MotoGP returns to Jerez for first European race of 20072007-03-19 03:41
After the season-opening race in Qatar just over a week ago, the MotoGP World Championship heads to Jerez this weekend for the first European round of the year, the Gran Premio bwin.com de España.
21 year old Casey Stoner currently leads the way in the MotoGP overall standings for the first time in his career, having taken his maiden victory in the class with a perfect ride at Losail. The Australian made his debut for the official Ducati team one to remember, and the sight of all four of the Italian factory's bikes at the head of the speed charts demonstrates that the Desmosedici GP7 is in tremendous shape for the 800cc era. Stoner's win also makes it the first time since the year 2000 that there have been six or more different winners in consecutive races.
Unable to do anything to catch Stoner on the straights, Valentino Rossi took second at the Qatari race. The five-time MotoGP World Champion is currently on a run of five races without a win, his worst drought since his debut victory at Donington in 2000, and will be eager to break the streak as he begins his revenge mission for the world title in earnest. The Italian has been in blistering qualifying form as of late, including a magnificent run at the Jerez Circuit during last month's MotoGP Official Test.
On the podium once more at Losail, Dani Pedrosa broke Rossi's record to become the youngest ever rider to take 50 Grand Prix podiums. He was also fast at his home track during testing, with an extremely impressive race simulation on the final day of the 2007 preseason, and will remember with fondness a thrilling debut MotoGP ride into second place in last year's event.
One rider with slightly less recent experience of the circuit is Suzuki's John Hopkins. The Anglo-American is still on the mend from a hand injury which forced him to miss his final chance to test the GSV-R800 at Jerez, and was in obvious pain after an impressive race in Qatar where he equalled his best ever result of fourth.
Marco Melandri put in some fast runs at Jerez during preseason and subsequently at the opening race of 2007, but will hope his calls for more power are answered in Spain. He is joined in the overall top eight by Colin Edwards, Chris Vermeulen and Nicky Hayden, with the latter having had a start to his title defence with a result far from that which he would have liked. The World Champion will need to pick up the pace early on this year if he is to keep up with the top riders who are out for his crown.
Andrew Pitt and Jeremy McWilliams will be absent from the race in Jerez as their Ilmor GP team temporarily suspended its participation in the championship at the end of last week.
Meanwhile, Suzuki will be running a wildcard rider at the Gran Premio bwin.com de España, their regular tester Kousuke Akiyoshi. The Japanese rider stepped in for Hopkins to complete testing work last month, and has been rewarded with a race outing for Paul Denning's MotoGP outfit.
Built in 1986 and hosting its first Grand Prix one year later, the Circuito de Jerez is now one of the most popular MotoGP venues and the focal point for a city fanatical about the sport. Set in a slight valley in the south of Spain, Jerez is blessed with consistently good weather and beautiful scenery, its numerous grandstands providing the perfect viewing facilities for up to 250,000 spectators throughout the weekend. With two alternative road circuits (4,423m and 4,428m), which were resurfaced during 2005, Jerez is a popular venue used by many race teams for testing throughout the year, whilst its recently updated corporate and media facilities have proven to be a popular addition to the complex.
In 250cc, Jorge Lorenzo leads the way after a repeat of his 2006 triumph. The quarter litre World Champion claims to have regained the 'eye of the tiger' which inspired his excited post-race celebration, something which will be essential for the Spaniard in a fiercely competitive 250cc field. He leads Aspar rider Alex de Angelis and Team Toth's Hector Barbera in the standings, although the championship seems to have already been shaken up by the arrival of some new faces.
Thomas Luthi, Mika Kallio and Alvaro Bautista all qualified well for their first race in the class, with the Finn suffering mechanical problems and the Spaniard a crash which left them without a tangible reward for their efforts. Former 125cc World Champion Luthi had a fantastic Grand Prix, taking fourth and battling for a podium spot.
After a closely-fought win to open his 2007 account, Hector Faubel became the first rider in the 125cc class to win the last race of one season and the first race of the next since Masao Azuma in 2000/2001. The Spaniard edged out team-mate Gabor Talmacsi to deny the Hungarian his first victory for the Aspar outfit on the line, and both reaffirmed their title credentials with fine performances on the Aprilia.
Another rider sure to be in contention for glory this season, Lukas Pesek added another podium to his account with third in Qatar. The Czech rider is still chasing his first win in the class, something which he will be hoping to amend at Jerez despite the presence of many local riders.
Practice for the Gran Premio bwin.com de España begins on Friday March 23rd, with the race itself taking place on Sunday in a return to the regular European schedule.
Source: Dorna Communications
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