“We love riding there”
Repsol Honda riders Nicky Hayden and Dani Pedrosa go into this weekend's Grand Prix of Italy ready to draw inspiration from the fervent Italian crowd which gives the stunning Mugello circuit its unique atmosphere.
Sunday's 23-lap race is round
six of the 18-round MotoGP World Championship and marks the beginning of a critical phase of the season, with four races over the next five weekends which will take the series to its half-way point.
World Champion Nicky Hayden arrives at one of his favourite venues looking to emulate his performance of last year when he took a valiant fight to home heroes Valentino Rossi and Loris Capirossi. In a thrilling encounter Hayden finished in third place, just 0.735s behind the winner, Rossi, in front of a huge partisan crowd at the dramatic 5.245km (3.257 miles) track.
Hayden is seeking a strong finish at Mugello after a run of poor luck in recent races. Following the Grand Prix of France two weeks ago the 25-year-old American discovered on his return the United States that he had a cracked rib, sustained in the high-speed fall in the race at Le Mans. The painful injury hadn't prevented the super-tough World Champion from completing 126 testing laps at Le Mans over two days following the Grand Prix.
Dani Pedrosa comes to the Grand Prix of Italy lying in third position in the World Championship standings and buoyed by a confidence-boosting ride to fourth place in torrential conditions at the last race in Le Mans. The young Spaniard shrugged off talk of fallibility in the wet to conquer the terrible track conditions and twice scythe his way through the field, before finishing fourth, as the top rider on Michelin tyres.
Mugello is a circuit that the 21-year-old finds physically demanding, the changes of direction in the circuit's many high-speed chicanes requiring the riders to really muscle the 200+bhp MotoGP machines around. The new agile 800cc RC212V may make these transitions slightly easier though, and with a long start/finish straight, Pedrosa expects lap times to be slightly slower than those set last year on the 990cc bikes.
Nicky Hayden – World Championship Position:11th – 30 points
“You can't really believe the atmosphere at Mugello until you feel it and I'm really looking forward to going back there. The fans love it and come ready for their one MotoGP race of the year, and we love riding there too. The track is about as good as it gets because it's got a little bit of everything – elevation changes, a long straight which normally makes the race really close because drafting is so important, and there are a lot of fast changes of direction which are critical to a good lap. The surface is starting to get a little bit worn and bumpy so it's definitely important to have the bike set up to soak up the bumps well. You also need a machine you can be really aggressive with in those changes of direction. I've heard they've made the track a little bit safer this year so that's a good thing. The result in Le Mans was a disappointment but I told the team that one was down to me. So I need to make it up to the boys this weekend and try to get a good finish. I'm looking forward to Mugello we'll see what we've got when we get there.”
Dani Pedrosa – World Championship Position: 3rd – 62 points
“Mugello is always a challenging track to ride and it will be interesting to find out how the circuit feels on the new 800s. Last year was my first time here in MotoGP and the track was certainly one of the most physically demanding tracks we visit all year from a riding point of view, with many fast changes of direction. Still I was able to stay in touch with the leaders and get fourth place last year, which was a pretty good result. The long start/finish straight will make top speed a really important factor again, like in China, and I think some of the other teams have tested here a lot and will be fast again on the straight especially. We made some progress at the test after Le Mans and the team collected a lot of information from the two days, so hopefully we can work to improve our package a little and get a good result this weekend.”