“We'll have to be clever with our decisions”
The Repsol Honda Team will enter the final third of the 18-race 2007 season this weekend when the Misano circuit makes a return to the MotoGP calendar after an absence of 13 years.
The Cinzano Grand Prix of San Marino
and the Rimini Riviera takes place on Sunday September 2, with both Dani Pedrosa and Nicky Hayden relishing the challenge of tackling the famous Italian track for the first time.
Pedrosa arrives on the east coast of Italy lying in a strong third place in the World Championship having clawed back four points to second-placed man Valentino Rossi at the last race in Brno. The Spaniard's fourth place in the Czech Republic puts him 44 points clear of Chris Vermeulen in the standings and Pedrosa lies just eighteen points adrift of Rossi with six rounds remaining.
Hayden is looking to continue the strong run of form which has seen the World Champion on the podium at three of the last four races. After his tough start to the 2007 season, recent chassis an engine updates to the RC212V have allowed the American to display the kind of attacking riding that took him to the world title. Hayden will be hoping for further progress at Misano to enable him to battle for his first win of the season.
This is the 11th time the Misano circuit has hosted a round of the Motorcycle World Championships. The previous races were held under the names of the Grand Prix of Nations in 1980, 1982, 1984, 1989 and 1990, the Grand Prix of San Marino in 1985, 1986 and 1987, and the Italian Grand Prix in 1991 and 1993.
Honda riders have won in the premier class at Misano on three occasions. Freddie Spencer took victory in 1984, Pierfrancesco Chili won for Honda in 1989 and Mick Doohan claimed the win in 1991.
On Grand Prix's last visit to Misano in 1993 the races were run in an anti-clockwise direction, but for 2007 the direction has been reversed for safety reasons. It was deemed that the wall on the outside of the fast Curvone corner was too close for the super-powerful MotoGP machines travelling anti-clockwise.
As well as the direction change, the circuit has been modified since the last visit to further improve safety. These changes have lengthened the lap by 120 metres, increasing it to 4.180km (2.596 miles). In order for teams and riders to familiarise themselves with the ‘new' track, there is an extra hour of MotoGP practice on Friday afternoon. Practice sessions for the 125cc and 250cc classes are also extended on Friday. The 28-lap MotoGP race begins on Sunday at 14.00 CET.
“I'm excited about going to Misano because I've never visited the track before – though I have watched old Grand Prix races from there so it will be very interesting to see the circuit for myself. The direction is reversed now and there are some changes to the circuit, so everyone is going to be starting from the same point. This means we'll have to be clever with our decisions on tyres and set-up. For sure it's going to be a great atmosphere with the Italian fans coming to support the local riders – if it's anything like Mugello then it will be another special weekend. The tyres and temperature will be important again this weekend. We spent a couple of days testing after the last race at Brno and we're hoping the things we learnt there will help us for Misano. For the championship we must continue to fight for the best result possible. Casey is a long way in front and to catch him will be very very difficult but we will just focus on doing the best we can at each race.”
“It's quite exciting going to a new track and it's definitely going to be a challenge. A couple of years ago there were a few new venues on the calendar but it's been a while since we've been to a new one. I'm looking forward to it because it's a challenge for the riders and the teams to try to get a set-up and a direction as quickly as possible. Basically none of us knows the track – a few of the Italian riders have checked if for safety but no one's ridden a MotoGP bike here. I'm expecting a big weekend. I've heard the atmosphere at Misano is quite wild and it's right in the Italian riders' neck of the woods so it should be an exciting event. One of the major factors is going to be tyres again. We've seen this year that when we've gone to tracks with a new surface – like Sachsenring or Laguna Seca – it all came down to tyres. Hopefully we can get a good early direction with Michelin, get rolling quickly on Friday morning and see what happens when the lights go out on Sunday.”