As the 2008 season gets into its most intense period of activity Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V), challenging for the biggest prize in motorcycle sport, knows he has to find consistent speed over the next two months to maintain his title challenge. With this weekend’s pulsating encounter in Italy followed a week later by Barcelona, there’s a weekend break before the Dutch TT and then the British round the weekend after that. Any rider who is not on peak form at the right time will suffer and Dani is in no mood to watch his strong title surge lose momentum. Former World Champion Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) currently heads the points standings with 97, just ahead of Spanish challengers Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) and Dani tied for second overall with 94 points apiece. Reigning World Champion Casey Stoner (Ducati) lies fourth on 56 points. For Dani Mugello is a huge opportunity to reap points while building confidence for the rash of races that follow on from this milestone race. Mugello is one of the ‘big’ races on the calendar. Mugello is as demanding a track as any of the ‘classic’ circuits on the calendar. Located 30km north east of Florence Mugello is a high-speed carousel of a track, with rolling, cambered turns and a 200mph 1141m main straight. And at 5.245km it’s among the longer tracks too. Racing here tends to be close with spectacular slipstreaming action along the main chute and epic close-quarter fights in the turns, nine of which are right-handers, six left. Rhythm is the key to a fast lap here and a race rhythm over the 23-laps of the MotoGP contest will be crucial. It is also a ‘power’ circuit and the 800cc machines with the best drive out of the turns and the highest top speeds will be at an advantage here. A win at Mugello signals a bike and rider on top of their game and in the hunt for the big prize. The track was recently modified with an extra 20,000 capacity provided with new naturally sculpted grandstands at the Scarperia and Correntado turns and the atmosphere for both qualifying and race-day is unforgettable. It is these factors that make it such a massive Grand Prix. Dani won here on a 250 in 2005 on his way to the title and was second here last year. Although his enviable record of finishing on the podium in the last five races was broken with his fourth place at Le Mans two weekends ago, Pedrosa is confident he is still ‘in the groove’ for the challenges to come. His team-mate Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC212V), the 2006 MotoGP World Champion, finished third here in his title-winning season and knows if he can unlock the potential of his RC212V here this weekend then he could be set for a series of results that would catapult him towards the front of the rankings from his current seventh overall in the standings. For Andrea Dovizioso (JiR Scot Honda RC212V), who lies eighth overall at the moment, this is a ‘home’ race and ‘Dovi’ will be sure to take all the positives he can from this groundswell of support from a partisan crowd. Similarly Alex de Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) will feel the extra urge from a largely Italian 100,000 plus race-day crowd. The 41-year-old Tadayuki Okada, who won four Grands Prix and finished second overall to Mick Doohan in the 1997 premier class title race, will ride the latest RC212V with pneumatically-operated valves in its race debut. Dani said: “We made some positive forward steps when we tested at Le Mans after the race, so we will be working hard to get back up front at Mugello. We have many races over the next few weeks, so it’s important to get into a good rhythm and maintain that rhythm. Mugello is a great circuit in an amazing valley full of atmosphere. The circuit is one of the most complicated in the Championship. It’s a very high-speed track, so if you want to be fast you need to concentrate 100 per cent everywhere and take a lot of risks. You need as much corner speed as possible and you need a very stable bike that’s also fast through all the direction changes.” Nicky said: “Mugello will be another hard one, because right now we’re missing a bit we know it’s there, we’ve just got to put it all together. Mugello is awesome one of the best races of the year, the atmosphere is unique. The big front straightaway looks easy on TV but when you’re in the saddle it’s got a little kink in it over a rise. The wheel’s off the ground through there, so you can’t be leaning too much or sawing on the ‘bars! The track has got lots of chicanes, though they’re fast chicanes, not the little Mickey Mouse go-kart chicanes you see at other tracks, they’re quite quick switchbacks.” Okada said: “My last Grand Prix was at Phillip Island in 2000, so it’s more than seven years since I last raced in GPs! I’m really looking forward to Mugello the long straight should suit my machine with the pneumatic-valve engine. I scored some good results on 500s at Mugello. I finished on the podium in 1999 but in 1998 I was battling for the lead with Mick Doohan when I high-sided and broke a wrist.” Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda RC212V) said: “Mugello is one of my favourite tracks. It’s very fast and I enjoyed racing there in the past even though I was not able to achieve much success. After the Le Mans Grand Prix I feel we’re going in the right direction to maintain our top ten position. The overall package makes me confident for the next races and I feel I can be consistent. Mugello is more suited to my riding style than Le Mans especially in the fast corners although I might suffer a lack of performance on the main straight. I’m not worried about the weather as we have to be at 100% in any track condition.” Dovi said: “The emotion begins to grow at the track when you arrive and it only ends on the Sunday when you get to the finish line. Our home fans will be giving us a lot of support and this in turn will give us a lot of motivation to do well. It promises to be a hard weekend but we will give our maximum in front of our home fans. The preparation of the bike is fundamental to the result so practice day will be very important for the end result of Sunday’s race.” De Angelis said: “The Grand Prix of Italy is without doubt a special occasion for us: I’ve been on the podium there for the past three seasons in 250cc. This year, barring a