Istanbul : Repsol Honda - Preview
Round three of the 2007 MotoGP World Championship sees Repsol Honda riders Nicky Hayden and Dani Pedrosa heading to Istanbul for what promises to be a fascinating Grand Prix of Turkey.
The dramatic 5.340km (3.316 miles) Istanbul
Park circuit is the first venue so far this year that hasn't hosted pre-season testing, meaning the teams will be faced with many more variables than at the first two races at Qatar and Spain.
World Champion Nicky Hayden and his team-mate Dani Pedrosa will be riding the new 800cc Honda RC212V for the first time at this track and aiming to quickly arrive at the optimum balance of machine settings for Sunday's 22-lap race.
Perhaps more significantly, Istanbul Park will be the first circuit where the new tyre regulations which limit each rider to 17 rear tyres and 14 fronts for the entire race weekend are expected to present a real puzzle to the teams. Without the benefit of pre-season testing, the riders and their crews will be intent on finding the right strategy as they pre-select all the tyres for the race weekend on Thursday evening.
To this end, the Repsol Honda Team will have detailed discussions with the Michelin technicians, taking into account previous experience from this track and the expected weather and temperatures for the weekend.
Dani Pedrosa comes to Istanbul with 36 points after two races, equal on points with Casey Stoner and only nine behind early championship leader Valentino Rossi in the standings. The 21-year-old Spaniard, in his second year in MotoGP, was third in the opening round of the 2007 season in Qatar, came second in race two in Spain and would love to continue that sequence of improvement with a victory on Sunday.
Judging by last year's race, that could be possible.
Qualifying a lowly 16th in the difficult wet conditions, Pedrosa set the race alight, storming through the field to lead after only 12 laps. Though he fell and remounted on the last lap, Pedrosa's was the memorable performance of the race. In addition, he still holds the 250cc lap record he set in 2005 on Grand Prix racing's first visit to Istanbul Park.
World Champion Nicky Hayden has not been off the MotoGP podium at Istanbul Park, having taken third place in the 2005 and 2006 races. Though the American's 2007 season hasn't got off to the start he would have liked, 25-year-old Hayden made progress during the test after the last Grand Prix in Spain and comes to Turkey in positive mood. The Istanbul Park circuit is one he likes and it was here that the American took the lead of the World Championship for the first time in his victorious 2006 season. He also put in an impressive wet-riding display in last year's qualifying session in Turkey which was held in pouring rain, where he took second on the grid.
Nicky Hayden :
It's been a good few weeks off and so I'm definitely looking forward to getting back into it in Turkey and really getting the summer started. Istanbul Park is quite a cool track, especially with that fast 5th gear corner. On the 990cc bike that corner was wild, though on these bikes it might not really be a corner any more it'll be interesting to see how the 800s feel through there. It's a really good track and I like the layout because it's got some serious elevation changes. Turn's One's really technical and TV doesn't really do that corner justice. People at home on the couch don't really see how blind the entry is and what a drop off there is, so that's pretty fun. It's been a decent track to me in the past and I'm looking forward to racing there again. We're going to stay positive and keep working hard to get up front. I've got a good team behind me and we're giving it all we've got to make the improvements we need to take a step forward.
Dani Pedrosa :
I'm feeling ready for this race because there has been a big break and I'm sure all the riders are excited about the weekend. We haven't tested the new 800cc bikes at this track, unlike in Qatar and Spain, so everyone will face the same questions: what to do and how to do it with regard to the bike, tyres and the whole package. We will have to see if the weather works in our favour to make this process easier and allows us to make good use of all of the practice time. Last year we had really cold conditions so I hope this year it will be a little warmer. The track is quite smooth there are just two or three corners where there are some bumps and the tarmac and grip levels are quite good. This year I hope to have a better qualifying practice and a better result in the race because last year I came from the back in the race to lead, but I finished near the back again! So I hope to improve on this. With the new tyre rules it's difficult to predict how things will work out. A lot will depend on the meeting with Michelin on Thursday when we will look at the tyre plan and the weather forecast and decide on the strategy whether to go for a risky one or elect for safety. It should be an interesting weekend for everyone.