Valencia : Fortuna Honda - Preview
A party within a party. Toni Elias has more than one reason to look forward to the final round of the MotoGP World Championship as it heads to his home country for the Valencian GP this weekend.
Just a few days after his emotional
debut win in Portugal the Spaniard renewed his contract with Team Honda Gresini, meaning he will campaign the new Honda V4 800cc machine alongside his current team-mate Marco Melandri in 2007.
Buoyed by the confidence of that first win at Estoril and the belief and support shown in him by Team Gresini, Elias is aiming for a repeat result in front of his home fans at Valencia.
That stunning victory represented a huge turnaround in fortunes for the Fortuna Honda star in his second season of MotoGP action. "I have always believed in my own ability but now I know for sure that I can do it and I want to win again," promises Toni.
"The victory at Estoril was a wonderful surprise but also the fruit of a lot of hard work from the team, confirming that we are working in the right direction. I want to thank the whole team, especially my chief mechanic Fabrizio Cecchini, who always believed in me and made me feel relaxed and confident," said Toni Elias. "In Portugal I just tried to have a good race - I never overstepped my limits – but when I saw the chance was there to go for the win I wasn't going to let it slip. I feel really satisfied and now things have changed; now I know I can do it and be up front so I'm determined to do it again. Hopefully it can happen as soon as possible.
It would be great to put in another top performance at Valencia, in front of the Spanish fans. I don't really like the track itself but the fact it is in Spain, with so much support and an incredible atmosphere, makes up for that. Hopefully we can work well all weekend and provide the encore."
"To have signed a contract for next year with Fausto Gresini gives me an extra boost," added Toni Elias. "My priority was to continue working with Honda as part of Gresini's team with my current chief mechanic Fabrizio Cecchini. Now that is in place I think I have the fundamental elements to continue growing and improving. Now I'm already looking forward and I can't wait to start preparing for 2007. I'll have an 800cc Honda and I can't wait to ride it. There is no reason why we can't have a really successful winter and prepare well for the new season."
Marco Melandri is also keen to end the season with a top result. The Italian is ready to work hard from the opening free practice session on Friday as he aims to put himself in a position to repeat his success here from last season, when he clinched victory and the runner-up spot in the championship. This time he is fighting to defend his current standing of third place overall.
"After such a tough race in Portugal I still managed to hold on to third in the championship and on Sunday I'll try to defend that," said Marco Melandri. "I'd like to end the season with another good result and I've had a lot of joy at this circuit in the past – you only have to think about my victory here last season. We will work hard to solve the problems we encountered at Estoril. Hopefully we can find a good compromise between the bike and tyres and be up there from the start. Sunday will be a highly-charged race with a tense atmosphere and I think the title won't be decided until the very last corner of the very last lap."
THE TRACK – Designed as a huge stadium complex, where spectators get to view the whole circuit, Valencia is always packed out with passionate fans, creating an unbelievable atmosphere. Crowd figures regularly break records and this year promises to be no different, with all 225,000 tickets for the three days already sold out. Valencia looks certain to be the most exciting event of an incredible season: it is all set up for an intriguing shootout between Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi as they fight for the destiny of the world title.