Marlboro Spanish Grand Prix - Preview

March 31, 2005


Ducati Marlboro Team riders Loris Capirossi and Carlos Checa are raring to go racing next weekend after a long winter of testing and development work. The pair has covered thousands of kilometres at tracks in Europe, the Middle East, South East Asia and Australia, working to make sure their Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici GP5s performs at their best throughout the 2005 MotoGP World Championship, from Sunday's season-opening Marlboro Spanish GP, all the way through to the 17th and final race in November.

Capirossi and Checa have enjoyed some success during winter testing. Capirossi topped the time charts twice - at Valencia last November and at Sepang in January - proving that he is full of fight. Checa meanwhile set the pace at Jerez last November but had to miss last month's final Jerez tests after sustaining a shoulder injury at Catalunya.

Both men are confident in the performance of the 2005 Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici GP5, the latest version of the immensely powerful V4 which roared onto the World Championship scene in 2003, taking its first pole position at Jerez and its first victory at Catalunya. The 2004 bike took longer to get up to speed but was a real force by the end of last season, scoring podium finishes at the final two races and taking a new lap record at the Australian GP.

During the winter Ducati Marlboro Team engineers have worked closely with their technical partners, including Bridgestone and Shell Advance, to build on that progress and create a totally balanced machine for 2005. The big red Duke is already one of the most awesome machines in MotoGP, producing more than 230 horsepower and capable of exceeding 330kmh.

"Our off-season testing has gone very well, we're in much better shape than we were at the start of last season," says Ducati Marlboro Team MotoGP project manager Livio Suppo. "The factory and the team have worked hard this winter and I think we've done a good job. The bike has improved in many areas, but while the most difficult thing to achieve at this level of performance is overall balance, I think this year's machine is a very balanced package.
"Both our riders have done many thousands of kilometres of testing, now they finally get to do what they love doing - racing! Loris has shown his speed throughout the winter, he is definitely ready to race. Carlos has also been very fast during testing. It was a real shame he missed our most recent Jerez session but he went very well when we tested there last November, so I don't think missing the tests should be a problem for him".

Ducati Marlboro Team technical director Corrado Cecchinelli has been working with Capirossi and Checa throughout the winter and knows exactly what is required for this vital season-opening GP. "There are some fast corners at Jerez and riders need a lot of confidence to attack these turns," he says. "Plus they need good power delivery because you use a lot of gas through these corners. Riders also need big confidence in the front end so they can attack the turns. The track is a good mix - it's got no long straights but plenty of fast turns and some hairpins, so you need a well balanced bike."

Hard to believe, but Loris Capirossi commences his 16th World Championship season at Jerez this weekend, which means the 32-year old has spent exactly half his life on the GP circuit! And, maybe even harder to believe, the evergreen Italian will be going for his first premier-class podium at the track. Although Capirossi has been racing at Jerez since 1990 he has only scored three podiums at the track (in 125s and 250s, including a 250 win in 1998).

"I like the track a lot, but there have been times when I've not had so much luck at Jerez," says Capirossi, the second most experienced rider on the MotoGP grid, after Alex Barros. "Jerez is a very interesting track for the rider - there are a lot of fast corners and the circuit is very up and down, so you have to deal with changing camber. But the best thing about Jerez is the fans - they are really into the racing and they make a lot of noise! Most of all I'm just really happy to be racing again this weekend. We have worked hard all through the winter, working towards the racing season. The bike is much better than the first part of last year, much more balanced, and I'm impressed with the work Bridgestone is doing. The qualifying tyres I tested at Jerez a few days ago were excellent, the rear race tyres were also good and even the fronts worked well."

Carlos Checa had enjoyed some impressive winter tests until he took part in last month's session at Catalunya. The Ducati Marlboro Team's newest signing had been fastest at Jerez last November and in the top three at Valencia and Phillip Island, but he fell at Catalunya, suffering a dislocated left shoulder and a badly bruised left calf. The shoulder injury forced him to miss final testing at Jerez but the Spaniard believes he should be fully fit for the season-opening GP.

"The crash was a big impact but I've been able to recover quite quickly," says 'El Toro', who has been undergoing intensive physiotherapy in a Barcelona clinic. "I could even have taken part in the Jerez tests but the doctors and physios recommended that I should not, because it would probably aggravate the shoulder injury. Now the shoulder has had plenty of rest, so I should be 100 per cent fit for the first race."

Despite this setback Checa is full of confidence after some promising performances at other tracks. "The bike worked well at Jerez, Valencia, Phillip Island and Sepang," he adds. "The only places where I wasn't really happy were Losail and Catalunya. Overall the bike is at a good level but we need a bit more from it to fight for the win. We need to work on chassis performance, especially in slow corners, and Ducati has some ideas to give us what we need. The first race is in Spain so this is a very big weekend for me - my first race for Ducati and in front of my home crowd. I think we should be close to being right on the pace, I can't wait."

Jerez is one of the most popular events on the MotoGP calendar, regularly attracting weekend crowds in excess of 200,000. Constructed in 1986, the track hosted its first Grand Prix the following year and has remained on the World Championship calendar ever since. But this is the first time that Jerez has hosted a season-opening GP.

Most riders love the Andalucian venue because it's a track that can reward real rider talent over pure machine performance. Many of the circuit's 13 corners flow into one another, placing the emphasis on smooth, neat riding and stable, all-round machine performance. The circuit character places particular emphasis on front-tyre grip, though the many slow-speed turns also require MotoGP riders to control wheelspin as they power out of the corners. Three years ago the track underwent resurfacing and total reconstruction of its infrastructure.

JEREZ: 4.423km/2.748 miles
Lap record: Valentino Rossi (Honda) 1m 42.788s, 154.909kmh/96.256mph (2003)
Pole position 2004: Valentino Rossi (Yamaha), 1m 40.818s

Age: 32 (born April 4, 1973)
Lives: Monaco
Bike: Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici GP5
GP victories: 23 (1xMotoGP, 2x500, 12x250, 8x125)
First GP victory: Britain, 1990 (125)
First GP: Japan, 1990 (125)
GP starts: 216 (46xMotoGP, 59x500, 84x250, 27x125)
Pole positions: 36 (3xMotoGP, 5x500, 23x250, 5x125)
First pole: Australia, 1991 (125)
World Championships: 3 (125: 1990, 1991, 250: 1998)
Jerez 2004 results: Grid: 15th. Race: 12th

Age: 32 (born October 15, 1972)
Lives: London, England
Bike: Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici GP5
GP victories: 2 (500)
First GP victory: Catalunya, 1996 (500)
First GP: Europe, 1993 (125)
GP starts: 168 (47xMotoGP, 92x500, 27x250, 1x125)
Pole positions: 3 (2xMotoGP, 1x500)
First pole: Spain, 1998 (500)
Jerez 2004 results: Grid: 3rd. Race: 6th

Source: Ducati Corse s.r.l.

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