Jun 30, 2011
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From left: Ben Spies, Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa and Marco Simoncelli. Photo courtesy of www.motogp.com
Against the backdrop of the beautiful Tuscan countryside the press conference for this weekend's Gran Premio d'Italia TIM took place at the Mugello circuit on Thursday, providing a preview of the eighth round of the 2011 MotoGP World Championship.
Casey Stoner currently leads the Championship standings by 28 points and the Repsol Honda rider is in confident mood at a track he holds in high regard. "We're coming off some good races, and I absolutely love this track," said the Australian, who praised the venue. "The new surface is going to be a lot of fun to get used to and a bit better for the racing I think. Every year you come here you see big improvements. This is one circuit even when things aren't going well you can still rally enjoy riding the track. I've always felt quite comfortable at this circuit."
With three wins from the last four races he finished second last weekend at Assen Stoner's form has been formidable in 2011 and he is pleased to see team-mate Dani Pedrosa back in action as well.
"I feel good and am ready for this weekend," stated Stoner. "The team and the riders have been extremely strong this year so we've done a fantastic job as a whole team. Now that Dani's back we can expect a lot more competition and it's going to be tougher than it was before."
A home race for Valentino Rossi, this year's Mugello round has an added emphasis for the Italian as it is his first at the circuit with Ducati. It is also a track he has an unmatched record at, having won for seven straight years between 2002 and 2008. "This track is fantastic and this weekend is something special compared to the other races, for personal reasons," he said. "The track is one of the best, the atmosphere during the weekend is always very exciting."
The start to the 2011 campaign has been a testing one for Rossi and his team, but he hopes the Mugello circuit will suit the Desmosedici. "We improved the feeling with the bike a lot at Assen, the race result compared to the practice was okay but not fast enough," he commented. "We need to work on this bike and improve the performance. We have had a lot of problems with the front tyre at low temperatures, here we have higher temperatures and hope the bike is better."
Rossi will also be without his Ducati crew chief Jeremy Burgess this weekend, after the Australian flew home to be with his family. Rossi added: "The whole team is sad for this, we say good luck to him, his wife and family and we wait for him tor return in Sachsenring."
Dani Pedrosa's relief at his return after missing the past three Grands Prix through injury was clear, and the Repsol Honda rider is excited at being back on his factory RC212V machine at a track at which he won last year's race from pole position.
"It's been strange to be at home watching the races, it's been a difficult time but it's passed and I'm here now," said the Spaniard. "I'm looking forward to this year's Grand Prix, I won here last year."
He continued: "It will be hard for me because it's just two weeks since the last surgery and this track is very demanding physically, it's going to be a challenge and I will try to have a good weekend. I hope to get more comfortable on the bike and improve step by step."
Race winner at Assen, Ben Spies, will try to use the confidence gained from his first MotoGP victory to improve on the seventh position he scored at Mugello last season on his first visit to the track.
"It hasn't completely sunk in yet but I'm starting to understand it and it's a great feeling," said Spies of his Assen win. "We're thinking about it and using the confidence and morale coming into this weekend, but tomorrow is also the start of a new weekend. I'll give 100% and try to stay in the positive atmosphere the team has created."
Spies continued: "With Dani back that's another strong rider at the front, everybody knows that Valentino's track record here is great and at Ducati's home track we can expect some surprises from there. We'll stay focused and see what happens on Sunday."
Marco Simoncelli will continue his attempt to secure a first premier class podium in front of a home crowd, and the San Carlo Honda Gresini rider is aiming to iron out the errors which have so far cost him a rostrum finish.
"The weekend in Assen was perfect until the race. I made a stupid mistake on the first lap and crashed, and I was sorry about it," said the Italian. "If I look at my results this year from practice I get angrier at the opportunities I've lost in the races. But anyway, I need to remain concentrated on the present and this race and not repeat the mistakes of the past."
He added: "This track is one of the best in the world, and it was fantastic last year. This year it has a completely new surface so I'm looking forward to riding my bike here. The atmosphere here is fantastic."
Prior to the press conference Marco Simoncelli was joined by Moto2 riders and fellow Italians Simone Corsi and Mattia Pasini in a visit to the nearby Fattoria Il Palagiaccio. There, the trio learned how to make Ricotta cheese and milk a cow, providing plenty of amusing photo opportunities, before taking part in the final stages of making ice cream at the 13th century castle.
Speaking at the pre-event Simoncelli cleared up some confusion which had followed the previous round at Assen, after comments made by the Italian about Jorge Lorenzo were mistranslated.
"I did an interview in Italy and I said to the journalist that Lorenzo started to attack me in Estoril without a real reason, and after what I did in Le Mans I gave him a reason to complain about my riding style," said Simoncelli. "What happened in Assen was I made a mistake, and sure I want to stop making these stupid mistakes. I'm sorry for him because I involved him in my crash, but this is racing and these things happen."