As MotoGP lands in Europe
The MotoGP circus has its first European port of call this weekend, at Jerez de la Frontera in Southern Spain.
After the rain-interrupted first two races, springtime in Andalucia will hopefully bring calmer weather for the riders and the
capacity crowd of passionate Spanish fans.
The Fiat Yamaha Team is riding high after a one-two from Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi in Japan last weekend and the pair will be targeting more glory this week as they look to continue their stunning start to the season.
Rossi has a huge Spanish following and an impressive six victories in all classes to his name at Jerez, two of which have come with Yamaha in 2005 and 2006. The 30-year old finished runner-up there last year, his opening podium of the season and his first on Bridgestone tyres. After two second places on the bounce this year he will be out to claim his first win and wrest the championship lead from his team-mate, who he currently trails by just one point.
"We've made a good start to the season with two podiums which shows we are consistent, but now we need to make the step up”, he said. “Motegi was a good race but we had one or two problems, which we need to fix. We have a lot of data from Jerez because we tested there twice in the winter so I hope that this will help us to find a good setting straight away. I also hope that the weather is good because we've had two difficult races for this and I have had enough of the rain now! As a rule we are very strong at the track and it is always great fun riding there. I love Jerez, it's always a brilliant atmosphere and the fans make a big, big party for three days; I hope I can be part of the party this time! The championship is becoming very interesting now so let's hope for an exciting race this weekend.”
After a brilliant second MotoGP win last Sunday at Motegi, Lorenzo comes to his home Grand Prix brimming with confidence and leading the championship. Last year he took his second pole position and went on to finish third and he will be hoping to make the most of his home advantage this weekend and take a first MotoGP win on Spanish soil.
The Mallorcan, who turns 22 on Monday, made history at Jerez back in 2002 as the youngest rider ever to qualify for Grand Prix and he took victory there in 2006 and 2007 on the way to his two 250cc titles.
“My motivation is high because I am arriving as the World Championship leader in my own home. I can't ask for more!”, he said. “I had a very good feeling in Japan, and I enjoyed riding the bike in every corner. I have to be careful however because I am still learning all the time how to ride with the new Bridgestone tyres. I think that Jerez is maybe one of the most special circuits in the world, to be a MotoGP rider there is like a dream, all the people surrounding you… The last test in Jerez was very good. I was always in the three first positions so I hope to be fast from the start this weekend. I would like another podium, like last year in Jerez and like the first two races in 2009. I am confident!”
Jerez is a Mecca for Spanish motorcycle racing and always draws one of the biggest crowds of the season, with more than 120,000 filling the natural amphitheatre and creating a unique carnival atmosphere. The track itself challenges the riders to pick the most effective racing line, with few hard braking points and little opportunity to fully open the throttle. The 4.423km layout features regular and quick changes in direction, meaning that the rider requires a responsive overall set-up and good grip at maximum lean angles.