“We need to continue to give our maximum”
For the first time in the history of the MotoGP World Championship there are three riders tied at the top of the standings as the season enters its seventh round, each one of them having taken two wins each from the opening six races.
Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi have filled the rostrum on three occasions already and whilst the Yamaha pair each have one more podium than the Ducati man, Stoner has not finished outside the top five yet this season.
That his Ducati has allowed him to be competitive at different circuits and in different circumstances is a fact the Australian has been quick to underline, in particular after his hard-fought podium in Catalunya, when his physical condition was far from perfect. The Ducati Marlboro Team rider was even more satisfied after the post-race test in Barcelona and now he can't wait to get back on track in Assen, where he has previously scored a first and a second place on the Desmosedici.
“Assen is a strange track for me because before I rode there in MotoGP it was one of my favourite circuits but one where I never managed to get great results in the smaller categories. Then in 2006 I had a decent result and since then, with the Ducati, I've always been fast”, he said. “Considering the fact that the GP9 has already shown that it is competitive on a variety of circuits, I can't wait to get back to Assen. Ideally we'd like another weekend of consistent good weather so that we can work on the bike and find a bit more rear grip, which is the only thing we're missing at the moment. The rest of the bike is great – it is turning well and the front is really stable under braking. I wasn't really fit at the test and I didn't do a lot of laps but we did what we needed to and now we'll try and take advantage of that work in the next race.”
Nicky Hayden also has a great relationship with the Dutch TT circuit, having taken a victory there in 2006, a third place in 2007 and a fourth in 2008 when his bike ran out of fuel in the final corner and denied him a certain podium. The American left Catalunya with mixed feelings last week – pleased with his best race weekend of the season so far but disappointed with the test on the following day, when he wasn't quite able to match the competitive lap times set by his factory colleagues.
Always a man to look on the bright side, the Ducati Marlboro Team rider is confident that his team has taken a major step forward with his race set-up and he is desperate to prove it with another good result at one of his favourite circuits.
“Assen is a special circuit for me – I love it here. The final split is my favourite because you have a run of fast corners that are crucial to a fast lap”, he said. “The weather can change from one minute to the next so it will be important to make the most of all the track time available to us. I've had some of the best races of my career at Assen, like the fight for the win with Colin (Edwards) in 2006, which is my favourite. In 2007 I finished third and the last year I had the heart break to lose the podium in the last corner! We know we have a lot of work to do but myself and the team are hoping that the Catalunya race was the start of a major turnaround that we can continue to build on until the end of the season.”
“The weekend in Barcelona was really important for us. We started to see the fruit of all the hard work being done by Filippo and his guys, as well as Vitto, and it looks like the development route we're taking with the GP9 promises to make it even more competitive”, commented MotoGP Project Director, Livio Suppo. “We need to continue to give our maximum both to Casey, who is fighting in one of the closest championship battles for years, and to Nicky, who has shown that he has the ability to adapt to the characteristics of our bike, which is more difficult for him than it is for other riders because he had spent so many years on the same machine before this. Both Casey and Nicky like Assen so I'm sure they'll both be giving everything for a top result.”