in place of the injured Pedrosa in Assen. Aoyama
has finished in the top ten in six of seven races
and is eager to get back on his familiar San
Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V in Italy. Last year
was Aoyama's rookie MotoGP appearance at Mugello,
and with a year's experience the Japanese star
should be able to get up to speed more quickly.

Toni Elias (LCR Honda MotoGP) finished fifth at
Mugello on his run to the inaugural Moto2 World
Championship. Elias was a serial winner last
year, though his return to the premier class hasn't gone as well as he'd hoped.

Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer, Kalex) hit the
first bump in his road to the Moto2 World
Championship in Assen. The championship leader
was entering the final chicane when a little too
much rear brake caused the rear end to come
around. Prior to the spill, he'd won four of the
opening six rounds in the ultra-competitive class
that uses Honda 600cc engines in prototype
chassis. Even with the first blemish on an
otherwise impeccable season, Bradl arrives in
Italy with a 57 point lead, 127 to 70, over Marc
Marquez (Team Caixa Catalunya Repsol, Suter).

Marquez hasn't had a smooth transition from being
125cc World Champion to Moto2 contender. The
18-year-old Spaniard has been brilliant at times,
winning twice, including last week in Assen, but
he also has three non-finishes and a 21st on his
card. Despite an up and down season, his win in
difficult conditions in Assen vaulted him into
second in the championship behind Bradl.

Mugello will always be special to Marquez. Last
year, it was here that he won his first grand
prix, which served as a springboard to the
championship. Starting from Mugello he won five
in a row and 10 overall to clinch the 125cc title.

Italian Simone Corsi (Ioda Racing Project, FTR)
started off the season strongly with four
finishes in the top ten, a series of performances
that put him second to Bradl. But his last two
races haven't been as strong and he's now fallen
three points behind Marquez in the championship.
The Roman has a win here aboard a 125 in 2008 and
was third in his Moto2 debut last year.

Mugello has always been a rider favourite, but
this year promises more. The off-season brought a
complete repave of the 5245m circuit, which may
be enough to lift it from the third fastest track
on the calendar to the second. Already it offers
a superb a superb high-speed circuit nestling in
a beautiful Tuscan valley, the hillsides thronged
with some of the world's noisiest, most
enthusiastic race fans. And outside you'll find
some of the world's best restaurants, and only 35
kilometres miles away is Florence, cradle of the Renaissance.

The MotoGP circus always gets an extra special
welcome in Italy because five of the best riders
on the grid are Italian, three of whom ride Honda
machinery: Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda
RC212V), Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini
RC212V) and Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V).

Mugello is the kind of fast, flowing track that
really allows MotoGP bikes to unleash their
awesome horsepower. The circuit is as popular
with riders as it is with fans and is also
reckoned to be one of the most challenging, with
a thrilling blend of fast and slow turns, rapid
direction changes, plentiful off-camber corners
and an ultra-rapid main straight. Mugello's
complexities are further heightened by numerous
adverse-camber corners which make front-tyre choice particularly crucial.

Honda has enjoyed great premier-class success at
Mugello, first with the NSR500 two-stroke, then
with the RCV four-stroke. Honda's Mugello NSR
winners are Freddie Spencer (1985), Mick Doohan
(1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998), Loris
Capirossi (2000) and Alex Barros (2001).
Valentino Rossi won the 2002 and 2003 races on his RC211V.

The Mugello event has become one of the most
popular GPs since it joined the calendar
full-time in 1991, first as the San Marino round
and then as the Italian GP. The circuit hosted
its first bike GP in 1976 but only became a
regular venue after total refurbishment in the early 1990s.

After Mugello the MotoGP World Championship has
one weekend off before the German and US GPs on consecutive weekends.


HONDA MotoGP RIDER QUOTES

Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner says: "I'm really
looking forward to Mugello especially after a
difficult weekend in Assen where I was extremely
happy to have finished second in a very difficult
race. Last year we didn't get the best result but
I've always enjoyed this circuit and I think this
year we can expect to be quite competitive. From
what I've heard, the new surface is a lot
smoother and a lot faster which will make Mugello
an even better circuit from what it already was!
I've been excited about coming here to try it
out! I'm hoping to have a good race and score
important points for the Championship, but we
need to keep our heads down and continue working hard".

Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso says: "I'm
very curious to go to Mugello and ride there with
the new asphalt. Those who tested there said that
it's unbelievably smooth. Mugello is one of the
most technical, demanding and beautiful tracks in
the MotoGP calendar, so I'm sure that without the
bumps it will become one of the best circuits in
the world. I'm happy to race in the Italian GP at
this particular moment of the season: we are
third in the Championship and we arrive after two
successive podium finishes. We are competitive
and determined to get another good result at my
home GP. We have been consistent in dry and wet
conditions and the team is working really well so
I'm confident. Last year I was on the podium and
the feeling up there is amazing, not comparable
with another podium finish so I really want to
repeat it. I hope there will be many spectators
and that we can put on a good show! Mugello is
always a special event, I enjoy every minute of
it, starting with the journey to reach the Tuscan
track via il Muraglione pass, a historical route for bikers!"

Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa says: "After
missing three races, I'm happy to be back in
Mugello. During this period I've been very
focused on my recovery and after the second
operation I have improved a lot. I'm really
looking forward to riding the bike, getting into
the groove again and to be as competitive as I
was before the injury. It's been difficult being
out of competition, but that was the situation
and I couldn't do more. I have been in contact
with my team during this time and I know they
also look forward to getting back to normal.
Together we will work to regain the highest level
and fight to win races again. Mugello is a
difficult circuit, very technical and demanding,
and I know it will not be easy for us, but last
year we scored our first win of the season there
and we would like to get a good result."

San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Marco Simoncelli
says: "My first reaction when I came into the box
after the race, as well as bitterness and
disappointment, was that I had been a fool
because I could have waited. I made a mistake and
it cost me dearly as well as involuntarily taking
Lorenzo down too. I was sorry for him but more
than that I am for myself because I had thrown
away a big opportunity. It was probably my
biggest mistake of the season, I have reflected a
lot on it and it will help me to grow. Now I just
want to look ahead to Mugello with calmness and
motivation. Everybody is expecting big things
from me and I have to repay that faith with a
positive result that will put recent history
firmly behind us. I am fast, I have found a
perfect feeling with the bike and I am extremely
determined to prove it in a race. There will be a
lot of fans packed around the hills of Mugello
and I don't want to, and cannot afford to,
disappoint them. I love the track, it is one of
my favourites and I won my first race here in
2008 in 250 before finishing second to Pasini in
a great battle in 2009. I can't wait to get back on track!"

San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Hiroshi Aoyama
says: "I tried to enjoy the opportunity to ride
the Repsol Honda factory RC212V as best I could
but unfortunately with the mixed weather
conditions Assen wasn't the ideal place to be
riding such a demanding bike. I am happy to have
had the chance though and now I look forward to
returning to my team and picking up from where we
left off before this brief but constructive interruption."

LCR Honda MotoGP rider Toni Elias says: "Mugello
is a very exciting race track but it's very tough
too. Italian fans are very warm like the Spanish
ones so I really like the atmosphere there. I
know this is one of the most important races for
my Team but I come here to proceed my set-up work
with the guys because the championship is still
long and we must find a solution for the rear
traction problems we have been facing since the
beginning of the season. In the wet my pace is
pretty good and in the last two races I could
ride with more confidence but I am very worried
about our performances in the dry."


Moto2 RIDER QUOTES

Viessmann Kiefer Racing, Kalex rider Stefan Bradl
says: "From what I've heard, Mugello has new
asphalt, so I'm curious to see how that will
affect the lap times. Otherwise Mugello has
always been one of the tracks that I like. It's a
great circuit, the layout is varied and it has
some relatively fast sections, which I really
like. As for what happened in the race at Assen,
I've put it behind me. As always I approach the
next race in the same way we will see what happens."

Team Caixa Catalunya Repsol, Suter rider Marc
Marquez says: "We get to Mugello fully motivated
after the victory we achieved in Assen, which was
a morale boost for me and my team after the
retirement in Silverstone. Two weeks ago we had a
test here that will be very helpful this weekend.
It will be the first race really under the heat
in Moto2, which is a class much more physically
demanding than 125cc, but we are ready. It is a
very technical circuit, but also a beautiful
track and a lot of fun. It is a very special
round ­I achieved my first victory here last
year­, but we are not going to change the plan we
have followed until now, race after race."

Ioda Racing Project, Suter rider Simone Corsi
says: "Mugello has always been an exciting race,
either because it's one of the most fascinating
circuits of the championship or because it is my
home GP, therefore the hills are filled by
supporters and fans. Here Italians can give that
little more. I'm happy and relaxed, because I
come from a good podium in Le Mans which pays
back the work done by the team and realises the
continuous advancements we've made since the
first race. I'm confident I'll give a good
performance, a victory is our real aim but the
objective is to continue to improve, collecting
as many points as possible for the championship.
We'll have to work hard on our performance in
qualification, in order to start at the front and not let anybody get away."