Portuguese GP: Gresini Racing preview

COMEBACK TRAIL LEADS TO ESTORIL After a top performance from both Honda Gresini riders in the race at Misano, which featured memorable fight-backs from Marco Melandri and Toni Elias, the pair are looking forward with renewed motivation to the ...

COMEBACK TRAIL LEADS TO ESTORIL

After a top performance from both Honda Gresini riders in the race at Misano, which featured memorable fight-backs from Marco Melandri and Toni Elias, the pair are looking forward with renewed motivation to the Grand Prix of Portugal, the 14th round of the MotoGP World Championship.

Melandri, on the back of a creditable sixth place in Germany, a podium at Laguna Seca and fourth place at Misano, confirmed his good form in the test immediately following the San Marino Grand Prix: "I'm happy because the bike and tyres are working well and we have found some interesting solutions. We've worked together with the Bridgestone technicians towards the next race. I made the most of the entire day to work on the setting of the bike to try and make up for the time we lost because of the weather on Friday and the crash on Saturday."

Marco has enjoyed a short break as he continues to recover from his injuries.

MARCO MELANDRI: "I'm highly motivated. The bike and the tyres are at a high level and now we just need the result to go with it. I'm keen to get back on the podium, like I did at Laguna, because it would be a nice way to pay back my team, who have worked so hard and given me so much. It will be a big challenge for us in Portugal - Estoril is a difficult circuit with so many first-gear corners and two long straights, one in fifth gear, one in sixth, where we might struggle a bit. The characteristics of our bike are better suited to a more flowing circuit but I'm ready for this race and the final rush that will take us to Japan, Australia and Malaysia before returning to Europe for the last round at Valencia."

Toni Elias has high expectations for Estoril after taking his debut MotoGP victory there last season ahead of two World Champions in the shape of Valentino Rossi and Kenny Roberts. Famous for his spectacular sliding style, Toni demonstrated his tenacity and determination at Brno and Misano, where he fought through the pain of a recovering left femur, which was broken just two months earlier in a practice crash at Assen.

TONI ELIAS: "I'm happy to be heading back to a circuit that holds so many fond memories for me. The win last season in MotoGP was probable the best of my career but now I am just looking ahead and trying to do well this Sunday. I'm just trying to improve my performance race by race -- I got eleventh at Brno after three races out and seventh at Misano. They are not the results I want but at the moment I am restricted by my physical condition. I like the circuit, especially the uphill chicane, which characterises the kind of corner you get at this circuit - slow but technical esses, probably the slowest in the world. The straight is long, almost a kilometre, and is very fast, followed by hard braking. The final bend is quite fast and crucial to a good lap time."

The "Honda Italian Racing Project" is an innovative project that was presented at Mugello by Honda Italia and HRC, who have joined together with Team Honda Gresini to create a new generation of riders. Thanks also to the institutional partnership offered by the Italian Motorcycle Federation, the project has allowed 21 riders aged between 9 and 13, selected after a free-to-enter practice session, to learn how to race and develop intofully fledged racers. They'll be taught all about race tactics will also be undergoing physical preparation and sport psychology studies. They even got the chance to gain Grand Prix experience with Team Honda Gresini at the recent San Marino Grand Prix.

Focus: FIRST STEPS OF A CHAMPION At Team Honda Gresini the search for future Honda champions is on. At Misano, the home of Fausto Gresini's team, the 24 kids from the "Honda Italian Racing Project" were able to breathe the atmosphere of World Championship competition and get a taste for the dream they want to turn into a reality. The Italian affiliation of the Japanese manufacturer is already known for its numerous promotional initiatives, such as the Honda 125 trophy that gave rise to the likes of Marco Melandri, Alex de Angelis and many others, and this new project gives youngsters the opportunity to race free of charge aboard four-stroke Honda NSF100s. The riders were chosen from over 100 youngsters, who tested at tracks all over the country, including Francesco Cecchini, son of Fabrizio, Toni Elias' Crew Chief. But this will be much more than a race series for these kids and more of a race school. The trip to Misano was every schoolboy's dream: a visit to the Honda Tribune, pit and paddock tour and a meeting with none other than Satoru Horiike, Director of HRC.

-credit: gresiniracing.com

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Valentino Rossi , Kenny Roberts , Marco Melandri , Toni Elias