major surprise, that won’t be possible, but obviously I’d like to put on a good show in front of my fans. Even if my real ‘home race’ is in San Marino at Misano, I know my fans are planning to be at Mugello too and I’m sure their presence will give me a little extra motivation to produce my absolute maximum.” Shinya Nakano (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) said: “The Grand Prix of Italy is a home race for the whole team so it’s a little bit of one for me too. For that reason I am highly motivated and I can’t wait to get out on track. We’re convinced we have a good package, especially after the test at Le Mans. Working together with Bridgestone we managed to find a rear tyre that makes the bike much more manageable an aspect that will be of fundamental importance to tackle the fast direction changes of Mugello. So far we have scored a few top ten finishes but we need and want to do better. My objective for Mugello is the top six.” 250cc Yuki Takahashi (JiR Scot Honda RS250RW) takes to the track this weekend lying fourth overall in the World Championship points table. As an Italian resident (he lives on the coast outside Rimini) Yuki will be another man who will feel a little extra push from the more vocal elements of the hillside throng this weekend. Yuki said: “I feel ready for the Mugello Grand Prix as I have great motivation to get a good result for the Championship and also for the team after the last two races where we could have finished on the podium. I am Japanese, but as I live in the province of Rimini, I consider myself Italian also! For this reason it will be like a home race for me. We have to work hard as usual with bike set-up but with our Honda we can be competitive in the corners and that is important at Mugello, especially through the final corner that leads you onto the long main straight.” Ratthapark Wilairot (Stop And Go Racing RS250RW), known by his team and fans as ‘Feem’, and who recently signed a sponsorship deal with Malaysia’s biggest pizza delivery chain, said: “I’m fit and motivated at squeezing all the potential from my Honda RSW250 at Mugello to get a good result. I couldn’t finish the first lap of the race last year, and I want to take revenge with a good performance this weekend.” 125cc Louis Rossi (FFM Racing Honda RS125R) had an encouraging ride at Le Mans two weeks ago when he scored his best result so far in his rookie season with a 19th place. He aims to build on that here this weekend. Rossi said: “Le Mans was just what I needed after my leg injury and now we have to make sure we make more progress here. This is a speed track but also a ‘rider’s’ track and if I can learn the layout quickly I can then work on getting as much as I can from my bike. I’m looking forward to this weekend a lot.” More, from a press release issued by Team Alice Ducati: ELIAS AND GUINTOLI LOOK FOR PRECIOUS POINTS IN THE TENTH ALICE GRAND PRIX IN THE MOTOGP WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP The Alice Team is preparing for the Alice Grand Prix of Italy, where riders Toni Elias and Sylvain Guintoli will try their best to honour the tenth MotoGP race branded Alice, as it also is the title sponsor of the structure managed by Luis d’Antin. In fact, the brand Alice of Telecom Italia, present in Italy, France, Germany and Holland, has been the title sponsor of various MotoGP race since 2005. This will be for sure an extra motivation for the Alice Team riders to do well, as until this moment they haven’t obtained the hoped results awaited at the beginning of the season. The Mugello circuit, which host for the twenty-third time the Italian Grand Prix, is characterized by many changes of elevation and fast corners that makes it one of the most difficult and entertaining of the 18 tracks included in the MotoGP 2008 calendar. In addition the fans that invade the hills aside the circuit makes this sport event even more special and unique. Weather forecast are still uncertain for the weekend on the Tuscan’s hills, but there should be improvements which would allow the MotoGP riders to race with dry race track. Alice Team Principal, Luis d’Antin, is expecting a positive reaction after the not exciting race in Le Mans where riders Toni Elias and Sylvain Guintoli have respectively concluded in eleventh and thirteenth position: “We knew Le Mans wasn’t going to be the most favourable track for our bike. We found many difficulties and at the end we managed to conquer only a few points for the World Classification. At the Mugello things should be different for us. The outline of the circuit is fit much more the characteristics of our Ducati Desmosedici and therefore we have all the we need to obtain good results, also seen the podium we have conquered last year with Alex Barros. Unfortunately we didn’t participate to the Le Mans test because at the beginning of the season, when we have chosen all our tests, we decided to do them on other circuits. In fact, after Mugello we will have Barcelona race, where the following Monday and Tuesday we will have the possibility to try some new technical solutions on our Ducati.” Toni Elias, who at the moment is in fourteenth position in the world classification just eight points from the top ten, believes in the next two races, Mugello and Barcelona, to gain positions: “For sure I am not satisfied on this beginning of the season. I am doing all possible to improve my self and I hope to obtain better results soon. Mugello and Barcelona are two tracks which I really like and if we make it to find a good balance of the bike since Friday I am sure we could do well. In the Italian Grand Prix 2006 I finished in seventh position, in 2007 sixth; it would be good to keep improving even if by only one position.” After the home Grand Prix delusion, where Sylvain Guintoli wanted to do much better than the thirteenth final position, the French rider is in perfect physical condition to give his best at Mugello: “I feel really good. This weekend I will give my best as usual to conquer as many points possible for the world classification. In Le Mans things didn’t go as we expected. Now we have six races in the next eight weeks. It will be a good period to know better and better our bike and adapt my riding style. The bike has a great potential and we can do much better than what we have done until this moment.
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