A very important race for Pedrosa
The 2008 MotoGP World Championship moves to Europe following its Middle East kick-off with Repsol Honda RC212V riders Dani Pedrosa and Nicky Hayden determined to shine at the Spanish GP, arguably the most spectacular event of the MotoGP
year. Repsol Honda has a rich history of success at Jerez, with six wins recorded by Mick Doohan (1996), Alex Crivillé (1997, 1998 and 1999) and Valentino Rossi (2002 and 2003). Last year Pedrosa qualified on pole position and finished the race a close second. Hayden claimed a Spanish GP podium finish in 2006, his title-wining year.
Jerez is the first of local hero Pedrosa's three races on home tarmac this season, and the former 125 and 250 World Champion will be doing everything in his power to go one better than his 2007 Jerez result. Although he likes Jerez, Pedrosa has had mixed fortunes at the track – he won the 250 GP in 2005 but never made the podium in his three 125 GPs at Jerez.
This time he knows he will be in the hunt again – earlier this month he electrified the Qatar GP with a spirited ride to third place from the third row of the grid, despite struggling with his recently broken right hand. At Jerez he's sure the hand will be close to 100 per cent.
“I've been training since Qatar to get back to full strength and I hope my right hand should be 100 per cent at Jerez. It's a very important race for me and I really enjoy it. What I like most about racing at Jerez is the huge crowd and the great atmosphere, it's always very special to race there because you can really feel the crowd, especially through the Nieto and Peluqui corners where the fans are really close. There's a lot of commotion, you can see everyone and that's great.
But the big crowd does have its negative side – I can't get around the paddock easily, which can make it difficult to do my job”, explained the Spaniard. “I like everything about the circuit, though maybe the Sito Pons corner onto the back straight is the most beautiful corner. The last part of the circuit is the most important when you're chasing good lap times – the two fast right-hand curves approaching the end of the lap are crucial. The track is quite safe, though it could be improved in a few areas. There are a few bumps too, though not too many, and the tarmac offers good grip. Top speed doesn't matter too much at Jerez, what you need is an engine that looks after the tyres. But above all you need a very well balanced chassis that allows you to brake hard and tackle both fast and slow corners. It's a circuit that requires quite an aggressive riding style.”
Hayden is looking forward to getting back up front at Jerez, where last month he topped preseason tests with a stunning 1m 38.848s lap. The American, who rode to a determined tenth-place finish in Qatar, will run 2008 RC212Vs with a revised chassis at the Spanish round. Like his team-mate, Hayden loves the Spanish GP because it's one of the most atmospheric races on the MotoGP calendar, with a noisy and knowledgeable crowd.
“Qatar wasn't a great weekend for us but we'll be working hard to move on from that at Jerez. Our bike should work good at Jerez and in the past the Michelin tyres have worked really good there. I think it's a cool track and it's not a top-speed track. I like tracks where you've got to put sections together, and Jerez all flows together pretty good. The atmosphere is pretty cool – you come into the stadium section [the Nieto and Peluqui turns] on Sunday morning and it's wild”, said Hayden. “Nowadays you can design a racetrack on the computer, you can do whatever you want – make that, generate this, design that – you can use every trick in the book, but if the place don't have that atmosphere, money can't buy that. Even if a racetrack gives tickets away you can't guarantee the atmosphere you get at Jerez – there's explosions going off, it just wild and that's what makes it so good. From a riding point of view you definitely need edge grip for all the long corners and you need a bike that steers good in those long corners. It's a good tracks and one of my favourites. But it's the atmosphere that really makes it – if you haven't been there you need to go.”
Last year 244,461 fans watched the action at Jerez, making it the second best-attended MotoGP event, after Brno, which attracted 245,039 spectators.
Jerez offers a great challenge for riders and engineers with an interesting variety of corners. Excellent machine balance is vital to allow riders to maintain high corner speed through the many long turns, the real secret to a quick Jerez lap. The fastest corners on the track – the Crivillé and Ferrari right-handers – lead into the slowest – the final hairpin, scene of many a thrilling last-lap duel.
Constructed in 1986, Jerez hosted its first GP the following year and quickly became popular with riders, teams and fans. Honda has won 15 of the 21 premier-class GPs at Jerez.