“We can't make any mistakes”
The Fiat Yamaha Team return from the MotoGP summer break this week ready for a flying re-start to the season as the World Championship resumes with round twelve of eighteen at Brno.
Valentino Rossi heads into the Czech Republic Grand
Prix lying second in the standings, just as he did last season when he returned from the midseason break with a 51-point gap to Nicky Hayden - a distance he cut to just five by the final round at Valencia. This year he is 44 points adrift of series leader Casey Stoner with an extra round at Misano, just 15 kilometres away from his hometown of Tavullia, to help make up the difference.
It promises to be an intense finish to a demanding first season of 800cc racing, in which the new technical regulations and tyre restrictions have proved to be hugely influential in the outcome of race results.
At the last two rounds, in particular, Rossi and his team-mate Colin Edwards have struggled to find a set-up and rear tyre to cope with the demands of the Sachsenring and Laguna Seca circuits and similar disappointment at Brno is an unthinkable scenario for the team's title hopes.
Brno is traditionally the round where the majority of factories test new parts, and even new bikes, ahead of the crucial title run-in and this season is no different. Fiat Yamaha Team Director Davide Brivio has confirmed that the team are looking forward to improved engine performance from the YZR-M1 at Brno, whilst the Japanese factory will have new material available to test in a two-day session at the Czech circuit following the Grand Prix.
"I think it is fair to say that nobody at Yamaha or Michelin has taken a holiday since we left Laguna Seca!", said Brivio. "I know that in Japan they have been busy working on the engine and we hope to have a small improvement for the race at Brno. We also expect to have some new parts available to test on Monday, providing the final test with them in Japan was successful. Michelin have also been pushing hard to come up with something new for this race and we have a lot of confidence in them.”
"As far as the championship is concerned, we are in a similar position to this stage last year in that we know that we cannot afford to make any mistakes or have a single bad race between now and the end of the season. Our competitors are very strong and it will be extremely difficult to beat them but our job is to try and to always give our best. Until the mathematics say we are beaten we will continue to fight.
Engineers at Yamaha's headquarters in Japan have been working around the clock over the summer to ensure that does not happen as they aim for improvements in engine performance at a circuit where horsepower is key, especially on the short uphill straights towards the end of the lap. Michelin's Clermont-Ferrand factory in France has also been a hive of activity, with the tyre manufacturers eager to turn around a disappointing season in which they have taken four wins out of eleven - three of them with Rossi.
This year will be the 38th occasion that a Grand Prix has been staged at Brno since it was first used back in 1965 on an original road circuit measuring almost 14km. The layout changed several times before being made temporarily redundant in 1977, with MotoGP taking a ten-year sabbatical before returning for the opening of the current incarnation in 1987. Subtle alterations were made in 1996 but the winding chicanes and dramatic elevation changes still retain much of the character of the old track, which still wanders its way through the surrounding forests.